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“Every Ball Kind of Listens to Him….”

That was the aptly poetic description of Roger Federer’s game by sometime-rival Novak Djokovic, whom the impeccable Swiss utterly thrashed in their mercifully brief semifinal match in the ATP World Tour Finals. Djokovic is an extremely gifted tennis player, who’s been as high as number two in the world (although his permanent residence is at number three, locked out of the top two by the stingy Federer-Nadal oligopoly). When he’s on his game and Federer is just a tad off his — as was the case in this year’s U.S. Open — you’ve got a match. But when Federer is scaling the sublime heights that fill up my DVR, Djokovic is the tennis equivalent of the Washington Generals to Federer’s globe-trotting excellence.

Then Federer, who has been playing with merciless purpose and precision all Fall, put paid to arch-rival and chief tormenter Rafael Nadal in the final, raining down a hail of unplayable serves, forehands and even backhands (Nadal’s usual advantage) to seal the decisive third set, 6-1. A new coach and a few off-color performances in the Spring and early Summer appear to have worked a rejuvenation, and given the 29-year-old artist a springier step.

Nadal, of course, is only the guy who won three of the four major titles in 2010. So as the Australian Open looms in just over a month — after the sport’s criminally short “off season” — Federer will defend his lone major title from the past year, while Nadal will try for four in a row. (Are there other players with a shot? Sort of; since the 2005 French Open, twenty-one of the last twenty-three majors have been won by either Federer or Nadal, with only Djokovic (2008 Aussie Open) and Juan Martin DelPotro (2009 U.S. Open) breaking through).

2011 should be another great year. Expect more of this from Federer:

…and this from Nadal…

…two bitter rivals…

You can keep the NFL.

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