The late-season surge of Roger Federer culminated this week with another stellar showing at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, winning the title by beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 6-7 6-4 in Sunday’s final . Having lost the mantle as the world’s best player, he remains unquestionably the most durable of Tennis’ elite.
Yet another few milestones
Roger Federer’s win over David Ferrer secured three significant career milestones. By beating the Spaniard he became the fourth player to ensure a Top 3 finish in the end of year rankings for 9 years straight. The win also made him the sixth player to reach 100 career finals*. It also saw him draw level with Stefan Edberg for sixth in the career victories chart with 806 wins. The subsequent victory over Tsonga saw him claim sixth spot outright.
The biggest milestone of all was claiming a record sixth World Tour Finals title. Novak Djokovic has won the end of year prize only once, Rafael Nadal has never won it and the only other active players to have previously won the title are well past their peak. We may see decades pass before anyone even remotely threatens Federer’s mark.
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Federer’s lack of success in Grand Slams in the last two seasons has been a source of concern. His win in Melbourne in 2010 was followed by one final, three semi finals, and three quarter finals in the seven subsequent majors. While most of the Top 10 would kill for such form, the dominance of the Top 4 in the game is such that this slippage is a cause for panic. There is a real possibility that Federer may never win another Grand Slam but he still has the game to compete for a few more years.
It’s no accident that Roger Federer tends to finish the year in much finer form than the rest of the big guns, even at a stage in his career when he’s past his peak. Federer’s style of play is one that causes less wear and tear than the approach taken by Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. The athletic approach of the men who have shared the last seven Grand Slams is ideal for the sprint through the summer, from the clay courts of Europe to the US hard court circuit with a few weeks on grass in between. The human body however can only take so much and Federer, while hardly a tortoise, plays a game that is more forgiving on his limbs. A point further enhanced by his lack of notable injury problems throughout his career.
Management of his body has also helped. Not counting Davis Cup duty, where he appeared twice for Switzerland, Federer only played in 16 tournaments in 2011. His opponent at the decider in London, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, played 24.
Wins in Basel, and at the Masters Series event in Paris followed by his run in London saw Federer yet again pad his resume with excellent late-season form. Prior to the autumn turn, Federer’s lone title this season had come in Doha all the way back in January. The calendar for next season makes a similar late-year charge look quite possible.
With the 2012 Olympics looking likely to attract a strong field, Federer’s fitness management could serve him well at the World Tour Finals yet again in 2012. More milestones, more magic, and probably a couple more years at the top look likely for the Swiss master.
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