Federer plans renewed title challenge after London win

Roger Federer believes his record sixth title at the ATP World Tour Finals will be the ideal springboard to end his Grand Slam drought in 2012.

Federer has finished the season without a Grand Slam for the first time since 2002, but the Swiss star will go into the new campaign on the back of a 17-match winning run that brought him trophies in Basel, Paris and at the prestigious end-of-year event at London’s O2 Arena.

Although the 30-year-old has been written off as a fading force after his barren run in the Grand Slams, Federer gave one of the performances of his life to demolish Rafael Nadal in the group stages at the Tour Finals before holding off a spirited challenge from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the final 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion — who last won a major at the 2010 Australian Open — is adamant this week’s work in south-east London is conclusive proof he can still compete with the best in the latter stages of his career.

“I felt like I played great during these last few weeks and it gives me a lot of confidence for next year,” said Federer after capturing his 70th career title in his 100th final.

“But regardless of how it went here, I would have been in a good state of mind for next year. And I think that counts for all the other top guys as well.

“For me, it was the strongest finish I’ve ever had in my career, which I’m very proud of. I’m looking forward to next year.

“Sure, to win Grand Slams would be nice. I’ve missed out on a few occasions now this year, and maybe also some last year. So I feel like it might be around the corner. Maybe not. The other players obviously have a role to play in this.”

Federer knows that his main threats for the big prizes next year will likely be the familiar trio of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

“Novak was the Player of the Year, which goes without saying. A guy who can win 40 matches in a row from the start of the season completely deserves it,” Federer said.

“I thought Andy played a very good season this year, he’s going to be very tough to beat next year. And Rafa, with his class, he’s always going to be a threat for the throne and to win all the big tournaments.”

London has been a happy hunting ground for Federer, who has won six Wimbledon crowns and now back-to-back successes in the Tour Finals.

And with the Olympic tennis tournament being played at Wimbledon next year, Federer will be favourite to claim a first gold medal.

“I’m looking forward to coming back to London hopefully on three occasions next year,” he said.

“It would be unfair to the other tournaments to pick London Olympic Games as my number one priority because I have priorities first before that.

“But I clearly don’t want to miss it and I hope to be healthy when the Olympics do come around.”

With more titles already on his CV than almost anyone who has ever played the game, it would be easy for Federer to lose his appetite for success, but he insists he remains as driven as ever.

“I don’t go through phases where I feel like I want to play 10 more years and then only six more months. I always look ahead one and a half to two years, and that’s still the same right now,” he said.

“I love this game more than anybody, so I’m not all of a sudden going to wake up in the morning and say I don’t like it anymore.

“It’s a lot of sacrifice but I do enjoy that because what I get in return is moments like this with my team, with my family.

“It’s priceless really. So for this reason I’m very excited for next year.”

Despite the disappointment of ending the campaign with such a dramatic defeat, Tsonga acknowledged that he has enjoyed the most consistent season of his career.

“My biggest achievement was becoming more consistent in my head and that’s why I was good this year,” Tsonga said.

“But I lost a bit physically so I need to improve again. I have to work hard for my body to be quicker on the court.”

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Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his "highest level" after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?
Is it the end of the line for Roger? Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule. Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men's Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer's mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain's Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II. Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

'Golden' ambitions

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer's last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.