By the end of last season, it seemed as though Roger Federer was done with being a contender at major tournaments. However, the legendary player proved once again that he should not be counted out, with a win over Novak Djokovic.
The two stars faced off in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Federer had to win three matches to reach this point, but none of the players were seeded, and Radek Stepanek was the highest-ranked opponent at No. 48 in the world.
However, the Swiss star certainly faced a challenge in the semifinals. Djokovic had suffered only one loss since the end of last year's U.S. Open—a quarterfinal defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka at the Australian Open. It was clear this was not going to be an easy victory.
Still, Federer was confident going into the battle. According to ATPWorldTour.com, he explained to reporters:
We know each other very well, and we've played each other everywhere and [on] all the surfaces, you name it. I think we always play the match-up actually very good, because we play explosive, aggressive tennis, so there is always some shot-making going on. I'm looking forward to the match. One match, best of three sets on a court like this, it's a bit of ‘let's see what happens’, anyway. We both know that.
The match itself was as good as anticipated, with Djokovic taking the first set 6-3 before Federer could come back with two impressive sets to earn the win.
Tennis TV provided the stats of the contest:
One of the things that shows up immediately with this stat sheet is the incredible serving of Federer. Obviously, the 17-time Grand Slam champion has been serving well his entire career, but he brought a little extra to this competition.
Against one of the best defensive players of his generation, Federer won 76 percent of first-serve points and 58 percent on the second serve. These are right in line with his career averages (77 percent and 56 percent) that are among the best in history.
The fact that he can still post the same statistics against an elite opponent, at 32 years old, is nothing short of amazing.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times joked about Federer looking like the player of old:
Not sure what the loss says about Djokovic, but it sure reflects well on depth in ATP when an eighth-ranked guy plays like vintage Federer…— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) February 28, 2014
At the very least, it is clear that he is performing better than a typical person ranked No. 8 in the world.
Of course, he was not just turning back the clock with this performance. He was also using plenty of his veteran savvy to get the win.
Federer made few mistakes that could be used against him, totaling zero double faults to seven aces. He also limited unforced errors, which is a must versus elite opponents.
Most importantly, he came through when he was needed the most. He won five of his six break points in the match to ensure his own survival, before putting Djokovic away with three breaks of his own.
Adding all of these skills to the endurance needed to win a come-from-behind match in three sets, it is clear that Federer can still beat anyone in the world. In fact, he is getting better against elite opponents lately, according to Josh Meiseles of ATPWorldTour.com:
Federer was 2-8 against Top 10 opponents from Jan-Oct in 2013. 3-1 already in 2014.— Josh Meiseles (@jmeistennis) February 28, 2014
After his worst season in over a decade, Federer is proving that he is not done yet, and he is ready to contend on a weekly basis. While the French Open has never been his strong suit, he should be able to make a solid run at Roland Garros. As far as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are concerned, he has as good of a chance as anyone to come away with a victory.
The Swiss star will give himself a chance to win any tournament he enters—something he proved with his recent win over Djokovic. This is great news for his fans, but bad news for the rest of the competitors on tour.
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