It must have felt like deja vu for Roger Federer. For the second straight year he was in a semifinal match against Novak Djokovic. For the second straight year he had Nole down two match points. For the second straight year, Djokovic fought off the match points and won the match. In an instant classic, world #1 Novak Djokovic rallied from two sets to love down and two match points down in the fifth set to defeat #3 Roger Federer, 7-6 (7) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5.
Regardless of rankings and seedings, Roger came in off of an impressive win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He picked up where he left off, looking like the Federer of old. Novak played well, if looking quite a bit tight, in the first set, but Roger was on his game. Not only did Federer win 75% of his first serves, her was winning 73% of his second serves. Although Novak finally penetrated Roger’s serve for a break in the second set, Federer answered with two breaks of Nole and a second set win. Up 2 sets to love and looking sharp, Roger looked to improve on his 178-1 record when up 2 sets to love. But like Tsonga at Wimbledon 2011, Novak started to play better. He just looked more relaxed. Federer’s serve wasn’t as sharp as Nole rolled through the next two sets 6-3 6-2.
However, at the end of the fourth set, Federer started to put some more snap into his shots, like he was preparing and getting his rhythm together for the fifth set. It seemed to work, as he came out looking revitalized. He finally broke Djokovic in the eighth game to set up an opportunity to serve for the match. After going up 5-3 and 40-15 double match point, Roger looked ready to cast Novak aside. But Djokovic ripped the shot of the match, maybe the shot of his year, a crosscourt forehand return of serve that whistled past Roger and caught the line. After the match, Novak admitted he was gambling, hitting the forehand as hard as he could.
“If it comes in, it comes in. It’s a risk. Last year, I was in a very similar situation. He was two match points up. I was hitting a forehand as hard as I can. You’re gambling. If it’s out, you lose. If it’s in, maybe you have a chance. I got lucky today.” – Novak Djokovic
But don’t be fooled. All players in sports get a little lucky at times. However, it’s also true that in this case, Novak created his own luck. What I mean is that in a situation that would have turned some other players’ stomachs and knees to goo, Novak decided he was going down with a fight. He was not going to play it safe and go out with a whimper. He was brave and he was rewarded. From 3-5 and two match points against down, he earned the last 4 games to close out the match 7-5 in the fifth.