Sunday, November 18, 2018

Roger Federer : 'It's been a historic season'

There was a lot on the line for Roger Federer at the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals. The Swiss had a chance to not only extend his record to seven titles at the season finale, but lift his 100th tour-level trophy, becoming just the second player to do so (Jimmy Connors, 109).

But Federer fell short in the semi-finals at The O2 on Saturday, losing against an impressive Alexander Zverev. Perhaps the fact that at 37, Federer had a chance to reach his 11th championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals speaks even louder than the disappointment of losing.

“I must tell you I'm very proud that at 37 I'm still so competitive and so happy playing tennis. From that standpoint, as disappointed as I might be about this match, if I take a step back, I'm actually very happy about the season,” Federer said. “It's been a historic season in some ways. Got back to World No. 1. For me, that was a huge moment in my life, to be honest, in my career because I never thought I would get there again.”

In January 2017, Federer fell to No. 17 in the ATP Rankings after missing six months due to a knee injury. The Swiss hadn’t been placed that low in more than 15 years. But Federer battled back, and this February, after winning the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament for the third time, he returned to the top of tennis’ proverbial mountain, becoming the oldest player to attain top spot and set the record for the longest period between stints as World No. 1

Throw in a 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and two more tour-level triumphs in addition to Rotterdam — in Stuttgart and Basel — and Federer still had a strong season, despite falling short in London.

“[Pete] Sampras once upon a time said, ‘If you win a Slam, it's a good season’. So [my season] started great. I played super well in Australia again. So obviously I can't wait to go back there in a couple of months,” said Federer, who finishes his year with a 48-10 record. “The second half of the season could have been better, maybe. I also have high hopes to always do well. So I'm happy I gave myself opportunities again in that second half of the season. I maybe lost a couple of too-close matches that could have changed things around for me a little bit.”

There was plenty of build-up surrounding the possibility of Federer claiming a historic 100th title at the prestigious season finale after claiming victory No. 99 at home in Basel. But Federer was quick to throw a light-hearted response back to a reporter who said after the Swiss’ loss to Zverev that, “you need 100 titles”.

“I don't need it, but go ahead,” Federer said with a smile. “I will breathe air also if I don't.”

Federer will still finish the year at No. 3 in the ATP Rankings, the 14th time he has ended a season inside the Top 3. Federer even made personal history in 2018 with a career-best 17-0 start before losing in the BNP Paribas Open final.

“Five years ago, where was I? I was probably fighting with back pain in '13, not sure if I was ever going to figure that back pain out again because I had it for almost probably four or five months of the season. It really rocked my tennis for a bit,” Federer admitted. “Here I am having actually a pretty good season physically, as well, won another Slam, got back to World No. 1. So, yes, you can see it as a very, very positive season. That's probably how I will look back on it, as well.”

If nothing else, Saturday’s defeat will serve as more motivation for Federer. He saw that he was once again in contention for one of the sport’s crowning jewels, the Nitto ATP Finals title. And now, Federer can begin the process of chasing after it once again.

“I'm here now. So I'm a little bit disappointed there because I believe I was close. Being close makes me believe I can keep going, I can win again. That's uplifting in some ways,” Federer said. “But because I know I could have won, I'm also disappointed because I aim high. From that standpoint, I'm a little bit disappointed now, which is normal. Overall I'm happy how the season went. There are many positives, to be quite honest. So I'm excited for next season.”

Did You Know?

Federer has now won four titles or more 14 times in his career. And at the Nitto ATP Finals, he has advanced to the semi-finals or better in 15 of his 16 appearances.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Roger Federer won't let No. 100 get in his head

Entering Thursday at the Nitto ATP Finals, there was a chance Roger Federer would fail to reach the semi-finals at the season finale for just the second time in 16 appearances. But one impressive straight-sets win against fourth seed Kevin Anderson later, and the 37-year-old is through round-robin play atop Group Lleyton Hewitt.

Suddenly, a major milestone is within reach. If Federer wins two more matches, he will lift his 100th tour-level trophy, with Jimmy Connors (109 titles) the only other player who has achieved the feat.

“Personally I'm still not thinking of the number, 100. I won't let that get in my head, make me go crazy because it should be something I'm excited about and not something I should feel extra pressure [to earn],” Federer said. “It's just going to be hard to finish it. I'm happy I gave myself the opportunity. I'm happy that I'm raising my level of play throughout this week. This is what I hope to do. It's exciting to be in this situation now, of course, no doubt.”

Just four days ago, the Swiss lost a round-robin match at the Nitto ATP Finals in straight sets for the first time, so he knows that he has to take it one step at a time. That is part of what makes this tournament so special; every match poses a major challenge.

