London: Novak Djokovic will face Roger Federer in Sunday’s World Tour Final when he attempts to lift the trophy for a fifth time and become the first player to win the season-ending showpiece four years in a row.
Djokovic said clashes between the pair were always nervy affairs as he prepared to face his rival for a second time at London’s O2 Arena this week — Federer having got the better of the Serb in the group stage.
But Djokovic pulled out a near-perfect performance as he downed the resurgent Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 in their semi-final clash on Saturday.
Federer then defeated Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3 to book his place in the final.
Sunday is a repeat of last year’s final, which Djokovic won by a walkover after Federer withdrew with an injury, something he has rarely done in his career.
“I don’t feel unbeatable, but it does definitely feel great when I’m playing the way I played,” Djokovic said after his dazzling display against Nadal.
“I’ve lost against Roger three times this year. When he’s on, it’s hard to play him,” said the Serb, who has also beaten Federer four times in 2015, all in finals.
“We always play matches with a lot of tension. There is a lot at stake. I know I have to be on top in order to win against him. Hopefully I’ll be able to play better than I’ve done a few days ago.
“But the performance (against Nadal) definitely gives me reason to believe that I’ll do that.”
Djokovic could claim $1,050,000 in prize money if he wins, while Federer would receive $2,228,000 for winning the title undefeated.
‘Flawless, incredible tennis’
After a miserable 2015 campaign, Nadal had looked somewhere close to his best over the last week.
The Spaniard won all three of his group matches to reach the semi-finals but there was little he could do to stop Djokovic in this sort of form.
The Australian, Wimbledon and US Open champion hit 24 winners to nine from Nadal.
In front of 17,800-strong capacity crowd, including football icon David Beckham, Djokovic quickly took control as he unloaded a string of searing shots.
Third seed Federer also put in an impressive performance against French Open champion Wawrinka, in a repeat of last year’s semi-final, which ended in bad blood between the two Switzerland team-mates.
“A great match, I really enjoyed it,” Federer said afterwards.
“It will be a perfect ending only if I win. Novak should be knocked out by now! No, I am joking. He played a great match against Rafa… and I’m sure it will be a fantastic meeting.”
In the 2014 semis, Federer and Wawrinka had a bust-up.
Wawrinka took umbrage at what he saw as inappropriate words from Federer’s wife Mirka from the players’ box at a key point in the third set.
But the pair appeared to patch up their differences, teaming up to win a first Davis Cup for Switzerland.
At the coin toss on Saturday, the umpire, like a boxing referee, asked both players for “a clean fight” and “no blows below the belt”. Federer just about managed to raise a smile.
Federer was cruising by the end, but Djokovic showed he was back on top form and in no mood to lose to Federer again.
Djokovic said he had played some “really flawless, incredible tennis” this year.
“It’s the best season of my life. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s match, the season will still be the best that I had.
“But in terms of the highlights of the year, I would say those were the Wimbledon and US Open finals that I played against Roger.
“Winning those two Grand Slams obviously against the best player in history was something that stands out as the achievement of the year.”