Federer seen as favourite for World Tour Finals

Federer is heading to London in a strong position to claim a record sixth title AFP

Swiss tennis star Roger Federer’s tough season is ending on a high, with his victory in Paris putting him in good stead for the season-ending tournament in London.

This content was published on November 14, 2011 - 12:29 and agencies

On Sunday, the world number four beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6 to win his first Paris Masters and 69th title of a glittering career.

Federer had never previously reached the Paris final, but he restricted the sixth-seeded Frenchman to limited opportunities after saving two break points in his opening service game.

“I’m just ecstatic to have played so well this week,” the 16-time grand slam champion said. “I’ve had many attempts to win Paris and for some reason I wasn’t able to. It’s a special victory.”

The former world number one will end the season without a grand slam title for the first time since 2002 and his ranking has dropped to number four, but he has bounced back, winning the Swiss Indoors last week and Paris.

“I’ve had some really tough losses this year, but I kept believing the year wasn’t over,” said Federer, who squandered two match points against top-ranked Novak Djokovic in their US Open semifinal in September.

“I’m not playing to prove anything to anybody. I play for myself, I play for Switzerland [and] just to enjoy myself.”

Federer took six weeks off after the Davis Cup playoff against Australia in mid-September and feels it paid off.

“I always plan in the long term,” he said. “I know how gruelling it is out there.”

His 18th Masters title puts him one ahead of Andre Agassi and one behind all-time leader Rafael Nadal.

London calling

Coming into the match, 30-year-old Federer was bothered by a cold and felt sleepy after being woken in the middle of the night by one of his twin daughters.

“I was hoping the night would go well but suddenly I was running in the room with Mirka [his wife] to see if everything was OK,” Federer said. “[Mirka] said, let’s take her in our bed. I didn’t even question this – I can’t have an argument at four in the morning…”

Tsonga saved two match points, but it was a brief reprieve from an inevitable ending as Federer notched up his 802nd career win.

It was his third title of the season and his only Masters, the nine-tournament level below the four grand slam events. Djokovic has won five Masters this year, Andy Murray two and Nadal has one.

But with Djokovic troubled by a nagging shoulder injury, Federer will be confident of defending his title in London. He heads into the eight-man World Tour Finals, which begin on Sunday, on a 12-match winning streak.

“I can still finish this year on a high,” he said.

The bookmakers agree, making Federer the 2-1 favourite, just ahead of Murray and Djokovic (see link).

“Federer magic”

Swiss newspapers reacted to Federer’s win with pride and pitiful puns.

“A child who has finally succeeded in dipping his finger into the jam having had his eye on the jar for ages” was how Le Temps in Geneva saw Federer.

The paper quoted Federer’s friend and fellow tennis pro Yves Allegro: “Everyone was saying Roger couldn’t care less [about this tournament] – but that’s not true! It’s hard work winning here – it’s not an easy court… He really wanted this title. He loves Paris.”

For the Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich the victory was an “unexpected autumn highlight”. “Once again Federer managed to step out of the shadow of Nadal and Djokovic and achieve something that his two younger rivals will have difficulty in doing,” it said.

“The Federer magic works again – Tsonga won’t disagree,” was the headline in La Tribune de Genève.

“Fedi Cool,” was the headline in the tabloid Blick, presumably a laboured reference to the Boney M hit Daddy Cool.

“Federer played in Paris with the coolness of his best days. He’s the favourite for the World Tour Finals in London,” it concluded.

World Tour Finals

The World Tour Finals, being held at the O2 stadium in London from November 20-27, bring together the eight best players in the world.

This year these are: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish.

The eight players are divided into two groups of four, and play three matches each against the other three players in their group. From there, the two players with the best records in each group progress to the semifinals, with the winners meeting in the final.

Winners are awarded up to 1500 rankings points, not to mention part of prize money totalling $4,450,000 (SFr4,015,000).

Federer has won the season-ending tournament five times: in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010. This is a record shared with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras. Djokovic won it in 2008. Nadal has never won it.

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