“I think regardless of the numbers, this is a massive tournament for the players. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I've loved being part of the Tennis Masters Cup, today [the Nitto ATP] Finals,” Federer said. “I've always tried to pace myself in a way… that I would have something left in the tank, that I would peak at this event.”

And Federer has gotten better with every match at The O2 in 2018. After an exchange of breaks in the first set against tournament debutant Anderson, Federer used his backhand slice well to throw off the game of the South African, who had not faced break point in the entire event. Federer broke him four times.

“I'm feeling great,” Federer said. “I'm very happy that I still have energy left in the tank. Mentally, I feel fresh.”

And Federer’s secret sauce continues to work. The second seed took a day off of practice after losing to Kei Nishikori on Sunday. And that strategy has not failed him since.

“Look, I'm a big believer in vacation. I'm a big believer in taking time off sometimes. When I go to work, I go hard, I go the right way, I go professional about it with my team,” Federer said. “I didn't think of taking a day off, to be honest, after the Nishikori match. I thought, ‘What are we going to do? Where are we going to train?’”

But Federer’s team suggested taking a day off, and the Swiss heeded their advice. He did not practice on Wednesday after beating Dominic Thiem on Tuesday, and Federer says he doubts he will hit balls on Friday. Why change something if it’s not broken?

“It's one of the first times I've done it like that,” Federer said. “I'm happy it's paying off so far. But I’ve got to be very, very focused the moment I step on court for the practice, the warm-up. I think that's key, as well.”

And Federer will look to remain focused regardless of his opponent in the semi-finals. Novak Djokovic leads Group Guga Kuerten after two matches, with Marin Cilic, John Isner and Alexander Zverev still hoping to advance. Federer, this year’s Australian Open, Rotterdam, Stuttgart and Basel titlist, is now 57-14 at the Nitto ATP Finals. And while he’s triumphed at the tournament six times, the Swiss seeks his first victory since 2011.

“I'm happy that this is another week like this. Didn't look like it maybe 72 hours ago,” Federer said. “But I was able to come back and play good tennis.”

Sadly he lost against Zvarev, but Zvarev played well so I hope he can beat Djokovic though a big part of me highly doubts it.  

It's too bad Roger's final tournament of the season ended on a loss. 

But he'll have plenty of chances to get #100 next year, maybe even at Aussie Open. 

Rest up Roger, see you in 2019.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Roger Federer gets his revenge on Anderson reaches semis at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer walked onto Centre Court at The O2 on Thursday knowing he needed a strong performance if he wanted to advance to the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals for the 15th time.

And Federer responded in a big way, defeating fourth seed Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3 to not only guarantee that he would move on to the last four in London, but that he would win Group Lleyton Hewitt with a 2-1 record.

The week might not have started off well for the 37-year-old Swiss, who shockingly fell in his opening match against Kei Nishikori in straight sets, the first time he has fallen in two sets at the event in round-robin play. But Federer bounced back to beat Dominic Thiem and now Anderson without dropping a set.

"We’re used to you lose, you leave and you don’t hang around. So from that standpoint, I think it was more straightforward for me today," Federer said on court after his win. "I’ve always wanted to go out with a bang today and win the match. If I go through, great, if I don’t well I don’t deserve to be through and that’s okay, too. I’m happy I’m still alive."

Federer came out focused early against Anderson, who was 2-0 in his Nitto ATP Finals debut, breaking first. But the second seed played a sloppy service game and struggled to pinpoint his serve like usual to give that break back.

From there, though, Federer locked down his game, and did well to win 68 per cent of second-serve return points against the big-serving Anderson to triumph in 77 minutes. The 99-time tour-level champion did everything in his power to keep Anderson from getting in a rhythm, hitting dagger-like backhand slices short in the court to elicit mishits from his opponent, and to bring Anderson into the net without the 6'8" right-hander necessarily wanting to journey into the forecourt.

"Unfortunately I had a rocky service game myself after that [first service break. I didn't let that frustrate me or disappoint me. I kept on plugging away, kept on trying," Federer said. "I think my attitude was good today. I think I had an aggressive playing mindset, a good variation as well with my slice. I think it was just a good match from my side."

With Thiem’s victory over Nishikori in straight sets earlier in the day, Anderson was already guaranteed to become the first South African to move into the semi-finals at the season finale since the tournament began in 1970. So Federer will face the second-placed competitor in Group Guga Kuerten, while Anderson will clash against that group’s winner.

