Roger Federer mastered Rafael Nadal in their first meeting in almost two years to win the Swiss Indoors final 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, claiming a seventh title in his hometown.
“I thought he had retired. When I knew that at 34 years old, he is still playing and is No.2 in the world, I thought they were kidding me. I could not believe it. When I heard that he won 17 Grandslams, I put my hands on my face.”
“The crowd support kept me going, and that's definitely one of the reasons I still keep playing, because of these goose bump moments. It's great. The crowd was unbelievable tonight.”
Roger Federer won the 41st clash of titans against rival Novak Djokovic, claiming his seventh Western and Southern Open crown 7-6(1), 6-3.
Roger Federer swapped his tennis racket for a pair of scissors to cut the ribbon at a new childcare centre in Malawi funded by his foundation.
Djokovic defeated longtime rival Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 earlier on Saturday in the other semi-final. Federer holds a slight 22-21 edge in their ATP Head to Head meetings, having defeated the Serb this week in Group Stan Smith play 7-5, 6-2.
"It's the same conditions, same court, same place," said Federer of his re-match with the top-ranked Djokovic. "For me, it's an advantage because I guess it gives me a bit of confidence. For him, it's an advantage because he gets a second chance, and he's in another final. He's played some great tennis since we've played. I still believe his confidence is slightly higher than mine with the amount of success he's had this year."
The last time a player avenged a loss in round-robin play with a victory in the final was back in 2005, when Argentine David Nalbandian fell to Federer 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, then came back to defeat the Swiss for the title 6-7(4), 6-7(11), 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(3).
In a re-match of the 2014 semi-finals, the bearded Federer held his serve at love to open the match, but was broken in the fifth game as Wawrinka moved ahead 3-2. But a loose service game from the 30-year-old Swiss allowed Federer back in the set at 4-all. Another break with his opponent serving at 5-6 would give Federer a one-set lead.
''Roger has the perfect game against my game,'' said Wawrinka. ''If you look today, it's not that I play really bad. I'm not tough enough mentally with myself, I'm not completely there.
"The year was amazing," said Wawrinka. "I didn't expect to play that well, to be here tonight, honestly, being No. 4, winning a Grand Slam, semi-finals here again. I couldn't expect more. I won two titles for the first time in my career - one of them the French Open, beating the No. 1 player. I made the semi-finals at the US Open, Australian Open; quarter-finals at Wimbledon. I was quite consistent at the highest level. I beat so many top guys. The year, it was amazing for me."
Date: 21st November 2015, Source: ATP, AP and AFP
Federer, who had already qualified for the semi-finals, finishes round-robin play with a 3-0 record and now prepares for a semi-final against the runner-up of Group Ilie Nastase, Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka.
I enjoyed the match," said Federer. "It wasn't easy, but somehow I got it done. I look forward to playing him hopefully more often in the future."
Third seed Federer broke eighth seed Nishikori for a 3-1 lead, but the Japanese star regrouped to win three straight games. Nishikori came within two points of taking a 5-3 lead, but Federer fought hard and lost just three of the next 12 points to take the 48-minute opener. Federer hit 12 winners.
Federer looked set to triumph in straight sets, when he led 4-1, but Nishikori produced a spirited fight back to break serve in the seventh and ninth games. Nishikori calmly closed out to 15, when Federer mis-timed a forehand drop shot into the net. Two of their previous five meetings had gone to three sets.
Federer dug himself out of a hole at 1-1, 0/40 in the decider, when Nishikori's forehand pierced his defence in lengthy baseline rallies. The mental battle appeared to be won, as Federer ran through the next two games for a 4-1 lead. But Nishikori was not a spent force, getting back to 4-4 to ensure a tense ending for the capacity crowd at The O2 in London.
While Federer held to love for 5-4, a double fault and forehand error from Nishikori proved to be costly. Federer struck his 33rd and final winner, a smash, to wrap up the win.
