ATP World Tour Finals 2011: Federer hits century on way to No3

Roger Federer overcomes David Ferrer 7-5 6-3 to book his place in his 100th career final at the ATP World Tour Finals

roger federer
Federer overcame Ferrer in straight sets on Saturday Photo: Marianne Bevis

roger federer

David Ferrer could have done with a bit of luck on his side as he headed into the semi-finals of the season’s finale for the second time.

After resounding wins over Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, he could have ended at the top of his group by beating Tomas Berdych. He didn’t. By finishing second, he would have to face a man he had never beaten, Roger Federer.

Ferrer could also have done with an extra day’s rest””or even an evening start. He got neither. Within 12 hours of rushing in and out of his Friday press conference, he was back on court practising like there was no tomorrow. The chances were, there would be no tomorrow.

He might have hoped that Federer was getting weary, as the rest of the big four were. But Federer has made great play all week of feeling fine after pacing his season with care: He opted out of the Asian swing altogether in exchange for his No3 ranking, but it was a strategy that had born fruit.

The Swiss was now on a 15-match winning streak””the last time he had a longer one was in the summer of 2009″”and was the only one of the top four still in London.

There was more. Federer not only held an 11-0 lead over his fellow elder statesman but he had lost only three sets, two of them on clay. And who was it that beat him to the title when he last made the final stages back in 2007 in Shanghai? Federer.

Ferrer faced not just Federer the man but Federer the record-breaker. Should the Swiss reach his seventh Championship final, he would record his 100th career final. And in notching up his 806th match win, Federer would draw level with one of his own heroes, Stefan Edberg.

And despite Federer asserting at the start of the week that his ranking was unimportant, by reaching the final, he could end the year at No3 for the ninth straight year.

It all begged the question, what was going through Ferrer’s mind as he quickly warmed up alongside centre court 12 short hours after he left it? For he was confronted by a Federer just finishing off a 20-minute warm-up that, even as he cranked up a few final baseline returns, looked relaxed to the point of horizontal.

It made for a fascinating juxtaposition. Both in red””perhaps in homage to their native flags””they are separated by just eight months in age but by 58 titles in the record books and are as night and day in their playing styles.

Federer has the languid bearing of a man who sees the ball as his partner in crime. It comes to his racket at his bidding and he despatches it with relaxed shoulders and unhurried feet.

Ferrer treats the ball as an enemy to be beaten off with urgency: His shoulders hunch towards it, his feet hustle and bustle.

That urgency, though, looked as though it would pay big dividends when the two men shared the centre court for the second time in a day. Neither could find their serve with any real consistency and Ferrer pounded Federer’s second serve to both corners of the court with huge energy.

The tactic elicited numerous errors from the Federer racket, 10 on the forehand and nine on the backhand before the set was done. A chance for the Swiss man to break in the fifth game disappeared with one of those errors and he overcame several more in the 10th to defend five deuces before levelling at 5-5.

As so often happens after a tightly-contested game, the winner takes some momentum into the next game, and Federer went up 40-15 via a drop shot and lob combo, and this time it was Ferrer who hit a forehand wide to give the break, and Federer served out 7-5.

That gave the Swiss more confidence while injecting more tension into the Ferrer serving arm.

Federer broke in the first game to take an advantage that he never lost. He needed little encouragement to come to the net, transitioning in whenever Ferrer allowed. His first serve rocketed from 55 to 82 per cent and he lost just one point on serve in the set””on one of only three second serves he required.

Federer, in truth, could and should have closed out the set rather faster than its 35 minutes. Two double faults from Ferrer in the fifth game took the score to 15-40 but the Spaniard fought back to hold with four straight points.

The Spaniard has become very adept around the net and the crowd enjoyed a variety of rallies that mixed up drops, retrievals, lobs””and still more retrievals from the fastest feet in the business. More than once, Federer thought he had won a point with a volley only to see it come back as a winner.

However, three love games took the score to 5-3 and Federer went in for the kill. His 15th volley winner of the match””he lost only two points at the net””brought up match point and he closed the deal, 6-3

It was a pragmatic Ferrer who talked of his 12 defeats at the hands of the Swiss: “Well, I think he was better than me, of course, no? And me, I don’t really serve good.”

It was also a complementary Federer who talked about his opponent’s excellent end-of-season:

“I could clearly see why David beat Murray and Djokovic here””he takes the ball really early, is able to generate great angles off his plays [and is] super consistent.”

He identified that 10th game in the first set as the turning point: “That was a crucial 15, 20 minutes for me. I’m happy I was able to decide the match right there. After that, I was able to serve well, mix it up, be dangerous for him”¦but I really had to dig deep to find a way to beat David today.”

So Federer reaches his 100th final and will reclaim the No3 ranking next week. Next, he hopes to lift his 70th trophy, his sixth year-end trophy, against either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Tomas Berdych.

The capacity crowd who had stayed for his on-court interview erupted into a standing ovation at this news and, not for the first time, the cool, laid-back man from Switzerland had to wipe a tear from his eye.

“It’s obviously a special occasion for me tomorrow playing my 100th final, possibly winning my 70th [title and] winning my sixth at the World Tour Finals. That would be a record.”

That, would be several records.

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