Friday, 25 November 2011
Novak Djokovic vs David Ferrer - Live Close Up Reaction
For the second year in a row I visited the O2 Arena in London to see the ATP World Tour Finals last wednesday, where I observed very fortunately from the front row a group match, between Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer. The atmosphere is as they say, electric, which is appropriate both in terms of the neon blue aesthetic of the games and the sea blue courts, and the ambience of anticipation and excitement of the guarantee that you will see one of the top players in the world. It really is a unique venue and I would encourage anyone who hasn't been to visit it once during the final two years that the World Tour Finals is hosted there.
The first match whichever session you attend is a doubles match, and that day I was lucky enough to see the top doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan in action, who comfortably dispatched the Swedish pairing of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. Although only around half the stadium capacity turned up for the doubles, you can learn a lot about technique from watching the doubles, and there can be no better benchmark these days than the almost unstoppable Bryan pair. Both brothers are super athletes with virtually no weaknesses in their respective games; they share phenomenal reaction speed at the net, have incredible court awareness and very rarely err when it comes to shot selection, which in doubles is paramount considering the rallies are generally shorter and frequently require fast decision making. I saw all of that while I was there although the match was over in barely an hour, but it was a pleasure watching them dismantle another very good doubles team. It is often said that either brother would easily make the top 50 if they chose to play in singles, and I fully believe that. Afterwards they both very kindly signed my programme and took the time to talk to their fans, which was great to see.
Another half an hour later and the singles match was about to start, with the suspense slowly being built up for Djokovic and Ferrer. It is superbly done, cinematic in execution and winds the crowd up perfectly for the match. I had a perfect perpendicular court side view where I could see both players with perfect clarity, and I took the rare opportunity to observe what you perhaps can't observe so finely when watching it on television. Both players are explosive movers; Djokovic does so much with his split step and his anticipation of where the ball was going was impressive. Ferrer is similarly fast out of the blocks when on the run, and the microsteps he takes to get in position before striking the ball are phenomenally quick and precise, and a great model for those learning the game to (attempt to) imitate. What particularly impressed me with Ferrer that night however was the depth of his groundstrokes when he was under attack. He keeps an incredible length when under fire, and was able to turn defence into attack or a forced error from Djokovic countless times - as I say to people who I know me, depth can be every bit as effective as raw power, and Ferrer is a paragon of that game. And it was partly Ferrer's incredible consistency of depth, combined with his willingness to attack, which gained him the victory. He also served superbly, which he has done for most of the year, and that allowed him to get on top of the points early. For me, it was one of Ferrer's greatest performances, and he convincingly conquered the world no.1 6-3, 6-1. Unfortunately, despite Ferrer's brilliance, I didn't get to see Djokovic completely in full flight, partly because Ferrer didn't let him, but also because he has been for the past month in a state of what he terms 'overload', and he spent the match struggling with his groundstrokes and also his serve (which may or may not be related to the shoulder injury which has hindered him recently). Nonetheless, I was able to observe the motion of his groundstrokes which seem to produce so much easy power, the shots he 'unlocked' this year when Djokovic took over the world and accomplished one of the greatest years in the history of tennis.