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Djokovic vs Federer ATP Finals live streaming, preview and tips - Legends face off for semi-final spot in London

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 13 Nov 2019
  • Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer is live from London at 8.00pm local time/GMT on Thursday
  • Djokovic leads their head-to-head 26-22 and has won their last five meetings
Novak Djokovic (PA Images)

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer clash for the 49th time on Thursday night as the two titans of tennis battle it out for a place in the Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals.

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While the scenarios and permutations for the second semi-final qualifier in Group Andre Agassi is enough to make your calculator blow up, the equation in Group Bjorn Borg is very self-explanatory - as Novak Djokovic puts himself.

"I'm still in the tournament," Djokovic said. "We go head to head with Roger. Winner goes to semis. Loser doesn't qualify. As simple as that."

Indeed. It’s a 49th career showdown between the two legends, with the winner joining Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals and the loser going home. A de facto quarter-final if you will.

Djokovic is of course playing for more than the semi-finals, with the Serbian now needing to win the tournament in order to end the year as World No. 1 after Rafael Nadal produced a stunning comeback to beat Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday. Djokovic was in blistering form to open his ATP Finals campaign, crushing Matteo Berrettini for the loss of just three games, but he was in for an enormous test against Thiem on Tuesday - and ultimately, he wasn’t up to the challenge despite committing just two unforced errors in winning the first set in a tiebreaker, with the Austrian absolutely bludgeoning the ball off both wings, forcing Djokovic from side to side and overpowering him with his muscular weight of shot.

It appeared as if Djokovic had the momentum on his side after breaking Thiem while the Austrian was serving for the match in the decider and went ahead 4-1 in the ensuing tiebreak, but Thiem threw caution to the wind and played a series of spectacular points to mount a superb comeback and win the match by a 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) scoreline.

“I don't think I have experienced too many matches like this where my opponent just goes for every single shot,” said Djokovic. “He was unbelievable, and in some stages it was just incredible that he was just literally smacking the ball as hard as he could and [it] was going in.”

Djokovic had won his last nine tiebreaks dating back to Wimbledon, but the five-time Nitto ATP Finals champion had no answer for Thiem’s fearless play, leaving him with a must-win clash against Federer in order to keep his bid for a sixth season-ending championship alive. Djokovic has been up and down since edging Federer in their classic Wimbledon final, withdrawing injured from the U.S. Open and losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Shanghai, but he also won titles in Tokyo and Paris without dropping a set. To be honest, Djokovic played a great match against Thiem, so the loss shouldn’t affect him too much as he prepares for a 49th and winner-takes-all contest with Federer on Thursday night.

Roger Federer (PA Images)
Federer also fell victim to Thiem’s audacious hitting in his first round robin match, but he bounced back strongly in his second outing, beating Berrettini in straight sets to give himself a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals at the ATP Finals for the 16th time in 17 appearances, with the only year the Swiss failed to make it out of the group stage coming back in 2008. Federer knows it’s a monumental challenge coming up against Djokovic, but the 38-year-old is adamant that his heartbreaking Wimbledon final defeat, where he let slip of two championship points and lost 13-12 in the fifth, left his mind a long time ago.


"I think it's all flushed away from my side. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then," Federer said. "I wasn't hoping [for] him not to be in my section or in my draw. I didn't hope I was never going to play him again. Actually, it's good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is. But at the end of the day, I'm here for the [Nitto ATP] Finals and not because of the Wimbledon finals."

Federer is aiming for a record seventh ATP Finals title, but he hasn’t won since the 2011 edition, making three finals and three semi-finals since, while he missed the 2016 tournament through injury. It’s been another great season for the 20-time major champion, winning four titles in Dubai, Miami, Halle and Basel and registering a 51-8 record for the season. However, Federer - naturally - is starting to find it harder and harder to win the big titles, with the Swiss failing to win a major since the 2018 Australian Open, while he’s only won one Masters 1000 title in the last two years.

Federer has also lost his last five matches against Djokovic - although, his last victory came on this very court in the 2015 ATP Finals group phase. Djokovic would get his revenge in the final that year and went on to win the next four encounters at the 2016 Australian Open, 2018 Cincinnati Masters, 2018 Paris Masters and of course Wimbledon this year. Their last two matches have been decided in final-set tiebreaks, so Federer isn’t far away at all, but at the end of the day, Djokovic for me is playing the better tennis in London this week, and if he can remain his usual rock-solid self in defence, he’ll most likely make Federer play too many balls and gradually grind the Swiss down.


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Djokovic vs Federer ATP Finals live streaming, preview and tips - Legends face off for semi-final spot in London

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer clash for the 49th time on Thursday night as the two titans of tennis battle it out for a place in the Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals.

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