Paris victory takes Djokovic closer to No 1 ranking
One romantic story for the end of 2014 was all but snuffed out yesterday when Novak Djokovic won the BNP Paribas Paris Masters, brushing past Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-3, and moving a step closer to sealing the year-end No1 ranking.
There had been much excitement, both among tennis fans and the general sporting public, when Roger Federer landed back-to-back titles in Shanghai and Basel, thus giving himself a shot at overtaking Djokovic before the end of the season.
However, Federer could not get the job done on Friday in the Paris quarter-finals, where he ran into Raonic in what was arguably the best form of the Canadian's entire career.
Federer's demise presented Djokovic with an opportunity to stretch his lead and the defending champion in Paris took full advantage, becoming the first man to win back-to-back titles here in the 46-year history of the event.
The upshot is that Djokovic now leads Federer by 1,310 points going into London. And with a maximum of 1,500 available for the winner of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals plus a ludicrously small 150 for the Davis Cup final in three weeks' time, Federer will have it all to do. Just two round-robin wins from Djokovic at the O2 Arena would settle the debate.
Djokovic's performance in Paris has been remarkable for a man coming back from a short break to attend the birth of his first son, Stefan. He looked a little short of his usual serene balance in his opening match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, but the German was still unable to make much of an impression. Djokovic then moved into a higher gear, easing past three quality opponents in Gael Monfils, Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori before outclassing Raonic yesterday with an almost note-perfect performance. He did not drop a single set in the tournament. "I played the best match of the entire week today when it was most needed," Djokovic said.
There was one moment of slight concern when Djokovic appeared to tweak a calf muscle in one of his wide-legged sliding manoeuvres, in which he almost gets into a splits position as he digs out a desperate retrieval shot. The trainer was called to the court and dug his thumb into the affected muscle, but no strapping was applied and Djokovic did not seem to lose any mobility.
Raonic has used his 140mph serve as a weapon, but here he was up against the most accurate returner in the modern game and too many balls were coming back with sting and depth. This was the Canadian's second Masters final and the second time he had been outclassed by one of the game's legends. The previous time, in Montreal last year, his executioner was Rafael Nadal.
As Djokovic rolls on to London, he has now not lost an indoor match for more than two years.
Elsewhere, Caroline Wozniacki was thrilled with her first marathon. The tennis star ran the 26.2 mile course in just under three hours, 27 minutes - a few minutes ahead of her desired time. She originally had hoped to come in under four hours and quickly adjusted her goal to 3:30 during the race.
"The crowd was amazing. It was such an incredible experience," the 24-year-old former No. 1 ranked player said. (© Daily Telegraph)