Novak & Roger: The Rivalry
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will meet for the 46th time in the final of the 2018 Western & Southern Open. The pair most recently clashed 31 months ago, when Djokovic triumphed in the Australian Open semi-finals en route to his sixth championship victory in Melbourne.
The Serbian now leads the pair’s electric FedEx ATP Head2Head series 23-22. Their rivalry features the second-most matches played in the Open Era; only Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have faced off more often, with 52 battles.
Here’s a look at their 45 previous meetings…
2016 Australian Open semi-final, hard, Djokovic d. Federer 61 62 36 63
World No. 1 Djokovic moved through to his sixth Australian Open final after producing a masterful display to defeat Federer in two hours and 19 minutes.
The Serbian saved three of the four break points he faced, while breaking the Swiss five times. Incredibly, Djokovic won a higher rate of points on his second serve (66%) than Federer did on his first delivery (61%).
“I think against Roger, these first two sets have been probably the best two sets I’ve played against him overall I think throughout my career,” said Djokovic. “I’ve had some moments against him in sets where I’ve played on a high level, but this was a different level than from before. I’m just very, very pleased that I was able to perform the way I did from the very beginning till the end.”
2015 Nitto ATP World Tour Finals final, hard, Djokovic d. Federer 63 64
Djokovic completed his argument for one of the greatest seasons of all time on the ATP World Tour, capping a historic campaign with a record fourth consecutive Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown. It was déjà vu with their second meeting of the week at The O2 in London, coming on the heels of Federer’s 7-5, 6-2 triumph in Group Stan Smith play.
Djokovic, who improved to 18-1 at the Final Showdown over the course of his four straight title runs, won his 11th title of 2015 and 59th overall at the tour-level.
In their previous meeting, Federer successfully controlled the baseline and found success on Djokovic’s first serve – winning 49 per cent of points. But the Serb was too steady in the final and Federer’s 31 unforced errors were too much to overcome. Djokovic secured a pair of breaks in the first set – in the third and ninth games – and claimed the lone break in the second set to seal the victory.
“I’m obviously very proud to have these achievements with my team,” said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. “It’s been a long season, but the best of my life. Without their support and my family, I wouldn’t be where I am. I’m just trying to cherish every moment at this level. As a kid growing up, you dream to be at tournaments like this and fighting for the biggest trophies in sport.”
2015 Nitto ATP World Tour Finals round robin, hard, Federer d. Djokovic 75 62
After four losses in six match-ups with the World No. 1 in 2015, six-time champion Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-2 in round-robin action at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals. Federer’s straight-sets victory, coupled with Kei Nishikori’s three-set 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 decision over Tomas Berdych, meant he qualified for the Group Stan Smith semi-finals.
The Swiss broke their FedEx ATP Head2Head 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 the ATP Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo in 2006.
Both players looked sharp early on, especially on serve, but Federer seized the momentum, taking the opening set 7-5 in 44 minutes. He would keep rolling in the second set, totaling 19 winners and a like number of unforced errors in closing out the match in one hour and 17 minutes.
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.
2015 US Open final, hard, Djokovic d. Federer 64 57 64 64
A three-hour rain delay could not stop Djokovic from capping the 2015 Grand Slam season with his third such title of the year and 10th overall. Djokovic won his second US Open crown, overcoming Federer in four sets under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium. The World No. 1 Serb’s 10 major titles made him the eighth player to win double digit crowns.
Djokovic was forced to battle against the Swiss second seed as well as the pro-Federer crowd that included a bevy of celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper. Under the watchful eye of Eva Asderaki-Moore, the first female chair umpire to preside over a US Open men’s singles final, the World No. 1 took a tumble in the opening set. Playing on with a scraped knee and elbow, the Serb prevailed to win the opening set, snapping Federer’s winning streak of 28 sets, the third-best of his career.
Djokovic entered the match with a 13-1 record against Federer when winning the first set, while Federer was 0-3 against top-ranked players in major finals. In the end, neither trend would change. After splitting the second and third sets, the Serb secured an immediate break in the first game of the fourth set and appeared to have the match in hand after snatching a second break for 5-2. But like he has done his entire career, Federer would not go down without a fight.
The second seed got one of the breaks back with an aggressive return game, capped by a slick drop shot approach after pushing Djokovic well behind the baseline with deep forehands. Federer would consolidate for 5-4 and had a sniff at completing the stunning comeback with two break points at 15/40 to draw level. Djokovic was too clutch when it mattered most, surviving three break chances in the final game to emerge victorious and hoist his second US Open trophy and 10th at the Grand Slam stage.
Djokovic gave credit to the 34-year-old Federer, stating that “he’s still improving and keeps on going.” “I have tremendous respect for Roger and what his game [presents] to me and any other player,” said the World No. 1, who has bagged three majors in the same season for the first time since 2011. “It’s been an incredible season. Next to [the] 2011 season, probably the best of all my life,” said the Serb, adding that he’s enjoying it more now because he’s a husband and a father. “[It] makes it even more sweeter.”
2015 Western & Southern Open final, hard, Federer d. Djokovic 76(1) 63
The top two seeds were locked at 20-20 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series going into the final as Djokovic was bidding to win his first title in Cincinnati and complete a Career Golden Masters. The Serb had won their three previous meetings, but Federer’s aggressive mentality in cruising through the main draw saw him full of confidence for Sunday’s final against the World No. 1.
The Swiss won 40 per cent of return points entering the encounter and pressed for an early break immediately. Djokovic saved a trio of break points in the third game and another after a six-minute fifth game. The opener would proceed to a tie-break, where Federer would snatch an early mini-break and power through to take the first set, 7/1 in the tie-break. Federer would continue applying pressure on the Djokovic serve as the match progressed, surging to a 3-0 lead in the second set after the top seed double faulted to hand the initial break to the Swiss. He would hold serve to the finish line, striking 32 winners and seven aces in total to win his seventh ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.
“I tried to really mix it up on his second serve and I was hoping to serve good enough myself to keep me out of trouble,” Federer said during an interview with ESPN following the match. “He had that one bad game at the beginning of the second set, which made the difference in the match.
“I’ve seen Novak adapt to my play over the years and he’s also improved a lot. His movement and his backhand and forehand are always so solid. There aren’t many errors coming out of his forehand wing now. Our rivalry has definitely evolved.”
Novak & Roger: Matches 31-40 | Matches 21-30 | Matches 11-20 | Matches 1-10