Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will contest what promises to be a great final of the 2015 Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome on Sunday.
There again, I said yesterday that “if both players hit form it should be a great spectacle for the fans” between Federer and Stan Wawrinka, but sadly the latter only played for three games before a terrible capitulation ensued.
Wawrinka led 3-0 and looked to be hitting the ball as sweetly as he did in beating Rafa Nadal for the first time on clay on Friday, but inexplicably he then went AWOL and won only three more games in the entire match.
It all went wrong very quickly for Wawrinka and his backers and my three sets bet had no chance from the point that a switch was flicked in the Wawrinka brain onwards.
As Federer attempted to explain after the match: “In the second set he had a sort of breakdown.”
Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic
Federer and Djokovic clash for the 39th time in total and eighth on clay in what has been arguably the most compelling of all the head-to-heads at the very top level of the men’s game.
The 20-18 career series lead in favour of Federer shows how close their match-up has been over the years and on clay the Swiss narrowly leads 4-3 in matches played thus far.
They last met on the red dirt in the semi finals of Monte-Carlo a year ago and Federer was a straight sets winner that day, but Sunday could well be more about the player who handles the conditions the better.
What I mean by that is that both men have been vocal in their disgruntlement about the pretty awful state of the court surface on Centrale and the tournament should be ashamed of what they’ve produced for the players this week.
Neither player has looked confident in moving on it over the last few days in scenes reminiscent of the infamous blue clay of Madrid in 2012 and ironically that was the last Masters 1000 that Federer has won on clay.
The rivalry between the pair has ebbed and flowed over the last season and a bit with alternate wins for each man since the start of 2014 and that sequence, should it continue, points to Federer.
By his own admission Djokovic hasn’t been playing at his best this week and that may have something to do with a reported arm injury and lack of confidence in the court surface on Centrale.
Federer has got better and better after a slow start to his clay campaign and his often-suspect backhand has looked very good so far in the Eternal City this week.
Since changing to best-of-three set finals in 2007 only two of eight finals have gone over two sets in Rome and if you are backing Federer today I’d be looking at the 2-0 at a tempting 5.25 as a long shot.
When Federer does beat Djokovic he tends to do it decisively, with four of his last five victories over the Serb coming in straight sets and he’s only beaten Djokovic in a deciding set once since 2010.
The Swiss has played the better tennis of the two this week and few would deny him a missing Masters 1000 shield today.
Long shot: Back Federer to beat Djokovic 2-0 at 5.25