Roger Federer to miss US Open and undergo knee surgery
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Novak Djokovic was only 18 years of age when he first faced Roger Federer in a competitive match, but already reckoned he had a decent idea of how to beat the tennis legend. The Serb lost on his Masters 1000 debut in 2006, but gave the world no.1 a scare by winning the second set convincingly.
Djokovic has gone on to match the 20 Grand Slam titles managed by Federer, and it seems only a matter of time until he overtakes his rival with the Swiss in the twilight of his glittering career at the top of the sport.
For many years it felt like it would be a long time until we saw anyone who could match the success of the Basel-born great, but Djokovic has done exactly that alongside Rafael Nadal, whose unmatched prowess on a clay court has also propelled him to 20 major titles.
While Djokovic and Federer are afforded similar status now, that was far from the case in Monte Carlo in 2006.
The Swiss was at the height of his powers and already had seven Grand Slam successes to his name, while Djokovic was still learning his trade at the very beginning of what would turn out to be a hugely successful career.
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Despite his inexperience, though, and the baptism of fire he received in the form of his being drawn against Federer in the first round, his quotes from the post-match interview revealed he felt he knew why so many people lost against the Swiss.
“Roger is one of the greatest players in history, that’s for sure,” Djokovic admitted in the aftermath of his loss.
“The problem is, people usually lose against him before even stepping on the court, getting scared of the rival on the other side of the net and not believing in themselves.
“Also, they know they have to play on their maximum to stand a chance against him, which is not easy to produce.”
The Serb ultimately fell to defeat that day, but not without threatening a shock upset after taking the tie to three sets.
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Federer broke his opponent’s serve twice in the opening set to win it 6-3, but found himself on the receiving end of two breaks of serve in the second as Djokovic levelled the match by winning 6-2.
It was only when the teenager tired that the world no.1 wrestled back control and progressed to the second round with a 6-3 final set.
Describing the match in the aftermath, Djokovic said: “I started a bit nervous today as well, and he grabbed an early break.
“I thought I had to change something in my game, realizing he is good but not an alien or something, not hitting a winner in every point but playing a very smart game while staying calm all the time.
“Then I started playing my game in set number two and draw Roger’s errors. Unfortunately, I could not keep that level until the end.
“Roger’s worst surface is clay, and yet he is still among the world’s best three clay-courters.”
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