ATP World Tour Finals 2014: Confident Djokovic extends indoor streak to down Wawrinka
Novak Djokovic breezes past Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets at the ATP World Tour Finals
There was a set of circumstance that, if they came to pass, could see Australian Open champion and world No4 Stan Wawrinka advance to the ATP World Tour Finals for the second consecutive year after just two matches.
His problem, though, was that he had to beat London’s defending champion, Wimbledon champion and world No1 advance, Novak Djokovic, to do so.
Whatever the outcome between what was always going to be the headline match-up of Group A, the winner between these two would do them no harm at all. Both had beaten their opening opponents for the loss of just two games apiece, in under an hour.
And lest the 15-3 head-to-head in Djokovic’s favour made this look just as one-sided a contest as those first scorelines, it was far from the case.
Wawrinka had not beaten the Serb since 2006, a run of 14 matches, until this January in Melbourne. There, “Stan the Man”, as his practice shirts now proclaim from the chest of one of the most modest men in the game, beat the then defending champion 9-7 in the fifth set in the quarter-finals on his way to his maiden Grand Slam.
And it was not out of the blue. The two had played one of the matches of the previous Australian Open—which went to Djokovic 12-10 in the fifth set—and one of the matches of 2013’s US Open, too: Another stunning five-setter to the Serb.
It was, then, not entirely unexpected, nor unjustified, that the late-maturing Swiss with one of the most admired single-handed backhands in tennis should finally get his man.
Wawrinka would become the top-ranked Swiss, ahead of Federer, for the first time, ranked No3, and would go on to win his first Masters title in Monte Carlo, also beating Federer.
But he had not come up against Djokovic since Australia. And with so much on the line, and such a run of top-class, close contests over the last two years, it was little wonder this was so highly anticipated.
Sadly, some of the most anticipated contests can also be some of the most disappointing, and this became another in the string of one-sided contests that has surprised the tournament. After winning the first two games in the match, Wawrinka would win just one more in a 6-3, 6-0 rout of only 65 minutes.
With eight of the 12 singles matches played, none has gone to three sets, and half of them have been done and dusted in around an hour.
Here, Wawrinka opened strongly to battle Djokovic through three deuces and break points to snatch an early lead, after a series of backhand exchanges. Wawrinka then had to fend off a break-back point with one of his best serves of the night, at 135mph, and held with a forehand winner.
Such serving and winners off the ground would be a rare treat from the Swiss racket. The errors began to flow in the third game, including a double fault, and he was broken to love. The sixth game was a carbon-copy, and in the blink of an eye, Djokovic was 5-2 up, having scored 15/16 points in a row.
Wawrinka rallied to score what would be his last game from a break point down, throwing in his first net play of the match, but already the Djokovic machine was looking well oiled. He served out, 6-3, no doubt fully aware that Wawrinka’s serving was well below 50 percent.
It went from bad to worse: The Swiss won only three points on serve in the set. Djokovic effectively pinned him back, but now throwing in the occasional teasing drop shot, and lost only four points on his own serve. Wawrinka was put out of his misery in 23 minutes, 6-0, ending the match with precisely half the points of his opponent, 31 to 62.
Djokovic finished in some style, with a forehand winner down the line and no doubt full of confidence for the final round-robin match of the week. He has a 16-2 record against Tomas Berdych and led him 6-0, 5-0 in Beijing last month before eventually winning just two games.
And if he beats Berdych come Friday, he is guaranteed to end the year at No1 regardless of what Roger Federer now does. No wonder the Serb is suffused with confidence, as his assessment of this match showed: “Well, I definitely didn’t expect but hoped that I can again play this way. Obviously Stan wasn’t feeling his best today, made a lot of unforced errors, low percentage of first serves in. On my side, I just played very solid from all over the court. I think I covered the court very well, got a lot of balls back, mixed up the pace, got him off the comfort zone.
“That’s something that was part of my game plan. After I lost the first two games, obviously I didn’t start so great. But I wasn’t frustrated. I kept my calm. After that, was a really amazing performance.”
And Wawrinka had no excuses: “For sure, was not my best match. Also because he’s playing really well. He’s in confidence. He’s not missing much. Today I think it was more about what I was doing. I’m not really clear what I’m going to do, because he’s doing everything well and he’s returning well. [My] serve was not good enough, then I start to make mistakes because here the conditions are really low.”
Djokovic admitted that the conditions here, just as in Beijing, suit him to a tee. And his winning streak at indoor tournaments is now the third longest in history—only John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl have achieved longer.
Come Friday, he is likely to have extended that run to 30—and also likely to have sealed the year-end No1.