Roger Federer is the only player to have inflicted defeat on World No. 1 Novak Djokovic more than once this season. He had downed the Serb for a third time on Tuesday in the round-robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
But in the title match on Sunday, revenge came sweet for Djokovic – his straight sets result securing a fifth season-ending championship, in his 15th final from the 16 events he entered in 2015. Big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic was the only man who managed to deny him a berth in a final all season. He did so in the Doha quarter-finals.
“I guess Karlovic is my nemesis. I have a negative score against him. I have to talk about him before Doha next year,” Djokovic grinned. “It's been an incredible season. Other than that tournament, I've played all finals. Obviously, sitting here with this trophy alongside me, I couldn't ask for a better finish to the season. The last four years I managed to win the (Barclays ATP) World Tour Finals, where the best players in the world are playing. For some reason or another, I've been playing some of my best tennis after the US Open, in Asia and also indoors, both Paris and London.
“I've been trying to really pay as equal attention to the work and the recovery, as well, mental and physical. It allows me to have the longevity. It allows me to have the matches and the tournaments I've had in the last couple years.
“But this season definitely stands out. I can't say I expected it, not at all … (It) obviously gives me a lot of confidence for anything that is coming in the future.”
Against Federer, in Showdown No. 2 at the season finale, Djokovic adjusted his tactics after the World No. 3 ended his streaks of 38 consecutive indoor match wins, 23 overall this season and 15 straight at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday.
“He's a very complete player. I know that he's always going to push you hard and try to protect the baseline, take away the time from you, which he was doing also today,” he said.
“I think what I managed to do better than what I've done in the last match we played in the group stage here was the fact that I was more solid from back of the court. I served well when I needed to.
“You try to take advantage of certain parts of his game that were not working well today, which was his backhand.”
It caps a remarkable season for the runaway World No. 1 who finished with 11 titles, including three of the four Grand Slams and an record six ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles. Only John McEnroe (1984), Jimmy Connors (1974) and Federer (2005 and 2006) have finished with a better winning percentage and with as many or more titles.
Still, however, a Roland Garros champion’s trophy is missing from the Serb’s bounty. And in 2016 an elusive Olympic gold medal will also be on the line in Rio de Janeiro.
“Roland Garros is always one of the biggest challenges I have every year, but it's not the only one. There are the Olympic Games that are happening every four years,” he said. “I will try to do as well as I've done in the last couple of years, always peak at the right moments and always try to perform my best at the biggest events.
“Now what I'm thinking about is the rest. I need some time to really recharge my batteries and then I'll think about my next season.”
Roger Federer shows why he is still a force to be reckoned with on a fast indoor court, turning defence into offence against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Despite this flash of brilliance, Federer was denied a seventh title at the year-end championships and would fall to Djokovic in straight sets.
He said it himself. Only moments after his round-robin victory over Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in London, Roger Federer observed, “The way I know Novak, he's going to find a way to be tougher to beat from now on.”
After 43 FedEx ATP Head2Head encounters, you learn a thing or two about your opponent. You pick up on the subtleties, the intangibles. Federer knew good and well that the World No. 1 would adjust, retool and put the 7-5, 6-2 Group Stan Smith defeat behind him. As the Serb sagely observed earlier this year, in the midst of one of the most dominant seasons the sport has ever seen, “If there’s one thing that I learned in the sport it’s to recover fast and to leave things behind.”
The 28-year-old Belgradian’s short memory served him well in Sunday’s winner-take-all showdown at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where two of the game’s all-time greats squared off for the second time in a matter of days, their eighth meeting of 2015. From the moment the first ball was struck, it was clear that Djokovic had put the past behind him; his only concern the task that lay ahead.
Though Djokovic would avenge Tuesday’s loss and level their FedEx ATP Head2Head history at 22-22 with a 6-3, 6-4 win, becoming the first player to win four straight titles in the tournament’s 46-year history, Federer won’t hang his head for long.
