Wow! What an amazing match to end the Tour Finals. Back in 2010 Federer gave Djokovic a lesson in the semis, taking him apart to win 6-1 6-4. At the outset it looked like this could be worse for Novak, as Federer won 12 of the first 14 points, taking a 3-0 lead and looking awesome in his aggressive shot making. However, there is more steel to Novak these days and with the confidence of finishing a second year at number one there is more belief.
It was reminiscent of Federer’s semi final at the Australian Open in January, where he started off in similarly awesome style only to be overhauled by Nadal. Djokovic got back into this by grinding out his second service game and then managing to break Federe. The contrast between third and first service games for Fed was not a first serve missed in the first, not a first serve in in the third. At this level the margins are minute, at the end, Djokovic had won one more point than Federer. Both men created seven break points but Novak converted four to Roger’s three. Despite the glorious nature of Fed’s shot making (and Djokovic was not far behind, particularly the winning pass), in tennis it’s when those points are won that counts.
The hard work that Djokovic has put in has improved his movement immensely, so that he is physically imposing on court. Fed is used to taking risks but with players like Djokovic and Murray, where they cover the court so much better than most other players and then on the stretch can still control the ball means looking for more of an angle, playing closer to the lines and ultimately missing more.
Physical hard work is critical in this like any other elite performance, then comes the smart work, being able to perform under pressure. It requires a particular type of preparation – the type of mental performance mentioned in the last post doesn’t just happen, it requires work too.