By Randy Walker
Novak Djokovic silenced the critics who said he was not worthy of being the year-end No. 1 player or being considered 2012’s “Player of the Year” by defeating Roger Federer 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 Monday in the final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Djokovic overcame early breaks in both sets to beat Federer in two hours, 14 minutes to earn a $1.76 million first prize and sizeably increase his lead over the No. 2-ranked Federer as the top-ranked man on the ATP World Tour.
Djokovic’s 2012 season featured one major singles title at the Australian Open, two runner-up finishes in majors at the US and French Opens, six singles titles and a 75-12 won-loss record. His six singles titles included the year-end championships and the Masters 1000 events in Miami, Toronto and Shanghai. By comparison, Federer earned a 71-12 match record for the year, six singles titles, including one major at Wimbledon and three Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati, Madrid and Indian Wells. In addition, Federer earned the silver medal at the London Olympic Games. Andy Murray, the world No. 3 player who lost to Federer in Sunday’s semifinals, earned a 56-12 won loss record, three singles titles including his first major title at the US Open and his celebrated gold medal win at the London Olympics. The other major winner in men’s tennis in 2012, Rafael Nadal, won the French Open, reached the final of the Australian Open, won four titles and posted a 42-6 record but did play after Wimbledon due to injury.
“It’s pretty clear that Novak Djokovic is the player of the year,” argued Patrick McEnroe on ESPN2 following his win over Federer Monday.
Djokovic returned to the No. 1 ranking last Monday, also clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking for a second-straight year. Djokovic had held the top ranking from the start of 2012 until the end of Wimbledon in July, when Roger Federer returned to the top spot, holding it until last week.
Federer, the six time winner of the tournament and the two-time defending champion, rushed out to an early 3-0 lead, winning 12 of the first 14 points of the match. However, Djokovic came back to win five of the next six games. Djokovic held a set point serving for the opening set at 5-4, but Federer was able to break serve for 5-5. In the tie-breaker, Djokovic edged Federer 8-6, Federer saving another set point at 5-6, hitting a stab volley off the frame, followed by an incredible forehand cross-court forehand with his back turned to the net.
In the second set, Federer broke Djokovic in the opening game and served to square the match at 5-4, but, incredibly, while leading 40-15, double-match point, he lost four straight points as Djokovic broke serve to even the set at 5-5. After holding serve the next game, Djokovic silenced the raucously pro-Federer London crowd with a backhand down-the-line passing shot on his first match point to break serve and close out the victory.
With a win, Federer would have earned his 77th career pro singles title, that would have tied him with John McEnroe for third-place all-time.