"It's amazing what Kei is able to produce on the court," said Federer. "Today, was another showcase of that, how he's able to return second serves, staying on top of the baseline, drilling forehands and backhands up the line. It was impressive."
Federer has now gone 3-0 in group play on nine occasions and has reached the semi-finals on 13 of his 14 appearances.
"I thought I was playing very good," said Nishikori. "I was making lot of returns. Second serve, I think I was attacking really well. I think that's why I able to break that much. But I didn't start each set well. I think every time he broke first and I was kind of defensive all the time. That was my big mistake today. I mean, in end really close game. I think just couple points that I didn't play quite well enough. But, yeah, it is a shame to lose like this. I thought I was playing well, so congrats to Roger."
Federer has a 62-10 match record on the year, including six titles. Nishikori, appearing at the season finale for the second straight year, finishes 2015 with a 54-16 mark and three titles.
Date: 19th November 2015, Source: ATP
As Federer explained, “You can be stubborn and successful or you can give it up a bit and change things around. I think you need to challenge yourself and try out new things, maybe where you practise, how you practise, who you practise with, the advice you receive sometimes, equipment, you name it, maybe a grip, maybe a string, maybe racquet technology. Everything keeps evolving and changing.”
The benefits that come along with that openness to change were on display at the ATP World Tour Finals on Tuesday, when after four losses in six matches against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in 2015, Federer reversed the trend, downing his longtime rival in straight sets 7-5, 6-2.
Djokovic hadn’t lost a match in his previous 23 outings, a dominant stretch that included consecutive titles at the US Open, Beijing, Shanghai and Paris.
“I think a tennis player never stops working on his game,” said Federer after the win. “Unfortunately, we don't have enough time to practise - a lot of match play, a lot of resting, a lot of preparing. In a perfect world, it would be great to have many more months to prepare, because you then could actually come back and be sort of a different player. Of course, it's our decision to take that time, but it's hard to sit on the sidelines for months when other guys are winning tournaments and your ranking is dropping in the process.
“I won't say I regret doing it,” confided Fededer, looking back on his title-filled career on the ATP World Tour, “but I wish I could have taken even more time to train on my game.”
So in between events - he has played 17 in 2015 - he dabbles, he tweaks, he adds to his game, never quite satisfied with the status quo.
“I think in the last couple years since I changed my racquet, that gave me a totally different approach on how I can return, how I can serve, what I can do,” he explained. “It was about keeping my forehand and my slice up to a standard which I liked. And naturally the backhand and the serve improved because of the easier power I received from my racquet. Of course, then tactical elements come into play more and more. The experience helps. The experience can also hinder you sometimes because of playing too much percentage tennis. I still feel like I'm young in the mind and I don't shy away from trying new things. That’s what keeps it still interesting for me.”
Federer and Djokovic have now played 43 times, their ATP Head to Head history tracing all the way back to 2006. For now, it’s the Swiss who holds a slight 22-21 edge. But don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting on some complacency. He knows all too well how dangerous a player Djokovic can be.
“I know it's a big win. Could help me for what's to come in this tournament, or at least for the next match it's going to give me a lot of confidence. It's going to help me for next year. It's always good beating Novak or any top player.
“To me, Novak is still the favorite of the tournament,” Federer explained. “He should make his way to the semis somehow. And he'll be the favourite in that probably, too, with the year he's had. He's far from gone. The way I know Novak, he's going to find a way to be tougher to beat from now on.”
Date: 18th November 2015, Source: ATP and AFP
Federer’s straight-sets victory, coupled with Kei Nishikori’s three-set 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 decision over Tomas Berdych, means he has qualified for the Group Stan Smith semi-finals. The Swiss broke their ATP Head to Head deadlock and moved ahead 22-21 with the victory. Djokovic, who tied the series with a four-set win in the 2015 US Open final, has never had more victories than Federer in their rivalry, which dates back to Monte Carlo Masters in 2006.
