Decibel levels were soaring as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic took the court in what was billed as the biggest attraction of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). Delhi’s packed Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium was waiting eagerly for this match and they were to experience a top quality encounter that left them enthralled. For the record Roger Federer won a close match but it was the high quality of tennis that had the crowd in raptures.
All business from Roger and Novak
Suddenly the fun and frolic that was part of the pre-match festivities were gone, and the match was serious business. Roger Federer was representing the Indian Aces while Novak Djokovic was a part of the UAE Royals. But their on-court demeanour suggested that the two were playing in the London ATP World Tour Finals where the two were to meet in the final, but for an injury to Roger Federer.
In a year in which the World No. 1 and the World No. 2 had met six times, London was supposed to be the battleground for the gladiators’ final meeting of 2014. But what was London’s loss due to Federer’s withdrawal, turned out to be India’s gain.
Deafening roar from fans
Interest was sky-high for this clash even if it was just a single set. In India, anticipation had reached a fever pitch. As Roger and Novak walked on to the court for that final set, the IGI Stadium was reverberating with enthusiastic fan chants. For a minute, the scenes might have led you into believe that this was an India cricket match.
With such passionate followers fervently cheering, the two tennis gladiators were determined to put up a show. Roger Federer, who commands respect all over the world, had the lion’s share of support. It did help that Roger was also representing the Indian Aces. Every winner by the Swiss maestro was received with a resounding roar and there were some ripping winners.
The Swiss thrived on the vibrant crowd support initially even as Djokovic was yet to find his feet. But India soon got a taste of Novak Djokovic’s single-minded focus. The next few games were replete with that sharp stare, the tireless defence and that amazing ability to turn defence into attack. The spectators were spell bound as Djokovic fondly known as the ‘Serbinator’ rose to the challenge.
Novak breaks first
As Federer’s returns lost their sheen, the tide turned into the Serbian’s favour. He effortlessly moved Roger Federer from side to side and broke first for a 2-1 lead.
17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is not one to be bogged down by the relentless pressure from the Serb. Their Shanghai Masters clash was adequate proof of how Roger can face upto the Djokovic attack.
Federer serve v Djokovic defence
Novak’s unforced error on the deuce point, helped the Swiss to come to level terms with a break of serve. And so a battle of supreme quality ensued between Federer’s flowing shots and the inimitable defensive skills and stroke play of Djokovic .
For years, India had admired their matches on television but now it was happening right in front of them. After the score was tied at 3-3, Roger displayed remarkable resilience to save three break points and hold serve that had the entire bench of the Indian Aces rise up to appreciate the Swiss maestro.
The Federer Magic
There was very little to separate the two contestants and at 5-5, a five-minute shootout ensued. Clearly, Federer had saved his best for the shootout. The backward-facing backhand smash that Federer hit to go up 1-0, took the spectators back to a pass played by Federer during a Wimbledon Final against Nadal. There was Federer magic in the air and it was soon joined by another maestro.
Novak matched the high with some blazing passing shots that went like a bullet to seize a mini-break and inch ahead 3-2.
Happiness Power Point sends Roger into the lead
But one of the many novelties of IPTL allowed Roger to come back. The Happiness Power Point that the Aces team took at 2-3 helped them soar to win two points for one and go ahead 4-3.
Roger did not need any more assistance as Federer pounced on the opportunity to win his fifth match/set in India.
For the record, the Indian Aces lost 22-29 defeat to the UAE Royals.
Indian tennis fans mesmerized
But nobody remembered that. As Novak Djokovic was celebrating with his Royals teammates in a huddle, you could see the beaming faces all around the stadium.
There was a sense of joyous fulfillment everywhere. India’s date with Roger and Novak was a night to remember.
Winning or losing sometimes becomes secondary and this was one of those moments. Only the best can bring out the best from the other. And now that we have seen the legends in flesh and blood, our tennis appetite is not satiated.
We, the greedy sports fans of India, look forward to more such top sporting action.