Well we didn't get the end to the season I knew everyone wanted as Roger succumbed to the relentlessness of Djokovic losing 7-6(6) 7-5 in the final of of the ATP World Tour Finals. The match was much closer than the scoreline suggested and had 1 or 2 points gone the other way the outcome may have been different.
I've been writing off Roger's chances all week but after he beat Murray comfortably I thought he might just have enough left in the tank to beat Djokovic and claim his 7th Masters Cup; sadly I was wrong as Djokovic played the big points well and used all his defensive ability to keep himself in the match despite falling behind in both sets.
Unlike the match against Murray this time around Roger got off to the dream start breaking Djokovic immediately and moving into a 3-0 lead. Roger won the first 9 points of the match and I was feeling confident. As we've seen many times before Djokovic is never beaten until you're shaking hands with him at the net and after a nervous start he started to find his range from the baseline.
Roger's 3-0 lead soon evaporated and at 4-4 Djokovic moved into the lead for the first time in the match breaking Roger for the second time. It was a painful blow. Such was the high level and topsy turvy nature of the first set Roger broke straight back and we moved into a well justified tie break.
True to form the breaker was pretty crazy, Roger was the one going for his shots, many came off but the errors column was always breathing down his neck. At 5-6 Roger hit an immense full stretch volley and a whipped pass to save set point, see video below, that sent the crowd wild. After that point I thought Fed was going to snatch the breaker but strangely the very next point he hit a wild backhand and Djokovic took the first set. Disappointing.
Second Set – Another peRFect Start
After composing myself I decided that I wasn't going to get too deflated as the match was still very much in the balance in my mind. Djokovic hadn't exactly outplayed Roger, he'd just taken his chance when Federror turned up. I tweeted after the first set that if Roger could turn the 20 winners to 23 unforced error count to a positive ratio in the second he'd be able to turn the match around.
Like the first set Roger got off to another great starting breaking Djokovic again in his opening service game. This time around I thought he was making his advantage count for sure.
At 5-4 Roger moved to 40-15. A good return from Djokovic and then a forehand error meant it was deuce. Memories of the US Open came back a little and more Djokovic pressure saw Roger lose serve. This was even more disappointing than the first set. His forehand went AWOL at the wrong time and handed the initiative back to Novak. You can't afford to waste 2 set points at the top level and Roger knows it.
At 5-6 Federer found himself down yet another break point, he played it pretty timidly I thought and didn't quite go full blooded, he came in behind quite a good but not great forehand approach shot and Djokovic hit a backhand pass on the stretch to take the title. It was a good shot but it was always make-able. Rather annoying.
What Went Wrong for Roger?
This match really boiled down to 2 things, Djokovic's relentlessness in the rallies and Roger making forehand errors at key times. For large parts Roger was the one in the dominant position, he was aggressive and his backhand held up well. He put himself in the position to win it but just couldn't quite get it done. Djokovic has such a great defense that he can stay in so many points, on courts that aren't overly quick any rally that goes above 5 shots you have to make him the odds on favourite to win the point.
One of the biggest indicators in a Federer loss is the Winners to Unforced Errors count. The ratio was negative in the first set and by the end of the match it stood at 30 winners to 42 unforced errors. If Roger is break even, or positive he's 9 times out of 10 the winner, in fact I'd love to see his winning % in matches where he has positive W:UE stats.
I believe that Roger has lost some confidence since the US Open loss to Berdych and then losing in Shanghai and then Basel can't have helped. The win against Murray would have helped but it just wasn't enough to take his game up that notch in the clutch. Losing a lead twice in the match mainly down to unforced errors is always down to confidence levels, we saw it in the US Open Semi's in 2010/11 and we've seen it against Nadal many times.
I think there were too many [turning points] to really pinpoint one because any one of them, obviously, could have thrown the match into a different direction again in the first, and in the second, too, more so in the first maybe because there were more twists and turns. Maybe I have a bit of regret because I had the lead twice, first before him.
The Season Draws to a Close
I'll be recapping the season in the not too distant future but despite a somewhat disappointing end there's no doubt it's been a great year for Roger. Winning a slam, returning to number 1 and winning a handful of other titles all at the age of 31 yet again defies the odds, silences the critics and entertains thousands, if if not millions across the globe.
Next up for him are the Exhibitions in South America and then a well deserved rest. I've heard that he maybe skipping Doha which I feel is a very wise decision. It means he won't have any matches before the Australian Open but I think the practise courts are more important right now. He's stated himself he hasn't had chance to practise with such a busy year due to the Olympics putting a spanner in the works.
Like I said I think that Roger has lacked a little confidence since the US Open and he can start to rebuild that on the practise courts in Dubai. Working with Annacone after Christmas he can ensure he irons out any areas in his game that he thinks aren't currently working as well as they could do.
Oh and just so you know; he wasn't too down beat after the loss:
And for those of you like me that would love to see faster courts in the game then check this. There's some solid points from Fed when he was asked about it in his post match press conference: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/tennis/news/20121113/federer-wants-faster-courts/