Roger Federer overcame a slow start to defeat fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka to give himself what might be his last realistic chance of winning one of the two missing ATP Masters Series titles from his impressive resume as he clashes against the World number One and defending champion Novak Djokovic on Sunday at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. It would be the 39th meeting between the two with Federer having a 20-18 advantage, the winner also has a chance to take sole possession of the second position in the number of Masters 1000 events won as both players are currently at 23 behind the all time leader Rafael Nadal who has captured 27 titles. The pair have also played each other twice in 2015; Federer won the Dubai Dutyfree Open final on February 28th, which is the last time Djokovic lost this year, while Djokovic won the final of the Indian Wells ATP 1000
Federer also won the title in Brisbane (d. Raonic) and became only the third player in Open Era to record 1000 match wins joining American Jimmy Connors (1253 wins) and Czech Ivan Lendl (1071 wins), and in April claimed the inaugural Istanbul Open on clay (d. Cuevas). Apart from Rome Federer has not won in Monte Carlo where he has been a four time finalist. Wawrinka, who had entered the semi-final after saving four set points in the first set tie-break against the seven time champion Rafael Nadal, got off to a brisk start breaking Federer in the second game and jumped to a 3-0 lead loosing only four points in the process. Federer responded with a break in the fifth game at 15 and then in the ninth game of the first set to claim it 6-4. He broke serve in the third and fifth game of the second set and claimed the 55 minute match 6-4,6-2. It will be his fourth apperance in a Rome final having finished runner up in 2003 ( loss to Mantilla) and in 2006 & 2013 (both losses to Nadal). It was a rematch of the epic semi-final at the Barclays ATP World Tour Final in London last year and with today’s win Federer extended his career head to head lead to 16-2.
The top ranked Serbian broke serve once in each set and saved all three break points he faced as he recorded his 9th straight win over the veteran Spaniard and also extended his winning streak to 21 matches during which he won titles in Indian Wells,Miami and Monte Carlo. Djokovic took 85 minutes for the 6-4,6-4 win. The loss means that Ferrer will have to wait till the French Open in Paris starting on May 24th to become the 12th player in the Open Era with 300 clay court wins. Djokovic has won thrice in Rome, 2008 (d. Wawrinka), 2011 and 2014 (both times beating Nadal). He also improved his head to head record against Ferrer to 15-5 to enter his 34th ATP 1000 final. He has won in 23 of them and is the only player in the history to have won eight out of the nine current Super series events, with the exception of Cincinnati where he has been a four time finalist.
Federer is 25-4 in 2015 having won 85 career titles, losses this year have been to Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open, Djokovic in Indian Wells, Gael Monfils in Monte Carlo and to Nick Kyrgios in Madrid. Djokovic is 34-2 in 2015 and his losses have come at Doha at the hands of Ivo Karlovic and to Federer in Dubai. He has won 52 career titles. Djokovic has looked rusty in his first three matches as he skipped Madrid and is due for a loss and it could be Federer lifting the trophy in a blockbuster finale. Djokovic though will settle for saving his best for Paris to complete the career grand slam. Federer in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]