BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2012
Djokovic Bids To Win Second Season-Ending Title; Beats del Potro In Three Sets
by James Buddell|
Novak Djokovic, who has finished year-end No. 1 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the second straight year, will look to win his second title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Monday.
The top seed, who beat Nikolay Davydenko in the 2008 final, defeated sixth seed and 2009 finalist Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday in front of a capacity crowd at The O2 in London. Djokovic, who is the only player undefeated at the season-ending championships, will play second seed and six-time champion Roger Federer in the final. Federer leads Djokovic 16-12 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“I'm very pleased, it's the first final here in London," said Djokovic. "I haven't played a final of the [Barclays ATP] World Tour Finals since 2008. I really look forward to it. It's already a great success [to get to this stage]. But knowing it's the last match of the season, I'm really going to try to give my best physically and mentally tomorrow to eventually try to get the trophy.”
Having beaten Federer in Group B action on Saturday, del Potro was full of confidence at the beginning of the match. He withstood two break points at 15/40 in the second game, by winning four straight points, then proved it was a blip by making holes in Djokovic’s baseline defence. The Argentinean broke Djokovic after a short cross-court exchange at 4-4, when Djokovic committed his 13th unforced error. Del Potro then served out the 47-minute set, having hit 14 winners and won all three of his net points.
“I played a little bit more on his backhand side and got more opportunity to attack, where in the first set I played too much on his forehand [and[ got crushed,” said Djokovic afterwards.
At one stage, in the first game of the second set, del Potro had won 13 of the past 14 points. Djokovic was on the wrack when he recovered from 15/40, saving three break points in a crucial early hold. But Djokovic’s error count continued to increase when he was broken to 15 at 1-1. With a high throw-up, del Potro’s serve was fluent, but costly errors, due to lapses in concentration saw Djokovic break back immediately. Djokovic moved closer to the baseline, his play became assured as del Potro forced to keep rallies short. Del Potro found himself unable to runaround his backhand and Djokovic took a 5-3 lead. Djokovic won eight of del Potro’s 11 second service points in the second set, which lasted 52 minutes.
“I was aware that the key for me would be to try to get as many returns back in the court and get into the rally,” said Djokovic. “I wasn't managing to do so, especially [at] the end of the first set, beginning of the second. I dropped with my first serve percentage, made a lot of unforced errors. He used it. He was the better player at that time. I believed that I could come back. I believed that I could turn this match around in my favour, and I've done so. I've played from that moment on, when I got the break back, very flawless tennis.”
Djokovic maintained his momentum in the decider, with del Potro losing his service to love in the third game after the Serbian hit a crosscourt forehand winner. Del Potro attempted to stay in touch, but Djokovic was rock solid on serve, losing just one of 13 service points in his next three games. He completed the match with a love hold, including two aces, to end the two-hour and 12-minute match. It was his third straight win over del Potro, who drops to 5-7 lifetime against World No. 1s.
Del Potro committed 20 of his 26 unforced errors on his forehand wing. Djokovic hit nine aces and 34 winners. He lost just two points on his serve in the deciding set, which lasted 32 minutes.
"Nole improved his game, basically, between the middle of the second set until the end of the match," said del Potro. "He deserved to win today. I think I played really good in the first two sets. If you don't play [for the] whole match [at] your best level, it's really difficult to beat him. I had the chance to win today when I was [a] break up in the second, but I didn't serve like yesterday and I didn't serve like my first set today. Nole was returning really well."
Djokovic has now won a personal-best 74 matches – tied No. 1 with David Ferrer for most victories on the ATP World Tour this season. He is also 49-5 on hard courts and 23-10 against Top 10 opponents over the past 11 months.
Del Potro finishes the year having won a career-high 65 matches this year (65-17), which includes four ATP World Tour titles. His previous-best match wins mark was 54 in 2009, when he won the US Open title. He is the first Argentinean player to win at least 60 matches since Guillermo Coria (60) in 2003.
Djokovic said of del Potro, “He's definitely one of the players behind the big four that can challenge for winning a Grand Slam. Next to him, it's obviously Ferrer, who has had a fantastic year, the best year of his career.”