As you would expect, the crowds were up for this final – at last they would see what we should have seen this time last year. Djokovic and Federer had done enough to qualify comfortably. Neither had a complete cakewalk, despite Federer going 3-0 in the tournament, but now the big prize was up for grabs.
Federer looked nervy walking out, and once play started, interrupted early in the first game by a raucous shout from the crowd, you know this was going to be an edgy match.
Federer succumbed early to a break, and although he had chances before and indeed after that to level the score, a sometimes off-balance Djokovic got the better of him on his second set point, despite doing his level best to gift away the lead he had built up in the vital game.
What could Federer do to redress the balance? We had not seen the much discussed ‘SABR’, he had nicked Djokovic’s chair – what could he do to get some kind of look at the Djokovic serve, as play ticked on with serve in the second set.
You got the impression that Federer would have to rely on Djokovic’s level drop as it did in the round-robin to at least get on even terms with him. There were moments of sublime tennis, with routine netted backhands straight to follow from Federer and sure enough the danger was lurking from Djokovic in the eighth game as Djokovic forced three break points. Federer had to dig deep to win the five points in a row needed to dig himself out of trouble.
It was a brief respite, as Djokovic dominated his next service game before helping himself to another slice of break points. Even the moment of victory was muted as a challenge delayed the inevitable call of Game Set and Match on Djokovic’s second set point.
With that win, Djokovic becomes the first player to win four season ending finales in a row , he equals his head to head with Federer and it has been all about the big silverware for the Serbian.
It is not the first time he has had a remarkable run but this stands out, perhaps because he is older, wiser, and if anything better placed next year to try and sustain it.
He said: “This season definitely stands out. I can’t say I expected it, not at all. But I always gave my best, and I’m always asking from myself the most. I was always hoping that I can play this well throughout the entire season. Managing to reach this kind of season and achievement this year obviously gives me a lot of confidence for anything that is coming in the future.”
Federer knows what it takes to maintain that level, and this is the position Djokovic will now face heading into 2016.
He said: “It’s hard to do. It’s hard to play at this pace all the time. Margins are small at the very top. That’s why this year of Novak’s is amazing. Rafa has been there. I’ve been there. We both know how hard it is to back it up year after year. It’s not the first good year of Novak.
Clearly he’s going into next year with massive confidence, but you can’t just repeat a year like this. It takes a lot of effort. You’ve got to be physically in shape, no injuries whatsoever. Mentally you have to be at your peak at all times. It’s not as easy as it seems sometimes.”
The ATP tour recommences in 2016, with Brisbane.
Main Image Credit: Julian Finney/Getty
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