“Winning the first set clearly in a match like this gives you the upper hand,” said Federer, at 34 the oldest player to qualify for the year-end finale since Andre Agassi (35) in 2005. “It was important to strike again as quick as possible in the second set, and I did.”
“You have those days as well when you're not feeling your best - not even close to the best,” said Djokovic, the reigning three-time champion. “Credit to Roger for mixing up the pace, giving me always a different ball. He used the slice and spin very wisely. He served very efficiently. I made a lot of unforced errors . Just handed him the win, especially in the second set. If you play this way against Roger, you have no chance.
“But, again, that's sport,” Djokovic added. “Sometimes these kind of matches, these kind of days happen. The good thing is that it's a round-robin system, so I still have an opportunity to reach the semis.”
“I didn't think I mixed it up that crazy, to be honest,” Federer asserted. “I didn't play any insane tactics. It was pretty straightforward, in a way I've played him many times in the past. My game is to mix it up, change up the spins. His game is to press you away. I think we both played our regular game, and it was a good outcome for me tonight.”
Reacting to Djokovic's claim that he handed him the win, Federer said: “He handed me the win? Well, he wasn’t as good as in the first set. But I feel, honestly, with the way he’s played this season, you still have to put him away. It's not like he played terrible. I know he can play better. Why did he play that way? I'd like to give myself credit for that, quite honestly, yeah.”
Federer won 75 per cent (27 of 36) of his first-serve points, and converted four of eight break-point opportunities.
Djokovic had been riding a 23-match win streak since falling to Federer in the Cincinnati final on Aug. 23. He had won 15 straight matches at the ATP World Tour Finals, including wins over Federer in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (walkover).
The rivals have met more times (43) than any other two players in the Open Era with the exception of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (45). The pair’s respective coaches, Hall of Famers Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, played 35 times.
Date: 18th November 2015, Source: ATP, Reuters and AFP
"I enjoy getting awards, especially the ones voted on by the fans and my fellow players," said Federer. "It's a very nice moment once again in my career. I try to do it with style and of course I play hard with everything. You guys give it the respect and it's very nice. Many other players deserve the awards as well and I'm very much aware that there are many other good guys out there. That's why I'm still playing the game.
"I'd like to thank the fans for voting and cheering for me, and coming out not just for my matches. Keep doing that in the future. This is one of the greatest tournaments we have on tour and I hope you enjoy today's matches and I see you next year and following year and the following year and many more years."
Following his straight-set win over World No. 6 Tomas Berdych, Federer’s coach and childhood idol Stefan Edberg stepped onto the court at The O2 to present the Swiss with the trophy named in his honour, the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award. Federer had been voted by fellow players as the winner for an 11th season, and received the trophy from Edberg himself for the second year in a row. Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Kevin Anderson were also nominated in this category.
Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President then presented Federer with the trophy as ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite. He received 65 per cent of all votes cast online by fans, extending his record winning streak to a 13th straight year. Rafael Nadal finished in second, followed by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori.
Since 2003, Federer has won a record 31 ATP World Tour Awards.
Date: 16th November 2015, Source: ATP
Federer claimed his 49th match win at the season finale, which he is competing at for a record 14th consecutive year. He will next face top seed Novak Djokovic in a clash between Sunday's Group Stan Smith winners.
Berdych won seven of the first eight points to take a 2-0 lead, before Federer regrouped to work his way back into their 21st meeting. The Swiss broke Berdych to love, then could not convert two break point opportunities in the fifth game. Berdych dropped his serve to love in the ninth game and Federer calmly closed out the opener 6-4.
"Clearly it was not the best start," said Federer. "It was a bad start. One of the worst starts I've had in years. No first serves, two double faults, nothing coming from the baseline. It was rough."
The World No. 3 kept his foot on the gas in the second set, breaking immediately for 1-0 and once again in the third game. He countered the Czech's aggressive start with an attacking finish of his own, closing out the win after 70 minutes. Federer struck a jaw-dropping eight drop shot winners and converted four of six break chances.
