As predicted in the tournament preview here this time last week, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer shall contest today’s final of the season ending finale. It is fitting that the two best players of the year, who have contested six finals this season, should lock horns in the final tour match of the year.
Unlike last year, with the spectre of the Davis Cup Final lurking in the background, Federer can go into this match knowing that he can go flat out with no playing obligations until January of next year. Neither has he exerted himself physically nor emotionally in his semi-final against Wawrinka as he did last year, the result of which was a precautionary pull out of the final due to a tender back and representing his country in the Davis Cup final the following weekend. Federer has many incentives to win. Posting two wins in a week against Novak would be quite a punctuation mark with which to close the season out with. He would also have some momentum going into next season, being undefeated in five matches against his top eight peers. Furthermore, were he to haul the trophy tonight, he would climb back to number two in the world, crucial with regards to being seeded high at the Australian Open in January and avoiding meeting Djokovic before the final, and the potential of threatening rivals all being clumped together on the opposite side of the draw.
Djokovic meanwhile has masses to play for in tonight’s match. He can add a career best eleventh title in a season to cap off his best season in which the smallest title he won was a lucrative 500 point event in Beijing. He can also match Sampras’ and Lendl’s haul of five year end championships, putting him within striking distance of record holder Federer’s six. Finally, today is an opportunity to once again tie Federer in their head to head tally, and with the opportunity to face his Swiss nemesis on favourable slow hard courts and clay in the first third of next season, surely there has never been a better opportunity to put himself in a position to inch ahead of Roger for the first time in their nine year rivalry?
In terms of their form there is little to choose between the pair. Both suffered blips in form in the group stages, Federer losing a set in a scrappy affair against Nishikori, whilst Novak lost his sole match of the tournament against Roger earlier in the week. Both have looked imperious though in all other matches besides, saving some of their best for yesterday’s semi-final clashes. Novak beat Nadal for the fourth time this season in an increasingly one-sided rivalry, Whilst Roger vanquished Wawrinka after initially losing an early break, extending his lead over his countryman to 18-3.
I expect a thrilling match this evening. Both are excellent indoor players, each has won a title in these conditions in recent weeks. I will give the edge to Djokovic in this encounter. I think that he is a quick learner, he will thus have analysed how Federer hurt him in Tuesday’s clash, and will make a concerted effort to hurt him on the return, hit with depth to pin Federer back, and hit his signature backhand down the line at every available opportunity. The longer he stretches out the match, turns it into a war of attrition, the more errors he will draw from the Swiss. If Federer comes out of the blocks quickly though, serves at a high percentage, dictates from on top of the baseline, and is able to be at his slicing and dicing best, attacking the net intelligently and with purpose, he could frustrate the Serbs rhythm sufficiently to snatch the victory.
Novak to win in three sets.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): Marianne Bevis