Novak Djokovic completes 'mission impossible' in mastering John Isner serve

After a shock loss by Roger Federer on Sunday, order was restored at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday by ...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 10:55 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 10:55 AM

After a shock loss by Roger Federer on Sunday, order was restored at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday by Novak Djokovic.

Gliding across the court of London's O2 Arena as if he had never been away, the Serb neutralized the booming serves of Wimbledon marathon man John Isner with a commanding 6-4 6-3 win in the group stages of the season-ending ATP Finals for the top eight players in the world.

Novak Djokovic

Sports figures

ATP World Tour

Professional tennis

Sports and recreation

Sports organizations and teams

Tennis

Roger Federer

"The match was great, obviously, to have three breaks of serve of John, which is sometimes mission impossible," Djokovic, who struck 21 winners and took 42% of his return points, told a packed crowd, which included soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, at London's O2 Arena.

When asked how you play a return game against a player who has struck close to 11,000 aces in his career, Djokovic said: "Make sure you are as far from the baseline as possible. Pick a side," he said.

Tying Federer

The 31-year-old Serb, who didn't play in London last year because of injury, is trying to win the ATP Finals for a sixth time, tying the record held by Federer.

The Swiss, who is chasing his 100th career title, had opened the ATP Finals on Sunday with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 defeat by the ninth-ranked Kei Nishikori of Japan. Federer, 37, plays his second group match against French Open finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria on Tuesday night.

This time last year, Djokovic had been forced to sit out the ATP Finals as he tried to recover from an elbow injury, for which he eventually underwent surgery in February.

Tough start to 2018

Unlike Federer, who returned from a six-month injury break at the start of 2017 to win the Australian Open, Djokovic struggled during the first few months of his comeback, even falling out of the top 20 in May for the first time since 2006.

After ending his coaching relationship with former world No. 1 Andre Agassi, Djokovic reunited with his old team led by Marian Vajda in April. Although his form improved, he crashed out of the Roland-Garros quarterfinals in a tempestuous match against world No. 72 Marco Cecchinato of Italy, and even hinted at skipping the grass-court season altogether.

But he regrouped after Paris, and has since gone on a tear: winning Wimbledon and the US Open and ATP World Tour titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai before regaining the No. 1 spot last week.

"It has been great to be back at the O2 Arena," said Djokovic, who will end the season as the world's top-ranked male tennis player for a fifth time. "I love playing in this place, it has been a lucky place for me over the years."

READ: Why Serena Williams' coach is calling for on-court coaching

READ: Rafa Nadal out of ATP Finals with injury

Return masterclass

It wasn't that Isner, who had averaged 23 aces per match in the past year, played badly.

In fact, some of his serves were so fast, they forced the crowd on the lower tiers of the O2 Arena to duck.

The 33-year-old American, the oldest ATP Finals debutant since 1972 and at 6-foot-10 the tallest player to ever have competed in the championships, struck 13 aces and hit 69% of his first serves in.

But Isner, a Wimbledon semifinalist this summer, had no answer to the precision of Djokovic's return game.

Watched by Ronaldo and his family, Djokovic forced the first break of the match at 2-2 with a pinpoint forehand return. After he served out the first set to love, 6-4, Djokovic broke again at 3-3 in the second set.

Serving to stay in the match at 5-3 down, Isner was broken for the third and final time as Djokovic found another backhand passing shot for a winner.

"He's the best returner I've ever faced for sure," Isner said.

READ: The 'Bromance' between John Isner and Kevin Anderson

Zverev next

Earlier on Monday, Germany's Alexander Zverev defeated former US Open winner Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) in the other round-robin match in the group Guga Kuerten.

Djokovic will next play the big-serving Zverev, with whom he is tied 1-1.

"I'm feeling fit physically and mentally," said Djokovic, who lost to Zverev last year on clay in the finals of Rome but beat the 21-year-old in the semifinals of Shanghai last month. "I'm looking forward to that match."

Visit CNN's tennis page for more news and videos

He added: "I played him recently in Shanghai, but wasn't at his best. I expect him to play better than he did in Shanghai in two days."

Terre Haute
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Robinson
Cloudy
71° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Indianapolis
Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 76°
Rockville
Cloudy
69° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 69°
Casey
Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
Brazil
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Marshall
Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 74°
Showers early today!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1388634

Reported Deaths: 25566
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55620110461
DuPage923681316
Will769181032
Lake683491014
Kane59419807
Winnebago34106506
Madison30930526
McHenry29182294
St. Clair28316519
Peoria23443342
Champaign21100154
Sangamon19094240
McLean18553187
Tazewell17227305
Rock Island15245329
Kankakee14550217
Kendall1327899
LaSalle12779250
Macon10997211
DeKalb10116121
Vermilion10021142
Adams8677126
Williamson7595134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683677
Ogle620683
Grundy598678
Clinton578991
Coles5770100
Knox5642153
Jackson510065
Henry507870
Livingston489691
Woodford483282
Stephenson481985
Macoupin478288
Effingham476872
Franklin454178
Marion4513117
Jefferson4422122
Monroe438094
Lee419354
Randolph416487
Fulton405159
Logan396964
Morgan393482
Christian383875
Montgomery379474
Bureau378383
Fayette322555
Perry320360
Iroquois313867
McDonough290851
Jersey271652
Douglas260636
Saline260357
Lawrence241127
Shelby232638
Union228141
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford188948
Warren184148
Clark183733
Jo Daviess182724
Pike181853
Wayne181053
Hancock180631
Carroll178337
Richland176940
Edgar176740
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154145
Piatt152414
Clay149643
Mercer149334
Johnson147616
Greene145134
Massac135840
Wabash135612
Cumberland130119
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7286
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4694
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Out of IL350
Unassigned02433

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420