Roger Federer fell short against the red-hot Novak Djokovic, losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 against the current #2 in a match that was another step forward in the Swiss' road back to great form after a tough season.
Federer played a near perfect opening set, using his unmatched court craft and variety to keep Djokovic off balance, and he attacked the net frequently which paid great dividends. He brought out the slices, drop shots, and played his brand of precision tennis to great success. Djokovic didn't play a good set, but he does struggle against guys that can throw him off rhythm and Roger was doing just that.
He got off to a great start in the second, breaking in the first game. He couldn't consolidate however, and from then on Djokovic turned into the player he could be, and the momentum went his way the rest of the match. He served great, returned like the best returner in the world that he is, and hit his groundstrokes harder and deeper. And he cut out the unforced errors, making things even tougher on Federer. Basically, Roger imposed his game in the first set, and he won the set. In the second, Djokovic imposed his game on Federer, and he won. In the third, the energy seemed to drain out of Roger's body and it was all but over as the Serb played a fantastic set.
This was certainly a "good" loss for Federer if you believe in that, as I do. He took a set off the most in-form player in the world and he showed that he can still compete with the best in the world at 32 years of age. It was his 9th match in 12 days so maybe fatigue played a factor, probably more mental than physical as he was moving great out there.
His serve percentage dropped off after the first set, but that had a lot to do with Djokovic's returning, as he was dialed in from the end of the first set (the 5-4 game) to the end of the match. He also served a lot better in the last two sets and even though we rarely think of Novak's serve as a great shot, he has become deadly accurate and consistent with his delivery. Long gone are the days when he would serve more double faults than aces.
As for Roger, after the first he sort of abandoned his successful gameplan of slicing his backhand and attacking the net, but in his defense, it's hard to play that kind of tennis when you are facing consistent, deep hitting. As I said, Djokovic played the last two sets on his terms and that led to him winning 12 of the final 16 games.
All in all, everything is looking very positive after the last two weeks in Basel and Paris. I would say Fed is 85-90% back to his best level, and hopefully he puts it all together at the World Tour Finals and in a few months at the Australian Open. There are still some kinks to work out, like being more consistent on the serve and playing a game set in and set out that will lead to his success (basically the way he played in the first set). The good news is that he looks great physically - he's digging out forehands on the stretch, and is defending the width of the court impeccably well for his age. It has to be said that for the amount of matches the guy has played in his career, he still has better athleticism than most 25 year-olds on tour.
Looking forward to the World Tour Finals, preview coming up.
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!