Novak Djokovic finds a way against his longtime rival Roger Federer. Entering their semifinal match at the Rolex Paris Masters, the Serb had a 24-22 record over his Swiss rival. The last time these two champions played was in the final of Cincinnati, where Djokovic won in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
Entering the semifinal duel in Paris, Federer stated he had nothing to lose. He threw everything at Djokovic, but the newly anointed World Number One didn’t flinch. From powerful groundstrokes to relentless defense, Djokovic earned his spot into the Paris Masters final, defeating Federer in a three-set thriller 7-6 5-7 7-6. It is continuous evidence that Djokovic is performing at a high level, wearing down his opponents with his stellar game.
At the last minute, Roger Federer announced to the tennis world that he would be playing in the Paris Masters. The week before, Federer secured his 9th Swiss Indoors tournament in Basel with an emotional victory over Marius Copil 7-6 (7-5) 6-4. It was clear that Federer’s intentions to play Paris were to stay in the running to finish the year World #1.
Federer’s Missed Opportunities Hinder Finals Chance
Heading into the Djokovic semifinal match, Federer hadn’t played a lot of tennis in Paris. He had won in straight sets over Fabio Fognini and Kei Nishikori and got the benefit of having a bye and a withdrawal from Milos Raonic. The Swiss maestro was ready for the challenge to try and defeat his Serbian rival.
In the first set, Federer could not have asked for a better serving performance. He had five aces and won 74 percent of his first serve points. At 3-4, he staved off Djokovic and four break point opportunities in a grueling 15-minute game.
But in the tiebreaker, Federer had chances to capitalize on two mini-breaks but failed. Up 6-5 with a set point, the superstar player hit tentative shots and did not show any sign of aggression. He would end up losing the tiebreaker to Djokovic.
Despite Djokovic winning the match against Federer 94% of the time after securing the first set, the Swiss maestro’s level of play continued to be superb. He would win 72 percent of his first serve points and save three more break point opportunities. At 6-5, Federer would break Djokovic’s serve for the only time in the match, to take this semifinal to a third set.
Federer’s has the highest career tiebreak win rate of any player in ATP history (65.1 percent). But today, he would go for 0 for 2 in breakers, including the third set. A costly Federer double fault paved the way for the Djokovic victory. It is a tiebreaker that Federer wished he could have back.
“It was definitely worth it for me to come to Paris,” stated Federer. “It took someone of Novak’s caliber to beat me so that’s alright.”
Djokovic Showcases Mental Fortitude
In the 1991 Wimbledon semifinals, Michael Stich defeated Stefan Edberg without breaking his serve. Today, Novak Djokovic completed the same feat, not breaking Federer’s serve 12 times and still winning the match. For the match, Djokovic had eight aces, 31 winners and won 74 percent of his first serve points. His return of serve is once again dominant, winning approximately one-third of his return points on Federer’s serve.
There were many moments where Djokovic could have quit. Battling illness all week in Paris, it is clear that when Djokovic is down and battling adversity, he raises his game and comes up with masterful shots. He never gave up when he did not convert on any one of the 12 break point opportunities he faced in the match. Instead, he absorbed those lost break points and converted it into robust mental strength to get him over the hurdle and into the final.
“It was a spectacular match and one of the best of my career against him,” Djokovic said.
“We went toe-to-toe.”
Djokovic will now take on Karen Khachanov in the final. The two have faced only once back at Wimbledon last July, where Djokovic won in straight sets. Khachanov has had a great Paris tournament, defeating Top-10 players Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem en route to the final.
But Djokovic is at a form that no one can compete with right now. If Roger Federer cannot dethrone the Serb by holding serve the whole match, it is safe to say that it will take a miracle to beat Djokovic. Djokovic is too good and the rest of the ATP Tour better get used to the dominance and resilience continue.