World Tour Finals championship preview and pick: Djokovic vs. Federer

Djoker winsNovak Djokovic just tied his lifetime head-to-head record against Rafael Nadal on Saturday at the World Tour Finals. Now he has a chance to do the same against Roger Federer in Sunday’s championship match. Federer broke what had already been a tie by beating Djokovic earlier in the tournament.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will be squaring off for the 44th time in their careers–and for the second time at these 2015 World Tour Finals–when they battle for the year-end title on Sunday evening.

Federer pulled ahead 22-21 in the head-to-head series by upsetting Djokovic 7-5, 6-2 during Group Stan Smith competition on Tuesday. The 34-year-old broke Djokovic a whopping four times in 10 return games and won a hard-to-believe 49 percent of the points even when the top seed put his first serve in play.

Despite that result, Djokovic has still won four of their seven meetings this season. He triumphed 7-6(1), 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-3 in the Wimbledon final and 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to lift the U.S. Open trophy. In addition to his London victory earlier this week, Federer also prevailed in Dubai (6-3, 7-5) and Cincinnati (7-6(1), 6-3).

When two rivals have faced each other on 43 previous occasions, there are certainly no secrets–especially not when the 42nd encounter came just five days prior to this upcoming showdown.

The only real question is which Djokovic is going to take the court. Aside from an opening beatdown of Kei Nishikori, the world No. 1 mostly sleepwalked through round-robin action. But when the tournament brought a do-or-die situation to the table on semifinal Saturday, the three-time defending champion picked up the pace and rolled over Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3.

“I don’t feel unbeatable, but it does definitely feel great when I’m playing the way I played today,” Djokovic said after beating Nadal. “When I feel like I’m dictating the pace, the match itself, most of the rallies, I feel like I’m on top of my opponent.”

Whereas Djokovic has been all over the map inside the O2, Federer has been rock-solid the whole way without any significant forays to one or the other extreme. The Swiss is undefeated at 4-0 with victories over Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, and Stan Wawrinka to go along with his defeat of Djokovic. He dismissed his countryman 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals on Saturday night.
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“For me it’s an advantage because it gives me a bit of confidence,” Federer said when asked about what the Tuesday result means for Sunday’s final. “For him it’s an advantage because he gets a second chance. He’s played some great tennis since we played. So I still believe his confidence is slightly higher than mine.”

“We always play matches with a lot of tension,” Djokovic added. “There is a lot at stake. I know I have to be [in top form] in order to win against him. Hopefully I’ll be able to play better than [I did] a few days ago. But the performance [against Nadal] definitely gives me reason to believe that I’ll do that.”

The top seed was more motivated quite simply much better than he had been previously this week. Unfortunately for Federer, the same Djokovic will likely appear on Sunday and the same one cannot be defeated.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

62 Comments on World Tour Finals championship preview and pick: Djokovic vs. Federer

  1. Roger looks like a man walking to the gallows as he makes his way to the service line to stay in the match………….

    • I think it’s because Novak has a great second serve. The stats at one point showed Novak winning only 59% of first serve points, but 85% of second serve points. The ESPN commies made note of that. Novak’s always had a strong second serve and that takes a lot of pressure off him if for some reason he can’t make his first serves. It’s very effective.

      • I should add that they said Novak won 16 out of 19 second serve points. Which makes him very tough to beat!

      • don’t you think that nole’s serve has improved with becker’s help?? it’s so effective now..
        whenever he was under any pressure he pulled out aces or unreturnable serves..just the same as at wimby…but that is also of course down to his mental strength…he just brings it when he needs to…same as rafa used to!

      • Hey, but Rafa also won > 80% on his 2nd serve so in that respect, Rafa has also improved. I remember not too long ago, Rafa had problems winning points on his second serves which were so returnable.

        Agree with amy, that Rafa was also used to clutch serving to save him out of troubles. Rafa’s serve level has gone down ever since his back injury.

  2. Ajde Nole!!!!! Idemoooo!!!

    Congrats to me for getting it wrong!!!!

    Crowd so quiet!!!

    Shhhh #BYOAT at Work!

    Again super analysis from nny during the match. You know your stuff.

    • Yes, I do think that Novak’s serve has improved with Becker’s help. I remember the ridicule here when Novak first added him to his team. I admit that I didn’t get it at the time. But now we see that it’s paid off big time.

      As you said, whenever Novak was in trouble, he came up with aces or big serves to bail him out. Yes, it’s not just about technique. I think that his mental strength has improved, too. He just digs down and refuses to let himself get broken.

      It’s true that this was the way Rafa was when he was at his best. He would fight like a demon to hold his serve. That’s why it’s hard to watch Novak like this, because so much of it reminds me of Rafa at the top of his game.

      • yep nny…let’s just hope our champ brings it next year. talking about the mental strength which allows nole to play as he does at crucial moments is a reminder that it is this aspect more than anything else that rafa needs to bring to his game…that’s what saw him through before and what he needs most…

      • also, tennis is like anything else where you have to adapt to survive..you cant just stay still…i do hope that rafa realises that!!! nole has made himself into a killer by being prepared to change/bring in changes constantly as with the diet and becker…
        i do have my doubts that even rafa with his great gifts can modify and adapt without some new external help…

    • Amy,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Of course, I agree with you about the necessity to change and adapt. You said pretty much what I have been thinking!

