A vintage performance by Roger Federer has sent the Swiss to the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals after a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Novak Djokovic. A six-time champion in London, Federer defeated Djokovic for the first time since 2015.
The world number three has advanced to the semifinals at the year-ending event for the 16th time in 17 appearances and has handed the year-end number one ranking to Rafael Nadal, who could face Federer in a blockbuster semifinal on Saturday.
Supreme serving helps Federer to first set
Federer came out playing attacking, controlled tennis and it nearly paid immediate dividends. Keeping the tempo of the match fast, he nearly broke Djokovic from deuce in the first game and held to 15 in a flash. He pounced on the Serb's wobble on serve, double-faulting twice and a pinpoint backhand down the line on break point.
The Swiss was in control despite Djokovic coming forward to finish off his next service game to stay within touch at 3-2. Federer ended his own service game with a pair of aces for a 4-2 lead and he had a half-chance to stretch his lead at 30-30, but the world number two found some timely groundstrokes to hold.
Again, Djokovic was under pressure on serve, trailing 0-30 before pulling back the arrears with help from the Swiss, an ill-advised drop shot and two points later, he held. Federer served for the set and sprinted through the game, closing it out and the set with it, with an ace to affirm his superiority in this winner-take-all clash.
Impeccable play from Federer continues as he roars into semifinals
Djokovic faced the most crucial game of the match, digging out of a 15-40 hole to hold to begin the second set. He finally gained some traction on the Federer serve, pushing the Swiss to deuce, but Federer was able to hold. It appeared that the Serb injured his elbow, but he was giving himself looks on the worlds number three's serve.
At 30-40, Djokovic finally had his first break point of the match only to see Federer sweep up the next three points. That missed opportunity would prove costly as the Swiss held 0-40 on the Serb's next service game. Djokovic saved the first chance with a backhand winner, but struck a forehand long on the second, effectively handing the world number three the match.
Federer was taken to deuce, but he unleashed another serve-forehand combination to hold for a 4-2 edge. Although Djokovic was keeping pace, it was much too late for his chances and he was summarily broken to love trailing 5-3, the Swiss firing a backhand at the Serb's ankles, unable to handle it and capping Federer's finest performance in a long time.