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 on Tuesday at the Barclays 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, means he has 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.
"Winning the first set clearly in a match like this gives you the upper hand," said Federer, at 34 the oldest player to qualify for the year-end finale since Andre Agassi (35) in 2005. "It was important to strike again as quick as possible in the second set, and I did."
“You have those days as well when you're not feeling your best — not even close to the best," said Djokovic, the reigning three-time champion. “Credit to Roger for mixing up the pace, giving me always a different ball. He used the slice and spin very wisely. He served very efficiently. I made a lot of unforced errors . Just handed him the win, especially in the second set.
“But, again, that's sport,” Djokovic added. “Sometimes these kind of matches, these kind of days happen. The good thing is that it's a round-robin system, so I still have an opportunity to reach the semis."
"I didn't think I mixed it up that crazy, to be honest," Federer asserted. "I didn't play any insane tactics. It was pretty straightforward, in a way I've played him many times in the past. My game is to mix it up, change up the spins. His game is to press you away. I think we both played our regular game, and it was a good outcome for me tonight."
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 on Aug. 23. He had won 16 straight matches at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, including wins over Federer in 2012, 2013 and 2014 (walkover).
The rivals have met more times (43) than any other two players in the Open Era with the exception of Djokovic and Rafael Nadal (45). The pair’s respective coaches, Hall of Famers Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, played 35 times.