He finishes the year at 63-11 overall, including a 39-6 mark on hard courts. Though coming into the final at The O2 he still had a shot at No. 2 in the year-end Emirates ATP Rankings, he will finish in the Top 3 for the 12th time in the past 13 years. At 34, he is the oldest player in the Top 10 since No. 7 Andre Agassi (35) in 2005.
It was a year in which he claimed six titles (Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, Cincinnati and Basel), second only to Djokovic (11). He compiled a 6-5 record in finals, with all five losses coming to Djokovic. In ATP Masters 1000 play, he went 16-6, highlighted by the title in Cincinnati, where he beat Andy Murray and Djokovic in succession, the first time in his 17-year career that he defeated the Nos. 1-2 players in same tournament.
With his win over Canada’s Milos Raonic in the Brisbane final, he became one of only three players in the Open Era to hurdle the 1,000-win mark, joining Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.
“I've got to keep pushing forward,” said Federer. “Got to keep practising hard, being serious about all the things I do. Now rest, recover, enjoy my family, my wife. Just have a great time there. Then once I get back to practice, the gym, enjoy that part as well, which I do. Thankfully, I found a way to embrace that part as well over the years.”
If he’s proven one thing in 2015, it’s that he is far from done. Some 17 years into his professional career, Federer still has the desire, the determination to grind it out it week to week on the ATP World Tour in search of titles.
“I think this year had a lot of great things in my game," he said on Sunday. “How I'm able to play at net now, how I'm moving and feeling at net in particular is a great thing to have. Then my serve has been really working very consistent, very well throughout the year more or less. Maybe if I can just get that to work slightly better at times, that would be incredibly helpful. I'll work on that as well.
“I haven't thought about it too much in terms of what is my number one, number two, number three goals,” he added. “Usually, I go into a season with two or three really big goals, then maybe four or five other ones that are really important to you. The rest of the tournaments I just really enjoy playing. I'd like to defend my titles. But right now my mind somehow doesn't go further than the Australian Open.”
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We have broken voting into two groups for the WTA Shot Of The Year. Watch the Group A finalist shots right here and cast your vote!
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Novak Djokovic completed his argument for one of the greatest seasons of all time on the ATP World Tour, capping a historic campaign with a record fourth consecutive Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown. The Serb downed six-time titlist Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.
It was déjà vu with their second meeting this week at The O2 in London - and 44th overall - coming on the heels of Federer's 7-5, 6-2 triumph in Group Stan Smith play on Tuesday. The FedEx ATP Head2Head is now level at 22-22, with the top-ranked Serb owning a 5-3 edge in their 2015 encounters.
"I'm obviously very proud to have these achievements with my team," said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. "It's been a long season, but the best of my life. Without their support and my family, I wouldn't be where I am. I'm just trying to cherish every moment at this level. As a kid growing up, you dream to be at tournaments like this and fighting for the biggest trophies in sport."
Djokovic, who improved to 18-1 at the Final Showdown over the course of his four straight title runs, won his 11th title of 2015 and 59th overall at the tour-level. He brings home $2,061,000 in prize money and 1,300 Emirates ATP Rankings points. The World No. 1, who also won the title in 2008 when the event was held in Shanghai, draws level with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras as the second-most successful players in tournament history, behind only Federer's six crowns. He concludes the season with an 82-6 win-loss record and is now just 14 match victories from reaching 700 in his career.
"Against Roger it's very specific," Djokovic said in press. "You need to adjust to the tactics because of his game. He plays very quickly. He likes things to happen fast. He takes away the time from his opponent. He has so much variety in his game with slice, comes to the net, great serve, forehand, one of the best ever. He's very complete player. I know that he's always going to push you hard and try to protect the baseline, take away the time from you, which he was doing also today.
"I think what I managed to do better than what I've done in the last match we played in the group stage here was the fact that I was more solid from back of the court. I served well when I needed to. I got myself out of trouble. I returned more balls back than I did five days ago. I think that helped me to get into the rally. I always try to make him play one extra shot."