"I’m very happy. First match was tough against Kei, never got going. And with the back against the wall, maybe it’s easier for me to play, I’m not sure. But I fought hard," Federer said. "In the end, I played some good tennis today and I’m very happy. Kevin’s had a wonderful year, and so have the other two guys. It’s been a fun group, with many different kinds of players in the group. I’m thrilled. Thanks for the support, of course, and I’m excited to be in the semis."

The win is even sweeter for the Swiss, as Anderson came from two sets and a match point down against Federer in this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals to earn perhaps the biggest win of his career en route to the final at SW19. Federer now leads Anderson 5-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

Did You Know?

Federer broke Anderson four times in the match. The South African had not faced a break point in his first two matches at the season finale.

Looks like just like in Paris Roger is getting better with each match. 

I think he may need to play more matches before tournaments to help him fine tune things. 

But I guess we'll see next year, he does tend the start the year off strong. 

It could have just been that he really wanted to prove a point vs Anderson over his Wimbledon loss.

Saturday's match against Zvarev should be an interesting one. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Agnieszka Radwanska announces retirement from professional tennis

Former World No.2 Agnieszka Radwanska has announced her retirement from professional tennis.

In a statement, the Pole said: "I'd like to share with you one of the most important decisions of my life. Today, after 13 years of playing tennis competitively, I have decided to end my career. This was not an easy decision. I am grateful to have so many special memories, including 20 WTA titles, the WTA Championships in Singapore, a Wimbledon final, and so many others.

"Unfortunately I am no longer able to train and play the way I used to, and recently my body can't live up to my expectations. Taking into consideration my health and the heavy burdens of professional tennis, I have to concede that I’m not able to push my body to the limits required."

Radwanska was the first Polish player to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open Era, and the first to win the WTA Finals. She was also voted the WTA Fan Favorite for six consecutive years.

She thanked her family and support team, and added: "I’m hanging the racquet up and say goodbye to the pro tour, but I’m not leaving tennis. Tennis is and always has been special in my life. But now it’s time for new challenges, new ideas, equally as exciting as those on the tennis court, I hope.

"Throughout my career, I always did my best to represent my country in the best possible way. I hope that my tennis matches were the source of emotions and joy for you all. Your support, warm words and faith in me were with me in every single match I played and this is what I’m thankful for. Thank you for every sleepless night in front of the TV and all those Fan Favorite awards – that was the biggest honour and best reward for my hard work. I am truly grateful for having the best and most loyal fans in all of tennis."

In all, Radwanska won 20 career WTA singles titles. In addition to her Wimbledon exploits, she reached the semifinals of the Australian Open twice, the quarterfinals of the French Open once, and also regularly featured in the second week of the US Open.

“Congratulations to Agnieszka on an outstanding career,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “Agnieszka embodies the qualities that make a true champion, on the court delivering world class performances and incredible displays of athleticism, and off the court with her poise, professionalism and support for her fellow players. Agnieszka leaves a legacy on the game across the globe and on behalf of the WTA, she will truly be missed.”

Tennis will not be the same without you Aga, every match was always exciting to watch just for the sheer amount of incredible shots.  

There's a reason why the media dubbed you the Polish Ninja. Not only is this a huge loss for the sport of tennis itself, but for Polish tennis in particular. 

I think it's going to be a while before we have another player that can reach the elite level the way she did.  

Aga has always been compared to Martina Hingis for her similar style when it comes to net play, which is the biggest complement one can receive when it comes to the sport.  

With both of them retired now, I hope the new generation of players that come along adapt some of those same play qualities. It would be a real shame if that got completely lost.

Thank you for 13 years of  outstanding athleticism, and for representing your country with absolute grace and respect, you will be sorely missed on the WTA tour.  All the best in the new chapter ahead. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Players defend Roger Federer over Julien Benneteau's unfair advantage claims

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic leapt to the defence of great rival Roger Federer on Tuesday (AEDT) after claims that the Swiss enjoys preferential treatment on Tour.

Frenchman Julien Benneteau caused a stir during an interview on French radio station RMC Sport on Monday in which he said tournament referees were often kinder to Federer when it came to scheduling his matches.

Benneteau was particularly referring to the Australian Open where he said 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer played “12 or 13” of his 14 matches at Melbourne in the past two years at night, so avoiding the often scorching temperatures.

He also suggested Federer’s Laver Cup project, an exhibition team event in which Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley is also involved, represented a conflict of interest.

“When he [Federer] promotes the Laver Cup, there are a number of conflicts of interest that have become disturbing,” Benneteau said.

“In the organisation of this event, there’s Craig Tiley, the boss of the Australian Open, who deals with marketing and television rights. He is paid by Roger Federer’s agent and, on the back of that, as luck would have it, Federer played 12 of his 14 matches at 7.30pm.”

