Novak Djokovic fittingly finished the season of his life on top of the world as he beat Roger Federer to win the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Sunday night.
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Djokovic’s 6-3 6-4 victory made him the first man ever to win the season-ending tournament four times in a row and brought him his 11th title of a remarkable year.
The result also means Andy Murray is guaranteed to finish the year ahead of Federer at world number two for the first time. It was a perfect birthday present for Djokovic’s coach Boris Becker, who can take a lot of credit for his charge’s dominance.
Djokovic said: “Obviously I’m very proud, together with my team, for the achievements of the season. It could not have been a better finish. It’s been a long season, but the best of my life. I’m trying to cherish every moment on court where I play at this level.”
Had the Serbian won the French Open, there would surely be no argument about it being the best season in tennis history. The only tournament in which he did not reach the final was his first of the season (in Qatar), with Djokovic the first man ever to reach 15 consecutive finals in a season, and his haul included three grand slams and six Masters series trophies.
This was the eighth meeting of the year between Djokovic and Federer, who played off for both the Wimbledon and US Open titles, both won by Djokovic.
But the world No. 1 had been far from his best when they met in the group stages at the O2 Arena on Tuesday, suffering his first loss in 24 matches and first indoors since 2012.
Both men had chances in the crucial opening stages but it was Djokovic who took his, breaking serve in the third game when Federer netted a forehand.
Novak Djokovic: evens all-time series vs Roger Federer, 22-22 (lost to Federer in Round Robin play in event)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 22, 2015
The Swiss needed to be at his best but errors on big points, particularly off the backhand wing, were hurting him. He missed a routine shot when a chance opened up to make it 3-3 and Djokovic made him pay by breaking again to take the set.
Like in his semi-final against Stan Wawrinka, Federer was not afraid to rush the net. On the first set point a backhand overhead saved him, but not on the second.
Federer had only once beaten Djokovic from a set down in their 43 previous meetings, so the omens were not good. Djokovic looked poised for a breakthrough when two stunning winners gave him 0-40 in the eighth game of the second set but Federer reeled off five straight points, much to the delight of the crowd.
Perceived tennis wisdom is that such moments turn matches but Djokovic promptly went out and held to love. And in the following game he had his chance again, but this time they were match points. He missed one but did not have to do anything on the second as the pressure told on Federer and he double-faulted.
Remarkably, the result means after 90 matches against Federer and Nadal, Djokovic is tied with both.
Federer said: “It’s never fun not being on the winning side, but it’s better than not playing at all like last year. First of all I’ll say how happy I am that I could play today.
“This week was great again, and it’s been a fantastic year all around. I tried my best, I thought I played some great tennis all week and in the final, but Novak deserves the win today like so many times this year.”
The doubles title was won by Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, who ensured they would finish as the world’s No. 1 team by beating Bob and Mike Bryan in the semi-finals.
The Dutch/Romanian partnership did not drop a set all week and beat Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea 6-4 6-3 in the final.
The ATP and Emirates announced a new partnership on Sunday that will see the award winning airline elevate its status to the ATP World Tour from 2016. The five-year agreement represents the biggest sponsorship deal in the history of the ATP.
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As Official Airline and Premier Partner of the ATP World Tour, Emirates will benefit from global marketing rights delivering a powerful and consistent presence via the Tour’s iconic net branding at approximately 60 tournaments worldwide to reach a cumulative broadcast audience in excess of 800 million.
The partnership also provides a platform across the tournaments to experience Emirates’ unrivalled hospitality and will see extensive activation through the Tour’s official website ATPWorldTour.com.
Roger Federer will face Novak Djokovic in the World Tour Final after defeating Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday.
Third seed Federer beat Djokovic in straight sets in the group stage. “A great match, I really enjoyed it,” Federer said after his win.
“It will be a perfect ending only if I win. Novak should be knocked out by now! No, I am joking. He played a great match against Rafa earlier today and I’m sure it will be a fantastic meeting.”
Federer went into the Wawrinka match with a 17-3 lead in career clashes between the two, including all their matches on a hard court.
At the coin toss, the umpire, like a boxing referee, asked both players for “a clean fight” and “no blows below the belt”.
Fourth seed Wawrinka broke first for a 3-2 lead thanks to some luck at the net cord, flicking a shot into Federer’s face and then diverting a shot wide from the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
But Federer broke back to level at 4-4 and motored on to take the first set, breaking again as Wawrinka double-faulted and misfired, a volley into the net sealing matters.
Federer broke in the second game of the second set and had two break points in the fourth before Wawrinka pulled it back.
Wawrinka saw off a match point to hold for 5-3, but Federer was cruising by this point and ended the contest with a straightforward service game.