BEST MATCH RECORDS AT NO. 1
Djokovic has compiled one of the best seasons in the history of the Emirates ATP Rankings (since 1973). Here is a look at the No. 1 players with the best match winning percentages since 1973:
Jimmy Connors1974 93-4 .959 15
Roger Federer2005 81-4 .953 11
Roger Federer2006 92-5 .948 12 Bjorn Borg 1979
Novak Djokovic2015 82-6 .932 11
Roger Federer2004 74-6 .925 11
Ivan Lendl1986 74-6 .925 9 Ivan Lendl 1985 84-7 .923 11 Novak Djokovic 2011 70-6
Federer, meanwhile, was bidding for a historic seventh title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and 89th overall. His season ends with the World No. 3 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, claiming 63 match wins and six titles from 11 finals - in Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, Basel and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati. In 2016, he will continue his quest to pass Ivan Lendl (1071) for second place on the all-time match wins list, pulling to within 12 victories.
"It would have been nice to serve a little bit better early on in the match, play better overall on his second serve, because he does allow you to play on his second serve," said Federer. "Maybe at times I went for too much. The moments where I should have gone safe, I didn't, and vice versa. Those are the two regrets I have.
"If I played the match again, that is what I would try to do different. Other than that, I thought it was a good match. It was close. First six games were tough, to be down 4-2. I had my chances to at least be even. But I thought he played well. Still high-quality match, I thought."
Here is how the final was won...
FIRST SET - Djokovic 6-3
The Swiss was in prime position to continue the same trend on Sunday, but, after saving a break point in his first service game, Djokovic pounced on one of his own at 1-1. A Federer mid-rally forehand clipped the tape at 30/40 and he could not recover as Djokovic secured the opening break.
It did not take long for Federer to have another look at a break point. With Djokovic serving up 3-2, the Basel native launched a sublime backhand down the line winner to bring proceedings to deuce and earned his second break opportunity when the defending champion misfired wide on a forehand. But Djokovic clamped down as Federer's patience slipped, striking his seventh backhand unforced error to give his rival the hold for 4-2.
With Federer once again applying pressure on Djokovic's serve at 4-3 40/30, the Serb fired a leaping kick serve that pulled the Swiss off the court and followed it up with a rifled backhand winner down the line - a combination that has worked quite effectively for him over the years. Djokovic would secure the opening set a game later after 39 minutes, converting on his second set point.
SECOND SET - Djokovic 6-4
A scintillating, angle-assaulting rally in the second point of the seventh game brought the fans out of their seats as Federer closed it out with beautiful touch at the net. Djokovic would once again hold three points later, with Federer hesitant to come forward and attack the net.
Djokovic's depth and weight of shot drove Federer off the baseline with the Swiss serving at 3-4. A 0/40 lead put him in significant danger, but Federer would reel off five straight points to hold behind a clutch serving display.
Djokovic had won 84 per cent of second serve points to Federer's 44 per cent through eight games in the second set, and he would not suffer a hangover from the slew of missed opportunities, holding to love for 5-4.
Djokovic again applied pressure on the Federer serve in the next game. A 34-shot rally won by the Serb resulted in a 0/30 lead. The Swiss had saved five of seven break points as they arrived at two match points at 15/40, but a double fault sealed Djokovic's place in season finale lore. He became the first player to win four consecutive championships at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after 81 minutes.
Infosys ATP Insights
A LOOK BACK
JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana (Champaign, U.S.A.): For the eighth time this year, an American teen featured in a final on the ATP Challenger Tour as Taylor Fritz battled Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen for the title on Saturday. The Rancho Santa Fe, California native, who took the Challenger circuit by storm last month in becoming the ninth player to win multiple titles before his 18th birthday, would surrender an early lead to the Swiss, losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 26 minutes. The youngest Challenger champion this year, Fritz has since turned 18 and is projected to rise to a career-high Top 200 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, becoming the second-highest ranked American teen.
Laaksonen fired 10 aces and converted on five of 12 break points to capture his maiden title. It was an impressive week for the 23 year old, who rallied from a set down in four consecutive matches, notching two wins in deciding tie-breaks. He is the first player from Switzerland to win a Challenger title since 2010, when Stan Wawrinka won in Lugano and Stephane Bohli in Recanati. The Finnish-born Laaksonen is also the 25th first-time champion this year.
