Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

Switzerland’s Roger Federer in action during his group stage match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals in London. (Action Images via Reuters)
Updated 15 November 2019

Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

  • Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal as No. 1
  • Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal

LONDOM: Roger Federer produced a serving masterclass as he avenged his Wimbledon defeat by Novak Djokovic and qualified for the last four of the ATP Finals on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Swiss, playing near-flawless tennis, broke once in the first set and twice in the second to beat his rival for the first time since 2015.
Roared on by a raucous packed house at London’s O2 Arena, the six-time champion dropped just seven points on his serve in the first set.
Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal and finish as year-end number one.
The third-seeded Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal.
Djokovic needed to win the title to have a chance at knocking Nadal off the top spot, but now the Spaniard is guaranteed to finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fifth time, tying him with Federer, Djokovic and American Jimmy Connors.
“Great atmosphere, great opponent,” said Federer. “It was definitely incredibly special. I enjoyed it from the beginning.
“I played incredible and I knew I had to because that’s what Novak does. It was definitely magical. You guys made it super special, I can’t thank you enough.”
Speaking about what was different from Wimbledon, he said: “I won match point I guess. It was so close at Wimbledon. It was a privilege to play that match, so many ups and downs. I couldn’t be more happy right now.”
Federer finishes second in Group Bjorn Borg, behind Dominic Thiem, who beat both Federer and Djokovic earlier this week. The Swiss will face the Group Andre Agassi winner on Saturday.
Djokovic looked nervy at the start of the winner-takes-all contest, double-faulting twice in the third game, in which he was broken to love.
As cries of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go” rang around the cavernous stadium, Federer was dead-eyed on his serve, hitting eight aces, including a second-serve ace, in the first set.
Federer’s service level dipped in the second set and Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the fourth game, which the Swiss saved.
He broke Djokovic again in the fifth game to take an iron grip on the match and repeated the trick to take the second set 6-3.
It was the 49th time Federer and Djokovic had met.
Djokovic, who now holds a 26-23 advantage, had won their past five meetings, including their epic five-set battle in the final at Wimbledon in July, during which he saved two championship points.
In Thursday’s early match in Group Bjorn Borg, which was a dead rubber, eighth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
In doing so, the 23-year-old became the first Italian to win a match at the season-ending championships.
Berrettini arrived in London at a career-high number eight in the ATP rankings after starting the season outside of the top 50.
Fifth seed Thiem did not hit the heights he reached during his three-set win against Djokovic, notching just 12 winners compared with 50 against the Serbian.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has already qualified for the semifinals from Group Andre Agassi, leaving Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev to scrap it out for the other spot on Friday.


World No 1 Brooks Koepka and defending champion Dustin Johnson relishing Saudi return

Updated 28 January 2020

World No 1 Brooks Koepka and defending champion Dustin Johnson relishing Saudi return

  • Royal Greens Golf & Country Club looking in ‘incredible shape’ according to Koepka
  • Johnson enjoying being part of a drive to grow the game of golf in Saudi

JEDDAH: Defending champion Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka are both back in Saudi Arabia ahead of this week’s second edition of the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

The US stars headline one of the strongest line-ups on the Middle East swing, part of the European Tour, and are joined at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club by a field that includes ten Major Champions competing for $3.5m in prizemoney.

World Number 5, Johnson, raced to a two-shot victory to claim his first regular European Tour title at the inaugural Saudi International last year that included a second round 61 – a course record.

“This year, I’m looking forward to having a big year. I feel like the game is in pretty good shape,” said Johnson.

“I’m really pleased with how I played last year here, I like the golf course and enjoyed myself here last year. I’m excited to be back in Saudi Arabia for this tournament. Because you won at a golf course, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win again. I’m going to have to work for it this week.”

Johnson also feels he has a part to play in continuing the growth of the game by bringing it to new markets such as the Kingdom.

“It’s one of the reasons I’m here, golf was pretty non-existent here a while ago. They’re trying to grow the game here which is really cool and it’s great to be a part of that. An event like this massively helps that.”

The world’s leading golfer, Brooks Koepka, returns to the Kingdom after another stellar season that saw him claim a fourth major title. The 29-year-old is continuing his return to competitive action following a knee injury that kept him out of action for three months at the end of last season.

“I had three months off, so there was no point in having a holiday or a vacation. It was more of a work thing in my off-season to get my game ready. It felt good in Abu Dhabi, it felt good in Dubai and it now feels good here,” said Koepka.

Both players feel the 7,010-yards Par 70 Royal Greens and Country Club layout facing the players this week has taken on a big step.

“It looks in incredible shape just as it was last year. Any time you can give a course an extra year to really develop, you’re going to see the progression of it,” added Koepka.

“The greens are a lot faster. The rough is a lot thicker. It’s settled in nicely.”

The course stretches along the spectacular Red Sea coastline and for Dustin Johnson it’s given him an opportunity to try another sporting passion before his practice round this morning – Scuba Diving.

“I had no idea that you could do that in Saudi Arabia. Last year, I met a friend that lived here and took us out on a scuba dive, so that was something I was looking forward to doing again this year.”

“So, we went out this morning and did another dive, to see a 100-year-old shipwreck which was really nice. It’s beautiful, the Red Sea, crystal clear blue water.

Joining Johnson and Koepka this week are fellow US stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed as well as some of the biggest names in European golf; Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood – an early season winner at the recent 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Tickets remain available for the Ultimate Day Out at the Saudi International with day golf tickets starting from 50 SAR and 160 SAR for a full tournament pass. World class music acts will also be performing at the Saudi International with headline acts Marco Carola, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike (January 30), Zedd and Bryan Adams (January 31) and Luis Fonsi and Gipsy Kings (February 1) all performing with tickets starting from 75 SAR.

For more tournament information, visit – www.saudiinternational.com