Djokovic braces for onslaught from Federer fans
LONDON, UK – Novak Djokovic is bracing himself to battle Roger Federer and his army of fans as he seeks to equal the Swiss' record tally of 6 ATP Finals titles.
The Serbian world No. 2 started his campaign on Sunday, November 10, with a straightforward 6-2, 6-1 victory over Italy's Matteo Berrettini.
Federer, seeded No. 3 in London, was beaten, 7-5, 7-5, against Austria's Dominic Thiem in the evening match on the opening day.
Djokovic and Federer will meet later in the week in a repeat of this year's epic Wimbledon final, with two players advancing from the four-man group.
The 33-year-old Djokovic saved two match points on Federer's serve to win his fifth Wimbledon crown despite overwhelming support for the Swiss from the crowd in July.
Speaking after his victory at the O2 Arena on Sunday, Djokovic said he understood why Federer had such a huge following and explained his strategy to feed off the energy of the crowd.
"I understand why there is so much support for Roger," said Djokovic of the 20-time Grand Slam champion. "He is who he is. And what he has achieved and the personality that he is, he deserves that.
"Sometimes, you know, the crowd is on your side, the majority of the crowd is on your side, and sometimes it's against you. It's something throughout my career I had to learn how to handle, how to accept, and how to deal with that."
The Serbian, who has won 16 majors and is chasing the end-of-year No. 1 ranking, said he had twisted "Roger, Roger" chants into Novak chants in his mind at Wimbledon.
"When I said that I was kind of trying to transform the chanting into, 'Novak, Novak,' when I heard, 'Roger,' that's really what I try to do," he said.
"It really works mentally in these kinds of moments. It will not be anything particularly different in terms of my reaction if that happens."
Djokovic said he would focus on what worked for him in order to win.
"Obviously there is a lot of people and tennis fans that like to see us going head to head, and of course I understand that, and hopefully it's going to be a packed house and everyone will enjoy their tennis."
'Not good enough'
Uncharacteristically wayward, Federer squandered an early chance to break in the 2nd set and the games went with serve until the 11th game again, when Thiem broke to love after the 3rd seed dumped a forehand into the net.
The Austrian stuttered while serving for the match, forced to save two break points, but he held his nerve to take the set 7-5 and seal a deserved victory on his second match point.
"I thought Dominic saved himself real well when he had to," said Federer. "So I thought he played a tough first-round performance today, and my game was probably just not good enough, and the start didn't help."
"It's a normal tournament from here on forward," added the 38-year-old, who may now have to beat Djokovic to progress.
"Not allowed to lose anymore for me. That's how it is every week of the year for the last 20 years, so from that standpoint there is nothing new there." – Rappler.com