“I had an amazing run here in the U.S.," he told broadcaster Mike Cation following the match. "I was lucky to win a few matches this week at 7-6 in the third, but especially today I played unbelievable.
“A few weeks ago when I lost to [Fritz], I lost pretty badly. He played well. Today, I was returning really well. I took his serve out and I put pressure on his second serve. I struggled earlier in the year, pushing the ball and running. Now I'm hitting through the ball and going for my shots.”
Trofeo Citta di Brescia (Brescia, Italy): Igor Sijsling turned in a dominant week in Brescia, not dropping a set en route to claiming his seventh ATP Challenger Tour crown and first since 2012. Having dropped two final decisions earlier this year, in Alphen (Netherlands) and Rennes (France), the Dutchman entered Saturday’s title match following wins over top seed Sergiy Stakhovsky, ATP Challenger Tour Finals contender Farrukh Dustov and home hope Luca Vanni. He would defeat Mirza Basic 6-4, 6-4 for the title.
Uruguay Open (Montevideo, Uruguay): The Uruguay Open hosted its 11th edition, with a final encounter set between a pair of players who have qualified for the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals. Spain’s Inigo Cervantes and Argentina’s Guido Pella will be in Sao Paulo for the year-end championships, and they had one last matter of business to tend to on Sunday in Montevideo. Pella rallied for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win, notching his fourth title of the season. He joins Hyeon Chung and Paolo Lorenzi as title leaders, having toppled World No. 40 and home hope Pablo Cuevas earlier in the week. Cervantes secured his debut in the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings with a run to the final.
GRACIAS MONTEVIDEO, HASTA SIEMPRE pic.twitter.com/CFrjLcFuuo— Guido Pella (@guido_pella) November 23, 2015
What The Players Said
"I would like to congratulate Soeda for playing very well this tournament. It was an honor being able to play with him in a Challenger final, because I respected him since I was playing in the juniors. I am looking forward to play with him again."
Sijsling: “In the beginning of the year I was struggling with my game. I didn't play so many matches, wasn't so confident and every match was little more difficult. I didn't gain many points. Now I try to finish well: two finals and one title is a good start for next year.
“Dutch tennis is ok, but it was better before with Richard Kraijcek and Jan Siemerink in the Top 20. Eltingh-Haarhuis were No. 1 in doubles. It's not easy to be in their footsteps. Now there are Robin Haase and Thiemo De Bakker inside the Top 100 and I'm trying to get back but it's tough. There are lots of players hungry to be above you. The level of the sport is good.
“I don't know if is the beginning of a new career, but for sure it is the right way to finish the year. To win a tournament is always difficult. My goal for 2016 is to come back to the Top 100.”
Year-end Top 100 spots in the Emirates ATP Rankings are up for grabs in Toyota and Andria. In Toyota, top seed and World No. 103 Matthew Ebden looks to close his campaign with a third title of the year and second in the Japanese city (2013). Fourth seed Go Soeda is the defending champion. In Andria, Italy, World No. 104 and last year’s runner-up Nikoloz Basilashvili leads the field. 2013 titlist Marton Fucsovics is unseeded.
Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer completed a memorable week at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday when they captured the title, less than 24 hours after they had clinched year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings.
Second seeds Rojer and Tecau defeated eighth seeds Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea 6-4, 6-3 for their 11th team title, and third of the year that includes their maiden Grand Slam at Wimbledon (d. J. Murray-Peers). The duo ends the season with a 48-21 match record.
It's such a nice event, a big tournament, a big prize to win at the end of the year," said Rojer. "It's just a culmination of the whole year. I think we had a good year together."
Rojer and Tecau are the first doubles team to win the season finale without losing a set since round-robin play began in 1986.
Despite hitting two aces, Bopanna dropped his serve to 30 in the opening game that was the only break in the 31-minute opener. Though Tecau saved two break points, including a deciding deuce point, at 3-2.
