ATP World Tour Finals 2014: Roger Federer qualifies for 13th straight time
ATP World Tour Finals 2014: Roger Federer books his place at the season-ending tournament after Cincinnati win
Not content with picking up his 80th career title, his 22nd Masters title, his sixth Cincinnati title, his 16 consecutive victory over one of the most enduring tennis players of the last decade in David Ferrer, and a tour-leading 49th match-win—already well ahead of his total for the entire 2013 season—but Roger Federer has sealed his place at the end-of-year finale, the ATP World Tour Finals, for a 13th consecutive time.
While Andre Agassi still leads the way for the total number of appearances at the season’s prestigious climax—14 times he was among the top eight players of the year—Federer has now set the record for most consecutive qualifications, over-taking Ivan’s Lendl’s 12.
Federer already tops the table for titles won—six—and in matches both played and won—55 and 44 respectively.
The Swiss world No3’s return to form this year has become one of the tennis stories of the year after a slide in fortunes last year came with regular asides referring to his 32 years. For he had put together one of his best-ever seasons in 2012 to reach 10 finals, winning Wimbledon, three Masters crowns and Olympic silver, and he played more matches—and won more of them—than in any year since 2006. It all helped him to reclaim the No1 ranking for a record 302 weeks.
But as his trimmed 2013 schedule unfurled, so did his results. He failed to defend any of his titles in Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Madrid. He needed two physical lay-offs after a back injury hit him during his final against Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells. He won his only title of the year in Halle before facing his biggest upset in years. His loss in the second round of Wimbledon to the 117-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky took him outside the top four for the first time since Wimbledon 2003.
Back injury then hit his rare attempt to play on the summer clay, and he pulled out of the Montreal Masters. He then lost to a man he had beaten in all 10 previous matches, Tommy Robredo, at the US Open. So Federer found himself ranked No7 and without a Grand Slam final to his name for the first time in 11 years.
But a change was afoot, and just in time to nab his place at last year’s World Tour Finals. He reached the final of Basel and sealed the deal at the last possible tournament, the Paris Masters, to qualify as No6 among the eight—exactly the same ranking as in his first appearance in 2002. In both years, he would also reach the semi-finals.
Come 2014, order has been restored. Back to full fitness, Federer’s confidence rose with his bold adoption of a bigger racket and the inspiration of mentor and childhood idol, Stefan Edberg. He started the year with the final in Brisbane, took in the semis in Australia, defeated Novak Djokovic on his way to the Dubai title, and lost a third-set tie-break to the same man in the Indian Wells final.
A blip through the clay season coincided with the birth of his second pair of twins, but grass brought success again, and the hard courts of North America still more. Last week’s final finish in Toronto was followed last night by victory in Cincinnati to confirm his place in London come November.
Only once between that first semi finish in 2002 and his most recent in 2013 has he fallen short of the knock-out stages. It was Shanghai 2008, and he also arrived with a back injury that had forced him to withdraw after two rounds in Paris.
The World Tour Finals remains one of the most prestigious tournaments in the tennis calendar, second only to the four Grand Slams, and an annual yardstick for all of the top players, as Federer confirmed:
“It’s always one of the big goals I set myself at the beginning of the season. It’s always an absolute honour being part of the best eight. Getting a chance to win an extra trophy at the end of the season—which is so prestigious, one of the biggest ones we have in the game and one I’ve done so well at—is a great feeling.
“Returning to the season finale is something I’ve been a part of since 2002, so to do it again is a privilege and I will try to play my very best there. I hope I can save some of my best for last.”
Although he has qualified earlier this year than last, he faces a heavy schedule before he heads back to London. It begins with the US Open in a week’s time and is followed by the Davis Cup semi-finals, where he and fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka continue the pursuit of their nation’s first victory.
Federer is also scheduled to play the two remaining Masters of the year in Shanghai and Paris, as well as his home tournament in Basel.
The race to the ATP World Tour Finals 2014
1. Novak Djokovic
2. Rafael Nadal
3. Roger Federer
Next in line (*aiming for debut appearance)
4. Stan Wawrinka
5. David Ferrer
6. Milos Raonic*
7. Grigor Dimitrov*
8. Tomas Berdych
9. Andy Murray
10. Kei Nishikori*
11. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
12. Ernests Gulbis*