2011 IN REVIEW
Rivalries 2011 - Djokovic vs. Federer
by James Buddell|
Confidence coursed through Djokovic's veins in victories over Federer in the Australian Open semi-finals and for his third straight title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. By the time the pair met in the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals, in mid-March, the World No. 2 ranking was on the line. "You could feel the intensity and I guess the pressure with both of us," Djokovic admitted after his three-set Indian Wells win.
The trilogy showcased Djokovic's greater power, his improved fitness levels and the benefits of his widely publicised gluten-free diet. His run of form and boundless confidence, founded on helping Serbia win its first Davis Cup title in December 2010, paved the way to him becoming the World No. 1 in early July. But ultimately, the matches proved to be Hors d'oeuvres for two of the finest matches of the year - on two of the sport's grandest stages.
The first came at Roland Garros on 3 June. Djokovic entered Court Philippe Chatrier, unbeaten in 41 matches in 2011. It seemed only die-hard Federer fans were backing the Swiss. Three hours and 39 minutes later, at 9:37 p.m., Federer struck his 18th aces of the match to complete a 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory, which ended the best streak to begin a season since John McEnroe's 42 in 1984. Closing on his 30th birthday, Federer produced a vintage, aggressive performance that proved to the tennis world that he could still add to his haul of 16 Grand Slam championship titles.
"I really wanted to make it as physical as possible, which I was able to make happen," Federer said of his win, which snapped a three-match losing streak against Djokovic. "I was really happy with the way I played. I thought it was a great match from both sides."
One hundred days later, on 10 September, in the US Open semi-finals, the quality of tennis - by both players - was even greater. The drama unrivalled in any of their 24 meetings.
Djokovic will forever recall how, for the second time in his career, he rallied from a two-set deficit to win. Saving two match points with Federer serving at 5-3, 40/15, in the fifth set, the Serbian defeated the five-time former champion 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 in three hours and 51 minutes.
It left Federer shell-shocked. History had repeated itself. In 2010, Federer had squandered two match points on Djokovic's serve to lose the semi-final. "It was a very similar situation to last year," acknowledged Djokovic. "I had to take my chances. I was very close to being on my way back home. It was an incredible last two games."
Djokovic vs. Federer: 2011 Meetings
|Australian Open SF||Djokovic||76(3) 75 64|
|Dubai Final||Djokovic||63 63|
|Indian Wells SF||Djokovic||63 36 62|
|Roland Garros SF||Federer||76(5) 63 36 76(5)|
|US Open SF||Djokovic||67(7) 46 63 62 75|