ATP World Tour Finals 2011: Federer sweeps through to semis

Roger Federer beats Mardy Fish 6-1 3-6 6-3 to go unbeaten into the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour Finals in London

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis at the O2 Arena
roger federer
Federer beat Fish in three sets on Thursday Photo: Marianne Bevis

roger federer

After his thumping performance against Rafael Nadal on Tuesday, conceding just three games in a scant hour, there were fears for the fate of Mardy Fish at the hands of Roger Federer on the last day of round robin competition for Group B at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Federer was already guaranteed top spot in his section by virtue of that Nadal near-whitewash and a rather less straightforward three-set victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Conversely, Fish, not at his best this week after hamstring injuries ahead of the London finale, was already out of contention for the semi-finals after losing to both Nadal—in a final set tie-breaker—and to Tsonga—losing a first-set tie-breaker on that occasion.

Whether it was because this was, in effect, a dead match, or that Federer had been keeping late hours the night before with his football mate, Thierry Henry, at Arsenal’s Champions League match at the Emirates Stadium. Or perhaps it was simply that he had not expected such a good fight from this opponent.

But against the odds, this turned into closely fought roller-coaster of a match between the two oldest men in the competition that stretched over three sets and just 12 minutes short of two hours before Federer closed the deal, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

When he broke Fish’s opening service game at the fourth attempt, it looked a case of same-old, same-old, but he was immediately broken back.

However, Federer stamped his authority on the set with two more breaks and resisted an assault from the Fish cross-court forehand that took him 0-40 down to serve out the set, 6-1.

But the second set was Fish’s as he upped the tempo of his serve to 130mph plus and returned with ease the Federer wide-kicking serve that has so disrupted other players. He made 16 winners in the set while Federer hit error after error—11 in this set alone—and the American broke in the fourth game and served out the set confidently, 6-3.

In the third, apparently woken from his slumber, Federer took the attack to Fish. After a strong hold of serve, he began to rush the net and picked off volleys in style to force the break and lead 3-0.

Fish saved another break point to finally get a game on the board but picked up only four more points on Federer’s serve in the final set, a comfortable 6-3.

Federer admitted to struggling to find the intensity that he had shown against Nadal, but was quick to give credit to Fish.

“I definitely struggled a little bit more today, but I thought that was more due to the circumstances and Mardy actually playing well for most of the match.

“He’s always very dangerous, takes the ball extremely early, serves great and can get on a roll. I was worried in the third set. I thought I was going to lose today but I’m very happy. It’s been a great run since the US Open—I’ve been all round the world but I’m still going strong. Hopefully I can make it a nice weekend.”

He was referring, of course, to his attempt, come Saturday and Sunday, to win a record sixth season-end title. And as this was his 37th career victory in the competition, he can also equal Ivan Lendl’s current record of 39 should he win that record final.

Federer is now on a 15-match streak and remains unbeaten indoors since the US Open following back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris. It looks as though only the best of tennis can derail the Swiss No4’s ambition—and that ambition may include his return to No3 before Christmas: He can overtake Andy Murray if he reaches the final.

He asserted, none the less, that that was the last thing on his mind. “It’s not going to change anything for the seedings at the Australian Open, so for that reason, it doesn’t change anything for me.”

For a taste of Federer in action as he progressed, unbeaten, to the WTF semi-finals, check out this on-the-scene selection.

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