In the battle of players who won their openers in Group B at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals second seed Novak Djokovic (Player Bio) seized another three-set victory in London this week to secure a semi-final ticket, whilst his today’s opponent Juan Martin del Potro (Player Bio) needs to defeat Roger Federer in the third round in order to advance to the knockout stage.
The O2 Arena audience witnessed a match full of turnarounds with the contestants insisting on baseline tennis. The first exciting moments came at the very beginning when Nole returned from 15-40 to hold the opening game. He then wasted three opportunities to break the fourth seed Argentine at 2-1 before eventually stealing the rival’s serve two games later by preparing a break point and forcing a forehand mistake in the follow-up rally. He confirmed the break and faced no resistance when serving for the set which he closed out in style by smashing the third of his ten aces.
The second set serving left practically nothing to be desired with exception of the sixth game where Delpo came up with a pair of break points and converted right away with a touch of luck as the ball caught the top of the net following a cross-court backhand and rolled into the Serb’s side of the court. The Argentine’s serve remained intact throughout the set and he squared things up by hitting a service winner to convert on the first set point and force a dramatic decider.
The final set would be a tight affair as well with del Potro applying pressure first by generating a double break point in the third game, yet he squandered a great opportunity to convert as he misplaced a down-the-line forehand. Holding that game came as confidence booster for Djokovic and he suddenly raced to 0-40* in the sixth game before taking a 4-2 lead. He was obviously the more relaxed of the two at that point and he kept the Argentine at bay during the remaining service games. He capped off another one of his consistent displays by holding to love and earning a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win.
While he conceded more unforced errors than del Potro (31-29), Novak could equally rely on both his first and second serves as he won 78% and 70% of the subsequent points, respectively. The former World no. 1 beat the Argentine for the third consecutive time to improve the head-to-head record to 11-3.
“I did qualify for the semi-finals, which is definitely positive news,” the Serb said. “But I still want to try to win the last match of the group.”
When asked to predict the outcome of the decisive Federer-Del Potro clash, Djokovic replied: “Roger is definitely playing better than he was throughout the whole year. He loves these conditions. He likes this court. Today, he had a great performance against Gasquet. But on the other hand, del Potro has a big serve. I expect a three-set battle. I can’t pick the winner.”