I was listening to some of the analysis of last night's World Tour final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer with some interest. The general point was made that Djokovic plays every point the same way in a match, from the first to the last points. I have to disagree.
While most players find themselves inhibited by such moments, Djokovic just seems to go up a gear. It doesn't mean that he is more aggressive. Sometimes he is, like when he saved two match points to oust Federer from last year's US Open semi-finals, but sometimes he just plays the point the way he sees it. No other player in the game handles key points as well as Djokovic.
We saw last night that Federer doesn't finish matches as well as he could given his talent and ability to put himself into winning situations when matches get tight, nor does Andy Murray. You wouldn't say Nadal is special either on match points. Djokovic is.
I think Djokovic has had the best year of any other of the 'big four' in 2012. It was not as impressive as 2011, but still outstanding despite the advancement of Murray. It has been another special year marked by a special finish. Even if it had gone to a third set against Federer, I would have backed Djokovic to win.
It is has obviously been a closer call than last year with Murray improving, but I think Djokovic is just ahead of Federer and Murray. You hope Nadal will return from the knee injury for this exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi at the end of next month, but you would have to think the Australian Open will come too soon for him after being out for six months.
I maybe made the mistake of writing off Federer before the Tour finals. I thought before this week that Djokovic and Murray would perhaps win two each from the Grand Slams next year. Now I am not so sure. Seeing Federer play as well as he did this week would suggest he is certain to be in the mix in Australia, Wimbledon and New York.
I just worry that he doesn't finish off as well as he would need to claim the Aussie Open or the US Open, but Djokovic seems to have that ability to finish so much stronger. It is a weapon that cannot be underestimated.
Federer managed to burn Murray off this week, but I think these days he is more likely to be outdone by some of these big guys over five sets.
Elsewhere, we continue waiting on players to trouble the big four, but I don't see it happening in 2013. I just don't think Juan Martin del Potro, Jo-Wifried Tsonga, David Ferrer or Tomas Berdych have the games to impact sufficiently upon the big four at the Grand Slams.
Federer has enjoyed another terrific year. He continues to have tremendous motivation to perform strongly and has enjoyed a great season in winning Wimbledon, but he will derive little consolation from knowing he lost to the strongest player in tennis. It happened last night when he appeared to be on the cusp of winning.
One final word on the venue for this week's World Tour finals. I think the O2 is a great arena to visit for tennis and the Tour finals are obviously well organised, but I don't think the atmosphere comes across too well on television.
The Swiss fans made such a loud noise to support Roger Federer in his semi-final with Murray, but the home crowd, who you expect to be louder than a Wimbledon final for Murray, were actually quite quiet. The crowd is generally quite quiet there.
It looks a good slick tournament, but for me, I wouldn't darken the crowd. Lights would lift the crowd and make it a noisier arena so you can see what is going on. It looks great for TV and for the players, but I just feel it dampens the noise emanating from the fans.
There is also a feeling that if you are in the dark watching the match, it feels a bit more subdued. Lights would shed some light on what is going on inside the venue.
- Sports & Recreation
- Roger Federer
- Novak Djokovic
- Andy Murray