Bopanna came under pressure against at 2-2, losing his serve to 15 and lost his serve for a third time, as a confident Rojer and Tecau broke to love in the final game.
Other than Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, Rojer and Tecau became the first team to finish in top spot since Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in 2008.
"We managed to win our first Grand Slam this year [and] we managed to finish the year No. 1," said Tecau. "Our main focus is still on improving the team. Whatever comes after will come. That's what we've been doing so far, just working on our game, talking a lot. We communicate very well. We have a very open relationship. We can tell each other everything. That helps a lot in this sport."
Bopanna and Mergea first teamed up at Casablanca in April and end the year with a 31-16 record, including two titles from four finals.
"It was just a tough day today," said Bopanna. "But it's been a great week, making it to the final, first-time outing for us as a team. And for the season, starting out in April, playing just about a handful of tournaments and to qualify here, I think it's been a fantastic year for us. We can take a lot of positives from this year, and we are looking forward to starting fresh in January.
Mergea added, "It's a pleasure to play in the [Barclays ATP] World Tour Finals title match. Obviously, this has been the first time two Romanians played the doubles final here. I think it's an historic day for us."
The championship was watched by a capacity crowd of 17,500, including the inaugural year-end championships winner (1970) Stan Stan, four-time former titlist Ilie Nastase and 1976 champion Manuel Orantes, who are at The O2 with other players from the 1970s as part of The Finals Club.
Djoker's wild: Novak flush after $20 million year
The ATP and Emirates announced a new partnership on Sunday that will see the award winning airline elevate its status to the Premier Partner of the ATP World Tour from 2016. The five-year agreement represents the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of the ATP.
As Official Airline and Premier Partner of the ATP World Tour, Emirates will benefit from global marketing rights delivering a powerful and consistent presence via the Tour’s iconic net branding at approximately 60 tournaments worldwide to reach a cumulative broadcast audience in excess of 800 million. The partnership also provides a platform across the tournaments to experience Emirates’ unrivaled hospitality and will see extensive activation through the Tour’s official website ATPWorldTour.com, the No.1 tennis portal in the world with over 325 million visits a year.
"It says a lot about where we are as a sport that an industry leader in Emirates, such a highly regarded and well established player in the sports marketing world, has chosen to further increase its presence and association with the ATP World Tour,” said Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President. “The partnership provides a long term commitment and a true vote of confidence for the future health of our sport. We look forward to continuing and developing the successful partnership we have built over the years.”
“Emirates is pleased to enhance its partnership with the ATP World Tour,” said Boutros Boutros, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand. “For Emirates, the global reach offered by sponsoring the ATP World Tour affords us the opportunity to connect and engage with millions of tennis fans around the globe. Emirates offers direct flights to nearly 90 percent of the 32 countries visited by the ATP World Tour making this partnership particularly relevant for our customers. Tennis truly is an international sport and it is our own appreciation of this sport that has been the catalyst behind our growing tennis sponsorship portfolio."
In 2016, the ATP World Tour will unfold across 62 tournaments in 31 countries in six continents. With 4.3 million fans attending on-site and more than 880 million dedicated TV viewers across the season, the Tour has attracted record audiences in recent years. The 2015 ATP World Tour season, culminating today at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London, is set to hit an all-time annual attendance record.
Emirates has been a Platinum partner of the ATP World Tour since 2013, as well as title sponsor of the Emirates ATP Rankings. Today’s announcement sees Emirates replace Corona as the Tour’s Premier Partner following the expiration of the agreement with the Mexican beer brand at the end of this year.
Former players from the 1970s involved in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals were welcomed to The O2 this weekend.
Watch highlights of the Uruguay Open, where Guido Pella won his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title of 2015. Video courtesy of Uruguay Open.
One year on from being named the Emirates ATP Star of Tomorrow, Borna Coric returns to The O2 and chats about the progress he's made to reach the Top 40.
Watch highlights as Novak Djokovic caps off a historic season at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.