"Thankfully I was able to pick it up. The surface does play slow here. If you get to see too many second serves, clearly you can crawl back into the match. You can get your chances from the baseline to find rhythm quickly.
"It's hard to blast through an opponent here in London, which I think helps for me now against Berdych in this case because I can make the match athletic. As the match went on, I definitely started to play better, started to serve better. I think what I underestimated a little bit in some ways was that it was a first round. I think I was playing very well in practice. I had a very good idea with Severin and Stefan how I should play the match.
"It was a good lesson for me to learn. But now I'm in the second round, so that's a good thing."
Federer completed his fourth consecutive match win over Berdych, extending his overall record to 15-6 in the ATP Head to Head. He is 3-0 in 2015, adding to victories at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Rome.
Date: 16th November 2015, Source: ATP
"I haven't had issues being motivated for this tournament," said Federer. "I looked forward to it and as it was a priority I played better.
"The idea of playing fellow Top 10 rivals gets me going, gets me really excited. I don't relax on making it to the Finals, then go out and lose three crushing defeats. I don't want to finish the year that way.
The Swiss begins his quest for a seventh title at the ATP World Tour Finals against Tomas Berdych on Sunday night in Group Stan Smith. Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori are also in the round robin group.
"All the players that are here have achieved the goal," added Federer. "It is a big goal to be here, the atmosphere is great. It is prestigious, one of the best events."
Federer has a 59-10 match record on the season, including six titles. He became the third player in ATP World Tour history (after Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl) to record 1,000 match wins in January.
Date: 13th November 2015, Source: ATP
“I think he serves consistent throughout the year,” said Federer. “I think with him it's more can he serve big when he really needs it the most. Does indoors maybe help him there a little bit? Potentially. He's got the size, got the power, got the angles. I thought he did very well today when he needed it. The breakers, he served great. Those are the ones he needed. That was the difference.”
Federer went down despite claiming the lone service break of the match, midway through the second set. The third-seeded Swiss struck 13 aces and saved all six break points faced, but misfired on a forehand to drop the first set and was on the receiving end of an unplayable 145 miles per hour Isner serve on the final point of the match.
“If you know me, you know that that's my favorite serve,” said Isner about his play selection on match point. “It's sort of one of those things, a lot of people know I'm going there. Catch it if you can. It's like a pitcher with a fast ball, I guess. It's a shot I have hit a million times. I have played a lot of matches in my career now. I have been in that situation before.”
Federer, the 2011 Paris champion had been perfect in tie-breaks against Isner since the pair’s first meeting at the 2007 US Open (5-0), but lost the initiative in both on Thursday. In the first-set tie-break, Isner fired a forehand winner to move ahead 3/1 before serving it out. In the decider, the American found the critical mini-break by drawing Federer to the net and forcing the Swiss into a backhand overhead miss.
“At the US Open, I won my tie-breakers,” Federer said. “Here, I lost them. It's a pity. I didn't play a bad match. I haven't been broken during six sets against him, and I lost the match. It's tough to get out of the tournament not having lost your serve. This is how it happens against John. It's always on his racquet, especially indoors.”
“This is a very big tournament,” Isner said. “He's an incredible player. My favourite player and the greatest of all time, in my opinion. It was a huge win for me. I'm very proud I was able to get it done.”
Isner will contest his 10th quarter-final of the season against David Ferrer, who topped Grigor Dimitrov 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-4 in two hours and 20 minutes.
Next up for Federer is the ATP World Tour Finals from November 15-22, where he has had his share of success in the past. In fact, the World No. 2 has held the trophy at the year-end showdown on no less than six occasions.
“I have been there since 2002,” he said. “It's one of the tournaments that I’ve enjoyed most and that I’ve had a lot of pleasure winning. I'm happy I'm qualified. We'll see the groups, the round robins. I'm very eager to go to London and get prepared as well as I can. I'm in good shape. I'm healthy, so I want that tournament to start.”
Date: 5th November 2015, Source: ATP