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Passing Shots: Observations from a week at the ATP World Tour Finals

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Novak Djokovic defended his ATP World Tour Finals title. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic defended his ATP World Tour Finals title. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

LONDON – Emptying out the notebook from a week at the ATP World Tour Finals …

• I quite liked Novak Djokovic’s explanation for his 37-1 record after the U.S. Open over the last two years. He said he sees this portion of the season as an opportunity because he knows everyone else is tired. Love that predatory instinct.

Grading the ATP World Tour Finals

• Before facing Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, Roger Federer talked about viewing himself as the underdog. “Maybe that free swinging is what I need,” Federer said. That got me to thinking: Has anyone ever heard Federer say that he’s played a match with nothing to lose? That’s a stock phrase for most players — even Serena Williams used it this year to describe her play against lower-ranked opponents — but I don’t think I’ve ever heard Federer say it. It must be such an odd idea for him to process.

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  • Published On Nov 14, 2013
  • Best photos from ATP World Tour Finals

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    Novak Djokovic is on a 22-match winning streak. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

    Novak Djokovic is on a 22-match winning streak. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

    With another ATP World Tour Finals in the books, Novak Djokovic once again showed that when the autumn leaves start to turn, he’s the man to beat.

    Djokovic’s hopes of finishing the year No. 1 evaporated when Rafael Nadal clinched the distinction with his victory over Stanislas Wawrinka in round-robin play at the season-ending tournament. But Djokovic didn’t leave London empty-handed, defeating Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to hoist the Barclays Trophy for the second year in a row.

    In the last two years, the Serb has gone 37-1 after the U.S. Open, and he has an opportunity to extend that record this weekend when Serbia meets the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final in Belgrade.

    Here are some of our favorite photos from the week in London.

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  • Published On Nov 13, 2013
  • Report Card: Grading the Tour Finals

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    Novak Djokovic

    Novak Djokovic is 22-0 with four titles since the U.S. Open. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    LONDON – The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Here’s how we rate the week at the ATP World Tour Finals.

    Novak Djokovic: A-plus. In defeating Rafael Nadal to win his third ATP World Tour Finals title and extend his winning streak to 22 matches, Djokovic rewrote the script on a year that was all about Rafa. Nadal spent eight months racking up big titles, including three at the expense of Djokovic, who lost to the Spaniard in the French Open semifinals, Montreal Masters semifinals and U.S. Open final. As the headlines extolled Nadal’s incredible return from injury and observers debated his place among the greatest in history, Djokovic faded into the shadows and faced questions about some uncharacteristic lapses and struggles in marquee matches.

    Game-by-game analysis of Djokovic-Nadal

    Djokovic acknowledges that the two Slam losses to Nadal and one to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final hit him hard. But he viewed the fall stretch as an opportunity to make more of his season, and he delivered with four consecutive titles and multiple victories over Nadal, Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro. Most important, Djokovic showed the mental strength and focus absent from his game at various times this year. A determined Djokovic rediscovered his edge just in time to tee up what should be a wide-open start to the 2014 season in Australia.

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  • Published On Nov 12, 2013
  • Best quotes from Tour Finals

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    Rafael Nadal

    Rafael Nadal on tour politics: “I don’t want to fight anymore, seriously.” (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Here are some of the best quotes from the ATP World Tour Finals:

    Novak Djokovic confirmed that he’s playing some exhibitions with Rafael Nadal in South America after Davis Cup. “We’ll be seeing each other quite often. I see him more than my mom actually.”

    Nadal is trying to hold off the next generation of ATP stars for as long as he can. “It is very difficult to predict the future, very difficult to know what’s going to happen next year. But what’s happened the last six years, seven years is not going to be forever. We aren’t going to be where we are forever. So one day, the next generation will catch us and will beat us and will be the best players. I don’t know if it will be next year. Hopefully not,” he said, smiling.

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  • Published On Nov 12, 2013
  • Novak Djokovic rolls past Rafael Nadal to win third ATP World Tour Finals title

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    Novak Djokovic served up six aces in his victory over Rafael Nadal. (Glyk Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

    Novak Djokovic improved to 22-0 since losing the U.S. Open final. (Glyk Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

    LONDON — No. 2 Novak Djokovic defeated No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 on Monday to win the ATP World Tour Finals for the third time and remain unbeaten since the U.S. Open.

    Djokovic extended his winning streak to 22 matches and capped a fall run that also featured titles at the China Open, Shanghai Masters and Paris Masters. The Serb has bounced back from his loss to Nadal at the U.S. Open final by beating Nadal twice in straight sets, Roger Federer twice in a three-day span and Juan Martin del Potro twice. And Djokovic isn’t done in 2013, either, as he’ll lead Serbia in the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic later this week.

    “This was the best possible ending” to the ATP season, said Djokovic, who won his seventh title of the year. “I really feel that now [after the fall run] my season was really good. This is definitely a great confidence boost for the start of next season.”

