Reaches fourth straight final, and is aiming for a fifth title overall
LONDON, UK – Three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic eased past Rafael Nadal to book a place in his fourth straight Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Just how much of a battle of wills would this become? Djokovic had not been perhaps as sharp as he would have expected to be, especially after his rout of Kei Nishikori in his opening session. His only loss was to Roger Federer, and he admitted that his level of play against Tomas Berdych was not as high as he would have liked.
With such a close run head to head between them, and Nadal coming back to form with a great run since a disappointing US Open (17-4) is the best of his career, and that is some momentum to take into a match against the World No. 1.
But Djokovic started with the kind of aggression we have been used to seeing from him all this year – breaking the Spaniard to love in his opening service game. The nerves settled a bit for Nadal as he crept onto the board but the upper hand belonged to the defending champion as he closed out the first set 6-3.
Oh how Djokovic will have wanted to repeat the feat, again pulling up a breakpoint on Nadal’s serve at the start of the second set, but this time the Spaniard held firm but with no impact to his return game, it was with a feeling of inevitability that Djokovic was able to nibble away once more at his service game, to break once more.
Should we feel surprised at Nadal’s meekness on the receiving end of Djokovic? As he has been at great pains to point out, his year was more down to his (lack of) confidence and not down to injuries. He could go down the Andy Murray route of throwing himself into his training but maybe the issue is more instinct.
The grueling encounter with fellow countryman David Ferrer possibly took more out of him than expected, as Djokovic closed in comfortably on a straight sets win.
With good humour, Nadal raised a chuckle with his assessment of the match, saying: “He was better than me and he deserved to do what he did during the whole season. He played just fantastic. When somebody’s doing like this, just the only thing I can do is congratulate him and just wish not the best of luck for the next year (smiling).”
His solution to the Djokovic ‘problem’ will be to keep practicing, but for him the confidence comes from the time he can also put in on the practice court, as well as the all-important match play.
For our money Nadal looks a lot leaner, and may need the time to adjust and regain that balance of power but claimed his body felt good now. As he approaches 30, he continues to be more focused on conquering the demons that plagued him at the start of the season.
Djokovic was still very measured knowing that he has a tough final to come, whoever it may be across the net.
He said: “Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s match, the season will still be the best that I had. There is always room for improvement, so that’s something that honestly excites me and motivates me to keep on going. I still feel like I want to do more, and I can do more.”
The Barclays ATP World Tour Final will be on Sunday.
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