The series continues with a look at last year’s classic semi-final match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer (Semi-final, 2011)
6–7 (7-9), 4–6, 6–3, 6–2, 7–5
Last year’s US Open saw Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic meet at the tournament for a record fifth straight year. Having contested the final in 2007, the subsequent four meetings have been at the semi-final stage.
The 2010 encounter saw the Serb save two match points and come back to win in highly dramatic fashion. Surely the 2011 match could not live up to such a high standards? It turned out it could and more.
Djokovic was having the season of his life. Having stormed to the Australian Open title, he mastered Rafael Nadal on the clay of Rome and Madrid and won Wimbledon to reach number one in the rankings. The one thing missing was the French Open title; Federer had denied him in an epic four-set semi-final at Roland Garros.
Despite that win, Federer had fallen short of his own high standards in 2011. Nadal had, once again, proved too good in the Roland Garros final and a quarter-final loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saw his Wimbledon hopes dashed. At number three in the rankings, the great maestro was in danger of becoming an entertaining sideshow to the main event of Djokovic and Nadal.
The Arthur Ashe stadium was packed for the showdown, with the majority cheering for their five-time champion. Djokovic started slowly but managed to hang on for a tie break, saving multiple set points before Federer took the opener. The Swiss grew in confidence and, moving Djokovic around the court with his forehand, was able to increase his lead to two sets.
The tide turned at this point and the Serb’s ground shots off both wings began to penetrate and knock Federer backwards. Having taken the third set, Djokovic was rampant in the fourth, however he could not take a set point on the Federer serve at 5-1. Despite the Serb serving the set out in the next game, failing to take that opportunity meant that Federer served first in the decider and found some breathing space.
Back in flight, Federer broke serve in game eight and progressed to two match points on his own serve in the following game. Replying to a solid serve to the deuce court, Djokovic (by his own admission) rolled the dice and came up with sixes: he slammed an all-or-nothing forehand return winner past Federer. The pro-Federer crowd responded with shocked near-silence and the Serb lifted his arms and demanded his due.Finally the crowd roared for Djokovic and this see-saw of a match swung for the last time. The Serb saved the second set point, broke the Federer serve and rolled through a deflated opponent to take the fifth set 7-5.
Djokovic would go on to win his first US Open, beating Nadal in a hard fought final, and improving his record to an incredible 64-2 for the year at that point. Federer recovered from the devastating loss to amass ranking points and titles during the autumn, building the foundations for his eventual return to number one in the summer of 2012.
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