The Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer rivalry has been a thrilling one with the clashes between the two superstars of the sport having almost always producing some of the most sublime tennis we have seen. The 2019 Wimbledon final bears ample testimony to what one can expect when Djokovic and Federer go head to head in a tennis match.
It is a rivalry that started off lopsided in favour of Federer, but as the years went by, Djokovic steadily climbed back up and eventually took control.
While this match-up has been a tightly contested one throughout, it has perhaps been overshadowed by each players’ rivalry with another man; Rafael Nadal. However, when you look at some of the epic matches the pair have played between them, even outside of the majors, it becomes easy to understand what makes it so special.
So let’s take a look at some of the most thrilling encounters, other than the Grand Slam matches, between the Serbian and Swiss over the years.
2007, Canada Masters Final
The 2007 Canada Masters held in Montreal has to be the first mention on this list. The pair had already played four times before this match, with Federer winning all four encounters, two of them earlier in the year. This was the third time Federer had made the finals of the Canada Masters, and was a heavy favourite to capture his third title here.
Djokovic was a rising star in tennis. Just 20-years-old at the time, he was already the world No. 4. He was already making waves in the tennis world having captured his first Masters title at Miami earlier in the year.
While Federer came into the final as the heavy favourite, Djokovic entered the title-decider having defeated the then world No. 3 Andy Roddick in the quarters and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
High on confidence and with the exuberance of youth, Djokovic set the match alight. He showed his gritty nature, we all know so well now, to hold off multiple set points for Federer to force a tie-breaker. He took the breaker 7-2 to win the first set.
Federer was not to be distracted by his failure to take the first set, and fought back well to ease into the match by winning the second set comfortably, 6-2. The third set saw the two players break each other once each. They then held their respective serves to once again force a tie-break. Djokovic was once again solid in the decider and won his second match-point to grab the tie-break 7-2.
2014, Shanghai Masters
The Swiss maestro met Djokovic in the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters in 2014.
Djokovic had beaten Federer just a few months ago in an epic Wimbledon final, to win his seventh Grand Slam. What’s more, Djokovic was on a 28-match winning streak in China, having won the China Open in Beijing three times and the Shanghai Masters twice.
Federer was aggressive from the get-go as he unsettled the world No.1 by constantly approaching the net. He won 20 of his 35 net points to beat the Serbian in a resounding manner. Federer served four consecutive aces to consolidate his break of serve and take a 5-3 lead in the first set.
The second set saw Federer come out with the same intent and aggression, breaking the Serb’s very first serve. Djokovic kept on fighting to break-back but to no avail. The Swiss maestro closed out the game with another 6-4 set to take the match.
The victory improved his head-to-head record against Djokovic to 19-17 and also helped him regain the No. 2 ranking from Nadal.
2009, Basel Indoors
Federer was a dominant force in his hometown coming into the 2009 final. He had won three consecutive titles in front of his home crowd and was looking to add a fourth. Djokovic though, had other ideas. He fended off the overwhelming favourite and crowd-favourite to become the first man since 2001 to beat the Swiss legend.
The Serb won the match 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to win the indoor tournament on his debut in Basel. Federer’s serve had not been broken up until the final, but Djokovic managed to do that in the first set itself. He had to face a very tough service game while serving for the set. He saved five break points in a game that lasted 24 minutes!
Djokovic once again managed to break federer in the second set, however, Federer was in no mood to go down so easily in his hometown. He regained the break of serve and went on to win the second set 6-4.
The fourth set saw the momentum shift once again. Djokovic raced to a lead of 4-0 games and there was no looking back after that. He took the set, and match, 6-2 in the decider.