Top-Ranked Djokovic, No. 2 Federer to Square Off for ATP

The 2012 men’s tennis circuit will finish today with top-ranked Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Roger Federer squaring off for the title at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Federer overcame a slow start to beat Britain’s Andy Murray 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 in front of a sellout crowd at London’s O2 arena last night to reach the title match for the eighth time in 11 appearances at the season-ending championships.

Serbia’s Djokovic earlier recovered from a set and a break down to beat Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and remain the only unbeaten player at the eight-man event.

“The tournament’s not over yet,” Federer said in a news conference. “It is a big opportunity playing the last match of the season, and facing off against Novak is always special, especially here at the world tour finals.”

The Swiss, at age 31 the oldest man in the field, leads Djokovic 16-12 in career meetings and is trying to win a record-extending seventh ATP Finals title. They’re split 2-2 this season; Djokovic won clay semifinals in Rome and at Roland Garros before Federer beat him in the final four at Wimbledon and on a hard court in the Cincinnati final.

“For both of us, it’s pretty straightforward,” Federer added. “We’ve got to press out the last juice that’s left in our body and make it a successful year end.”

Some of Federer’s most significant defeats to Djokovic came in the U.S. Open semifinals in 2010 and 2011 after having match points. Last year’s loss prompted him to take six weeks off after New York to recover mentally. He went on to win a record sixth ATP Finals title, beating France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Natural Attackers

“We always have close matches, especially the last 10, 15 matches have been very back and forth,” Federer said of Djokovic. “We both play aggressive tennis. We’re natural attackers. That makes for exciting tennis.”

After being upstaged in 2011 by Djokovic, who won three majors and took over the No. 1 spot, Federer peaked again at Wimbledon this year. He reduced Murray to tears on his way to a men’s record-extending 17th Grand Slam championship in July.

His first major title in more than two years was followed by a silver medal at the London Olympics and he completed a record 302nd week at No. 1 before being knocked off the top spot by Djokovic this week. Federer will end the season inside the top two for the ninth time in 10 years.

As at the four Grand Slams, Federer’s performance at the ATP Finals is unrivaled in the men’s game: a record 42 wins in 11 appearances and an unprecedented six titles. Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras are next with five championships.

Last Match

Djokovic, whose only previous title at the event came in 2008, said he would give it his all in the final ATP World Tour match of the year.

“Knowing it’s the last match of the season, I’m really going to try to give my best physically and mentally to eventually try to get the trophy,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic, who won all his round-robin matches before defeating Del Potro, added that he’s feeling physically fresher at the end of this season compared to the last two years.

“That is very encouraging obviously, very positive before you get to play a top player,” he said. “That was a big difference this year and made me be more prepared for all the matches and play a more aggressive style of the game.”

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