    After needed three sets to win each of his three round-robin matches in the final tour event of the season, Djokovic dispatched Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals Sunday and cruised past a subpar Nadal in the final. He won the eight-player event for the second year in a row.

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  • Published On Nov 11, 2013
  • Rafael Nadal: Roger Federer or Rod Laver is greatest of all time right now

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    Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer

    With Sunday’s win, Rafael Nadal (left) improved to 22-10 against Roger Federer. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Rafael Nadal says the debate about the greatest player of all time should center on Roger Federer and Rod Laver.

    Nadal addressed the topic after defeating Federer 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. The 27-year-old Spaniard improved to 22-10 against Federer, who has a record 17 Grand Slam titles to Nadal’s 13. Nadal — who has collected a record 26 Masters 1000 titles and won Davis Cup and a gold medal in Olympic singles — believes a player’s success outside of the majors should be given weight in the debate.

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  • Published On Nov 11, 2013
  • Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic to duel for title at the ATP World Tour Finals

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    Rafael Nadal looks to win his first title since this year's U.S. Open at the ATP Tour Final. (Alastair Grant/AP)

    Rafael Nadal looks to win his first title since this year’s U.S. Open at the ATP World Tour Finals. (Alastair Grant/AP)

    LONDON — The ATP season will finish with its two best players going head-to-head for the sixth time this year in the fiercest rivalry in tennis.

    Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday night. Djokovic, the defending champion, dispatched Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-3 on Sunday for his 21st consecutive victory. Nadal booked his spot with a decisive 7-5, 6-3 win over Roger Federer in the earlier semifinal.

    “This is probably the most competitive tournament that we have after Grand Slams, and we both want to crown this season in the best possible way and end it with a title,” Djokovic said ahead of his 39th career match against Nadal.

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  • Published On Nov 10, 2013
  • Roger Federer’s season ends with a loss to Rafael Nadal at the ATP Finals

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    Roger Federer's inconsistent season is over after a loss to Rafael Nadal. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    Roger Federer’s inconsistent season is over after a loss to the red-hot Rafael Nadal. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Roger Federer’s disappointing season ended with a 7-5, 6-3 loss to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday.

    The match was a microcosm of Federer’s season. There were flashes of brilliance and vintage shotmaking that made you think maybe he might finally get the big win he needs to turn the corner. But unforced errors abruptly ended many surges and, in a familiar pattern, he failed to close out points when he was ahead in the rally.

    “I very rarely go through matches where I had no chance and no opportunities,” Federer said. “This game is a game of making or missing your opportunities. Today was a little bit more of that, again. But I thought the margins were more on his side. He was playing more consistent. He was playing more solid. He plays the way he always plays. I just couldn’t come up with the shots when I needed them, forehand or serve, moving forward.”

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  • Published On Nov 10, 2013
  • Federer rallies past Del Potro, sets up semifinal clash against Nadal

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    Roger Federer will take on Rafa Nadal again after his win on Saturday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Roger Federer will take on Rafael Nadal again after his win on Saturday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Six-time champion Roger Federer secured the final spot in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals, coming back to defeat Juan Martin del Potro 4-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5 on Saturday. His reward? A clash against Rafael Nadal on Sunday. For Federer, who seems to be in the process of reconciling his disappointing year, making it out of group play at the season-ending tournament was a positive development.

    “Clearly the goal is always to win every tournament,” he said. “But I think I had to be slightly more realistic in recent weeks and months. I knew that sometimes just getting a few rounds into the bag was positive.”

    Earlier this week, a tournament program sold a Federer day match as “An Afternoon of Elegance,” but his week at the O2 Arena has been anything but effortless. A grittier Federer replaced the days of comfortable, easy, perfunctory displays of showmanship en route to victory. He’s been muttering a lot to himself. His brow has been stuck in a seemingly permanent furrow, and I’ve lost count as to how many times an inexplicably errant shot has been followed by an angry shake of the head or an exasperated look to the heavens.

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  • Published On Nov 09, 2013
  • ATP World Tour Finals semifinals qualification scenarios

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    Stanislas Wawrinka defeated David Ferrer, increasing his chances to qualify for the semifinals. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    Stanislas Wawrinka advanced to his first ATP World Tour Finals semifinals. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

    LONDON — Stanislas Wawrinka on Friday joined Rafael Nadal in advancing to the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals from Group A.

    Wawrinka earned his spot by first beating David Ferrer 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1 and then watching Nadal eliminate Tomas Berdych 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in the final round of group play. Nadal had already clinched his berth in the semifinals before Friday’s match, but the victory enabled him to win the group and avoid having to face Group B winner Novak Djokovic next. Wawrinka will play Djokovic, while Nadal will meet the winner of Saturday’s match between Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer.

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  • Published On Nov 08, 2013


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