LONDON, (Reuters) – The hardest nut in men’s tennis again proved resistant to the heaviest of sledgehammers as Novak Djokovic absorbed the brute force of Juan Martin del Potro to book his place in the last four of the ATP World Tour Finals yesterday.
Djokovic’s elastic limbs propelled the Serb to a 6-3 3-6 6-3 Group B victory that leaves Del Potro to fight it out with Roger Federer for runner-up spot.
Federer, beaten by defending champion Djokovic in straight sets on Tuesday, got back on track with a morale-boosting 6-4 6-3 victory over Frenchman Richard Gasquet who can no longer reach the semi-finals even if he beats Djokovic on Saturday.
The six-times former champion lost the opening six points and needed six match points to finish off Gasquet but looked more like his old majestic self as he produced some champagne moments for his legion of fans – one topspin lob to avert a break in the second set the shot of the day.
“I guess those are the kind of matches I need right now. You know, straight sets against a good player. It clearly came at the right time right now,” Federer, who has only one title this year but scooped the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award, as well as the ATP fans’ favourite and Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship awards this week, told reporters.
“There was pressure after losing my first one. It was a big win for me and I hope now to keep it up against Juan Martin.”
He had better strap on some heavy armour when he meets Del Potro on Saturday because the Argentine world number five was striking forehands and serves with fearsome force against Djokovic, even if he did blow himself out in the end.
It would have overwhelmed almost any other player in the world but only rarely did he manage to blast through Djokovic’s defences as he took the second set of a high-octane duel.