      See you soon!

      Take care!

  3. Not happy with the outcome….I mean, I hate big matches between federer and djokovic because whoever wins ,they gain something on rafa in terms of overall legacies…

    I predicted Novak to win this final…. did not post here I guess but that was my pick…I had picked fed in the RR match . This was a final and the expected happened.
    Djokovic closes 2015. As rafa said, he has been impossible for almost all year.

    Rafa, PLEASE do something next year. You are the only hope.

    And no, rafa will have to play better tennis than ever to win against Djokovic. Yes, better and more offensive tennis than he was ever has played on hard courts.

    • vamosrafa,

      Yes, Rafa is going to have to play better than ever to beat Novak. He needs to get to work with his team during the off season! We need Rafa back at his very best to challenge Novak.

      You and I both picked Fed to win the RR match. I do believe that you posted your pick. We both picked Novak to win, but in 3 sets.

      Rafa knows how good Novak’s been. I hope that Rafa also knows what he had to do to come out playing great in 2016. We need him to do that!

      • sorry you are feeling glum vr!! i picked nole in 2….
        i do wish rafa would get some extra help ie with his serve…it’s just not cutting the mustard (excuse ridiculous phrase) right now….he cant beat nole without a better serve

    • I think Rafa’s best hope is still on clay and then the USO series. Novak is dominant first part slow HC season and then after the USO. On grass, unless players with big serves could knock him off, I see no one able to beat him. It’ll be interesting to see Murray vs Novak on grass next year.

      If Rafa gets back to his high level, I think he’s capable of reaching no.2 next year. Novak will still be no.1 next year end I think, unless someone together with Rafa can beat Novak for the slams.

    • Novak could hit hard flat shots with depth all day from both wings, its so hard to defend against them! His retrieving skills is also second to none, not to mention his now almost unreadable serves and unbelievable ROS placements! There’s just no loopholes in his game. In the past he’s not so good at handling slices snd change of pace, now he’s doing much better at that and he’s now so efficient with his net approaches and his volleying skills. His court position has also improved, playing more often inside the court. He has speed, stamina, power and precision all added in, who’s going to beat all that??

  4. Have to hand it to Nole. He’s played the year of his life.

    Hard for Federer to accept the inevitable waning of his powers but he put up a good fight in the second set.

  5. my pick was Novak in 3 because I thought Fed would steal the set with good serving…however, he was not able as Novak was just on fire, playing brilliant tennis…

    Fed was caught in the trap made by Nole which is basically forcing Fed to play long points which puts Fed immediately at disadvantage…

    Great accomplishment by both players, though…playing the WTF at the age of 34 is really something…

    Congrats to Novak’s fans! They are really happy people!

    Congrats to hawkeye and amy!

      • btw i am not really that happy…i was very sad after rafa lost yesterday…have still not got over it..i was expecting too much i suppose,thought he would push nole more..

      • I do not like him for beating Rafa, but I think Novak is amazing tennis player and deserves to have his fans…they must be so proud of him! He did such a great job this year! I hope next year the distribution of GS titles will be more even… 🙂

  6. So Roger did not do much better than Rafa , won just 1 game more and got broken thrice too on his favorite surface.

    So Rafans , Novak is at another level now. The whole field has to upgrade to reach him.
    Don’t be so sad about Rafas performance yesterday .

    How long will Djokovic continue this?

    • the commentator (which I like) just said: in the year to come Rafa will be a stern test and tough opponent for everyone as it becomes obvious that Rafa is back!

      Vamos Rafa!

    • Novak will continue his dominance as long as no one is challenging him and he remains fit and healthy.

      He has the good fortune of having a good body that doesnt break down so easily, unlike a Rafa or a Delpo. Even Fed has a bad back, Murray too but Novak is fit and healthy most of the time. Those who are big and strong like Stan for example are just too inconsistent throughout a season to challenge Novak.

      Its interesting to note that in the decade past, Fedal owned Novak for the first five years, from 2006 to 2010; and then Novak owned Fedal for the next five years, from 2011 to 2015 and the H2H is now equal, 45:45 (22:22 vs Fed; 23:23 vs Rafa)!

      Its as if they’ll start from ground zero come next year and so it depends on who plays well enough to surge ahead. The advantage now is with Novak, being the form player and still in his peak. It’ll be interesting to see how Fedal fight back.

  7. 2016 is the year of tiebreaks then. Can djoko break him self from Fedal or can they rein him back in ?
    I think Koenig mentioned that since Shanghai last year this is the first tournament that Djoko has lost points in :-O. And he still ended up winning the tournament

  8. Novak has probably set the record for defeating Fedal b2b in tourneys
    I remember this tournament, USO 2011, IW 2011, Canada 2007, London 2013

  9. Djokovic seems to have developed the ability to hit championship quality shots the second it’s necessary.Otherwise he simply keeps the ball deep.He’s going to dominate for another year.Fed seems unable to turn it on at will anymore.He was a bit flat out there.

  10. why is this forum poll always pro nadal and federer and anti djokovic? the most sane tennis observer here is Ricky himself who gets it spot on yet again. it looks like posters vote with their hearts and not their heads. such a shame.

  11. I think they drain all his body fluids (Djokovic) every night and then put them back in.. they say he can even train in his sleep because of this, his next technique to acquire will be to momentarily stop time while inhaling vigorously..

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