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Best ATP World Tour Matches Of The Year - Nos. 3-5

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Isner© Getty ImagesJohn Isner beat a World No. 1 for the first time when he defeated Novak Djokovic in the Indian Wells semi-finals.

ATPWorldTour.com reviews the Top 5 ATP World Tour matches of the year, beginning with Nos. 5-3. (We will look at the best Grand Slam matches of 2012 beginning Thursday.)

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5. John Isner d. Novak Djokovic, 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(5), Indian Wells SF
"That's why I play this game, to be able to enjoy moments like that. It was very special when that last ball went by him and I knew I had won the match," said John Isner after recording his first victory over a World No. 1 player to reach his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in front of passionate home support at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Djokovic looked to be in control early on, breaking Isner to love in the third game, but conceded his advantage as he served for the first set at 5-4. Isner put the Serbian on the defensive in the subsequent tie-break, and claimed the set after one hour when Djokovic returned a second serve into the net. "At that point I believed I could win the match, at that point it was within my reach,” reflected Isner.

Isner’s belief and attacking instincts did not dim, even as Djokovic mounted a comeback in the second and third sets. The American dropped his serve in the eighth game to surrender the second set, over-hitting a forehand long on Djokovic's fourth break point. But he gathered himself to fire an ace and deny Djokovic a break point in the seventh game of the third set, and earned his first match point five games later. Djokovic held on to send the match into a tie-break, where the American created three more match points at 6-3. Djokovic saved two, before Isner fired his 20th ace to clinch the win after two hours and 45 minutes.

Victory for Isner backed up the win he had recorded over Roger Federer a month earlier in the Davis Cup first round in Switzerland. The American went on to break the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time.

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del Potro4. Juan Martin del Potro d. Roger Federer, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3), Basel Final
It was a tall order, but Juan Martin del Potro held his nerve to dethrone five-time former titlist Roger Federer in the final of the Swiss Indoors Basel. It was his first victory over the then-World No. 1 since November 2009 and earned him his fourth ATP World Tour title of the season.

In front of a partisan crowd, del Potro drew first blood as he broke for a 3-2 lead when Federer netted a backhand under pressure. The Argentine then closed out the opener courtesy of another backhand error from Basel native Federer.

With the second set going down to the wire, Federer saved a break point at 5-5 and took his chance in the following tie-break, winning four straight points from 1-1 to wrap up the 64-minute set. Neither player was able to engineer a breakthrough in the third set. Despite some Federer magic in the decisive tie-break, it was del Potro who was more solid and the Tandil native clinched victory after two hours and 45 minutes as the attacking Federer hit a forehand just wide.

"It was an unbelievable final, the match was really close," said del Potro. "After six losses [against Federer], it was a big win for me. I was fighting all the time. I got lucky in the end, but I felt that I played a really good match.

“The second set was close,” reflected Federer. “He didn’t play a very good tie-break and then I had my chances early on in the third. I couldn’t break, despite doing the right things, but then I didn’t play a good tie-break myself.”

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Djokovic3. Novak Djokovic d. Roger Federer, 7-6(6), 7-5, Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Championship Match
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic brought the curtain down on a spectacular 2012 ATP World Tour season as he won the year-end championships for the second time with victory over six-time champion Roger Federer.

In a fitting conclusion to the season finale, 17,800 fans at The O2 watched an enthralling contest between the world’s Top 2 players, and were narrowly denied a third set as Federer’s comeback was cut short.

It was Federer who was on top early in the pair’s 29th meeting, coming close to a double-break lead as he raced to a 3-0 advantage. “I was just trying to hang in there,” said Djokovic, who fought his way back into contention before taking the lead with a service break in the eighth game. Federer fortuitously capitalised on a lapse in concentration to break back, but Djokovic regained control in the tie-break, despite brilliance from his Swiss opponent on set point. At 5-6 in an extraordinary rally, Federer lunged and showcased his athletic prowess for a forehand winner, hit close to the net, past a motionless Djokovic. However, Federer mis-timed a backhand at 6-6 and Djokovic clinched the set in 72 minutes with his 11th winner, a forehand into space.

Federer again squandered a lead in the second set. He prevailed in a 14-minute opening game of the second set to break the Djokovic serve, and withstood the Serb’s advances throughout the set to earn two chances to level the match at 5-4, 40/15. Four straight errors from Federer proved costly, though, as Djokovic screamed in celebration at drawing level.

Faced with an inspired Djokovic, Federer went down match point in the 12th game after committing his 19th unforced error of the set. It was captured in style by Djokovic, who fired a backhand pass down the line, his 30th winner of the encounter. "I managed to deliver my best game when it was needed the most,” said Djokovic on the dramatic finale.

“I think we had some great stuff out there," said Federer. "It was good playing such points. I think the quality was good. It was extremely close today.”

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Best Matches Nos. 1-2

Coming Wednesday: The 2 Best ATP World Tour Matches of 2012

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