Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna lose the doubles final to Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers
Even when Roger Federer had the lead, Novak Djokovic had the answers.
The top-ranked Serb recovered from early breaks in both sets and beat Federer 7-6(6), 7-5 on Monday in the championship match at the ATP finals.
Federer broke Djokovic’s serve to take a quick 2-0 lead in the first set, and then again to open to the second set, but both times the World No.1 player rebounded to get back into the match.
“Maybe a bit of regret because I had the lead twice first before him,” Federer said. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. You have to get over the finish line in the set and then obviously at the match. He was better at that today.”
The crowd at the O2 Arena was decidedly in Federer’s favour, but they cheered loudly throughout the match as both made spectacular shots.
The highlight for Federer came in the tiebreaker with Djokovic holding his second set point.
Djokovic hit a forehand drop shot with Federer up at the net. The ball drifted past the second-ranked Swiss, but he chased it down and whacked a forehand winner to even the score at 6-6.
Two points later, however, and Djokovic was the one celebrating, ending the set with a forehand winner on his third set point.
To start the second set, Federer broke Djokovic for the third time and then held all the way to 5-3. A game later and serving for the set, Federer had two set points but he put a forehand wide and a then forehand into the net.
Two more Federer mistakes put Djokovic back on serve and back on track for the title. The Serb closed it out with a backhand passing winner to improve his head-to-head record against Federer to 3-2 this year, and 13-16 overall.
“I shouldn’t have been broken as often as I was broken today,” said Federer, who lost his serve twice in each set. “But then again, that obviously has something to do with Novak, as well.”
Federer finished the match with 30 winners, 11 more than Djokovic. But he also had 42 unforced errors many of them coming from his often dominant forehand while Djokovic had only 28.
“Obviously I was going to try to go after my shots and not just hand it to him. That’s just how I play tennis,” Federer said. “If I have 80 errors and I win the match, I don’t care. I really don’t.”
It was Djokovic’s second victory at the year-end tournament for the top eight players in the world. He also won in 2008, when the tournament was in Shanghai.
Federer, who is now 15-3 in Britain this year after winning his seventh Wimbledon title and the Olympic silver medal, had been looking for his record seventh title.
And he came close to winning it.
Both players finished the match winning 58 percent of their service points and 42 percent of their return points. Overall, Djokovic only won one more point in the match, getting 96 to Federer’s 95.
But on many of the big points, particularly late in the sets, it was Djokovic that ended up on the winning side of the net.
In the semifinals on Sunday, Federer had beaten Andy Murray 7-6(5), 6-2.
In the doubles final, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, making their debut as a pair at the elite event, lost 7-5, 3-6, 10-3 to sixth seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
No Indian pair has ever won the year-end finale, although Leander Paes and Bhupathi have reached the finals thrice together.
This is now the fifth time that Bhupathi has ended runners-up at the event, where world’s top-8 teams compete for the championship. With Paes he had made the final in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and with Max Mirnyi in 2010.
Bhupathi and Bopanna, thus, end the 2012 season and their partnership with two titles — Dubai and the Paris Masters.
Granollers and Lopez became the second Spanish team to win the season-ending championships. The only other Spanish duo to win the championship are Juan Gisbert Sr and Manuel Orantes in 1975 at Stockholm.
The Spaniards took a 2-1 lead in the first set, after Granollers hit three successive forehands at Bopanna, who hit a backhand volley into the net on the deciding point.
However, Lopez was broken in the next game.
At 5-5, Bhupathi misplaced two serves to trail 0-30. Bhupathi made two more backhand volley errors, off the Granollers forehand.
Serving for the set, Lopez faced sudden death deuce and break point, but Granollers intercepted a backhand volley to clinch the first set in 43 minutes.
Midway through the second set, at 3-4, the Indians set up two break point chances at 30-40. Lopez recouped one point, but on the deciding point Granollers committed a forehand error.
Bopanna then closed out the set with the team’s fifth ace of the set.
Clever inter-play and defence by Granollers and Lopez gave them a 4-0 lead in the match tie-break, in which neither Bhupathi nor Bopanna could keep their volleys in.
Soon the Spanish team was leading 9-3 and then wrapped up the match when Bhupathi hit a forehand volley long.