How Federer used Djokovic’s No. 1 fight with Nadal to his advantage

Federer roared to victory against Djokovic (Picture: TPN/Getty)

Roger Federer booked his spot in the semi-Finals of the ATP Finals after a dramatic week at the O2 in London and claimed he used Novak Djokovic’s No. 1 battle with Rafael Nadal to his advantage to end a five-match losing streak against the Serb.

Federer served meticulously in a 6-4 6-3 win over Djokovic, beating him for the first time since a win at this very venue in 2015.

In doing so, he ensured Nadal would finish the season as year-end No. 1, meaning all members of the ‘Big Three’ have ended five calendar years apiece as the world’s top-ranked player.

Djokovic was beaten (Picture: Getty)

Djokovic needed to win the title to dethrone Nadal in the final week of the ATP season and Federer used the extra pressure on his opponent’s shoulders to his advantage, and constantly reminded himself to remain under less strain than Djokovic was inevitably feeling.

Asked about the No. 1 race, Federer smiled: ‘I’m sure he [Nadal] was watching, but I have been there before, so at the end of the day, I’m trying to play a good tournament myself.

‘I knew there was a lot on the line for Novak today. If he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon, maybe he wouldn’t have even gotten to that, to be quite honest. That’s what I was telling myself, too. Because he beat me at Wimbledon, actually Novak was as close as he was.

‘And Rafa has had an unreal of a stretch, as well. Both guys have had great years. I’m happy I was able to beat both this year, but they both deserve to be ranked higher than me this year.

‘But, yeah, it was a good day for tennis. I’m sure to some extent, not because I beat Novak but the race of World No. 1 was riding on the match, as well, and the atmosphere in the building was very, very nice.

‘I was able to produce under pressure, and I was trying to remind myself to play with less pressure than what Novak had throughout the game, and it worked. I’m very happy. I’m very pleased.’

Most year-end No. 1 finishes

6 – Sampras
5 – Federer
5 – Djokovic
5 – Connors
5 – Nadal
4 – Lendl
4 – McEnroe

It was Federer’s first win over Djokovic since he downed him at the same stage at this very venue in 2015 – although Djokovic had the last laugh when they faced off again in the final the same year.

There have been close encounters since, most notably when Djokovic saves two championship points in the longest Wimbledon final in history, but Federer – a man normally well versed in statistics – surprisingly claimed he was unaware at how long it had been since he last inflicted defeat on Djokovic.

‘I also didn’t know I hadn’t beaten him in a few years, actually,’ he added. ‘Didn’t feel that way because it was so close in Paris and in Wimbledon against him.

‘I realised I hadn’t beaten him since my knee operation. I heard that today. I don’t know if that was good to know or not, but anyway, I found out.

‘And then, yeah, I felt like I was going to have my chance, to be quite honest. I knew when I explained myself after the first round against Thiem, first rounds are never easy. If you make a comparison of how I clocked my serves today compared to the first round, it’s just day and night, but that’s how it goes.

‘I’m just happy at the level I could play today, and obviously it’s always special beating Novak, even more so of what happened, 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 [Wimbledon defeat].

‘I have been playing very well this season, and I think this victory proves that today.’

MORE: ATP Finals: Greg Rusedski predicts Roger Federer semi-final opponent ahead of Rafael Nadal v Stefanos Tsitsipas clash

MORE: Novak Djokovic reacts to losing No. 1 battle with Rafael Nadal after Roger Federer defeat


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