Pick ’em, May 17, Rome: Djokovic vs. Federer. Both want it bad, will be very close

 

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1-Novak Djokovic vs. 2-Roger Federer

Here we go, their 39th meeting. Long enough people? It’s an intense rivalry, and extremely complicated between both sides. In the last 10 meetings, they have split 5-5, with Federer winning the Dubai final in February and Djokovic grabbing Indian Wells in the final. The 33-year-old Federer is 20-18 head to head over the 27-year-old Djokovic and clearly, it has been super close. It’s all about quality, not just pushing the ball around and merely hoping.

Interesting, they have only played each other seven matches on clay, the last time coming in 2014 Monte Carlo, won by the Swiss. The biggest clash was in 2011, when Djokovic hadn’t lost during the season and had reached the semifinal of Roland Garros, on a 41-win streak. The Serbian believed that he could out-hit Federer there and perhaps he would go onto the final against Rafa Nadal, but he could not, when Roger put on a tremendous variety and won 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).

Djokovic was able to get revenge the next year in Paris, beating Federer 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, a very clean victory. However, Djokovic was unable to win at Roland Garros again, falling to Nadal — again.

Federer has been able to snare a French Open title in 2009, but somewhat amazingly, he has never won Italy before. Djokovic has won Rome three times, including last year.

He and Federer did play once in Italy in 2012, with Djokovic coming through 6-2, 7-6(4). They have played so many times it seems like they are clashing every day.

But this is 2015 and once again, Djokovic is on red-hot fire. Even when he is struggling, he is still winning, because his strokes are so deep and he kisses the lines time and time again. Yes, he can lose points, he can be broken, he could miss too many returns and floated his forehands way long. But still, he digs in, he is changing his direction and purpose. He figured it out.

However, beating Federer is an entirely different matter. Yes, the Swiss has been up and down this year, very good and very so-so. He fell early against Nick Kyrgios in Madrid in a difficult contest but he has played extremely well this week, dominating his first serve, slicing his backhand wickedly and changing his forehand all the time. He essentially crushed Stan Wawrinka in the semis on Saturday, dancing around near the net, blasting his returns and daring him to out-hit his forehand.

Djokovic is rock solid. There is no way to hide. On hard courts and grass, it’s possible to go into the net frequently but that is very difficult on a slow clay surface. Therefore, Federer has to be very patient and wait for the right shots and when the balls are short, it’s time to attack.

The Serbian will try to beat up Federer’s one-handed backhand, hoping to raise the balls way up high where the Swiss cannot crush it when it’s up above his head. Djokovic was very efficient in beating David Ferrer, as he cleaned up any mistakes. Federer and Djokovic will be very close once again, but someone has to win: Djokovic will grab an early break in the third set it and win the title, his fourth time in Rome.

 

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