It was Roger Federer‘s day in London.
The legendary tennis ace took the measure of his arch-rival Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to reach the semifinals of the ATP Finals. The media immediately picked up on this being Federer’s redemption from this year’s Wimbledon final, as this was the first rematch between Federer and Djokovic since that epic five-set final.
“I played incredible, and I knew I had to,” Federer said. “I was able to produce … it was definitely magical.”
It was Federer’s first win over Djokovic since 2015, having lost their previous five meetings … including that Wimbledon final in July when Djokovic saved two match points in the fifth set.
“Obviously, it’s always special beating Novak, even more so because of what happened [at Wimbledon],” Federer said. “But I didn’t feel like I had to get rid of the ghosts or anything like that. I feel like I moved on pretty quickly after that.”
This match had little of the same drama, as Djokovic gave up three cheap service breaks and Federer gave him no chance to get back in it.
The whole thing lasted just 1 hour, 13 minutes and ended with Djokovic being broken at love.
“He was the better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win,” Djokovic said. “Just a pretty bad match from my side.”
The result means Djokovic was eliminated with a 1-2 record in the group stage, and ensures that Rafael Nadal will keep hold of the year-end No. 1 ranking. Djokovic had a chance to overtake Nadal and equal Pete Sampras‘ record of finishing the year as No. 1 for a sixth time by winning the tournament.
“Of course that was a big motivation also for the end of the season,” Djokovic said. “But every time you step on the court, you know there is something on the line.”
In a match between two players with a combined 36 Grand Slam titles and 11 ATP Finals championships, Djokovic was also broken at love in his second service game after double-faulting twice and hitting two shots into the net.
Federer faced his only break point at 2-1 in the second set, but held and then broke for a 3-2 lead. He finished the match with just five unforced errors, and that included two double faults.
“There was a lot riding on the match, and I came out and I think I served great, I had great anticipation, a clear game plan,” Federer said. “It worked to perfection tonight, and hopefully not the last time against Novak.”
Djokovic said he experienced some pain in his elbow early in the second set but didn’t think it would stop him from playing in the Davis Cup in Madrid next week.
“The pain was pretty sharp. But I could play the rest of the match, so if I had something really serious, I think I wouldn’t be able to hold the racket,” he said. “So it was probably just an awkward, quick movement that I did. It did not pose any form of issues later on.”