Asked for his thoughts after his round-robin victory over American John Isner at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, Djokovic said Federer had earned the right for special treatment.

“In the end of the day, in a way he deserves the special treatment because he’s six-time champion of Australian Open and arguably the best player ever,” Djokovic told reporters.

“If he doesn’t have it, who is going to have it? People want to see him play on the centre court, and they want to see him play in showtime, the best hours, which is 7:30 at night in Rod Laver Arena.

Asked for his thoughts after his round-robin victory over American John Isner at the ATP Finals on Tuesday, Djokovic said Federer had earned the right for special treatment.

“I understand Julien’s point because sometimes it does seem that maybe certain players get more favoured year after year in certain tournaments. On the other side, you have to understand that Federer is a driving force of tennis in terms of revenue, in terms of attention.

“Julien and guys like him are also benefiting from tennis, because of Roger, because of what he has done for the sport.”

Isner went even further, saying the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal should get even more privileges.

“If anything, maybe they should get more special treatment because those guys, the top players, have made other players below them a lot of money,” the American said after his 6-4 6-3 defeat.

“It is like the Tiger Woods effect in golf. So that is how you can look at a guy like Roger. He is men’s tennis in my opinion. He deserves everything and more that he’s ever had.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Roger Federer stays alive at ATP World Tour Finals defeating Thiem in straights

On a one-sided day of competition in London, Roger Federer and Kevin Anderson win in straight sets – meaning everyone in the Lleyton Hewitt Group is still in the hunt for the semifinals.

Roger Federer shook off a rusty performance in his first match at the ATP Finals by beating Dominic Thiem in straight sets in his second outing in London on Tuesday.

The Swiss star brushed Thiem aside in just 66 minutes, winning 6-2 6-3 to get his campaign back on track.

The victory followed Kevin Anderson’s 6-0 6-1 thumping of Kei Nishikori, a result that saw Anderson head the Lleyton Hewitt Group standings with two-straight-sets victories. All four players remain in contention for the semifinals

Lleyton Hewitt Group

1Kevin Anderson2-04-025-10
2Roger Federer1-12-221-18
3Kei Nishikori1-12-214-21
4Dominic Thiem0-20-414-25

It also continued a streak of one-sided matches at the season-ending event; not one of the six round-robin matches played so far in London have extended to three sets.

“Amongst the best (matches) I’ve played. I felt I did a fantastic job throughout really,” said Anderson, who next plays Federer.

Nishikori beat an error-strewn Federer on the first day of the ATP Finals, but in his second outing he could not content with Anderson, who landed 78 per cent of his first serves, smacked 10 aces and did offer up a break point during the 64-minute rout.

The Japanese hastened his own demise with 24 unforced errors – including 15 from his forehand alone.

Still, it wasn’t as many unforced errors as what Thiem produced.

The Austrian managed just 11 winners while spraying 34 errors in his first match against Federer in two years. He won just three of his 11 points at net, and like Nishikori was unable to earn a break point at any stage of the match.

Federer appeared much sharper than in his first match, dominating on serve and landing 80 per cent of his returns to neutralise Thiem’s delivery.

“It feels good, I’m very happy I showed a reaction after the last match against Kei,” Federer said.

“No match is easy here and it’s not something I’m used to, losing and then coming back and playing again, but it’s a great challenge and I’m happy with my attitude and how I played.”

His attention now turns to Anderson, whom he lost to in their most recent meeting in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

“I hope it’s not a match like Kevin played this afternoon,” Federer said. “It’s never easy to play against him, especially indoors. He deserved that win at Wimbledon but hopefully I’ll get my revenge.”

Anderson simply needs to win a set off Federer to secure his place in the semifinals.

The only way his misses out is if he loses in straight sets and Nishikori wins in straight – and even then he could qualify if the group standings require a count of games won and loss to determine the semifinalists.

Roger Federer cancels practice ahead of Thiem clash at ATP World Tour Finals

Federer was due to prepare for his meeting with Dominic Thiem tomorrow at Queen's Club in west London.

The Swiss star has opted to use the ATP 500 grass courts, despite the ATP Finals taking place on a hard court.

But after storming away from the O2 Arena last night in a foul mood following his shock defeat to Kei Nishikori, the world No 3 cancelled his practice session.

Federer had moaned about not finding a practice court with similar conditions to the match court after his opening-round defeat.

"I've been feeling, I mean, fine. It's just that practice has been a bit all over the place," Federer said.

"I practised in Queen's, practised on the outside courts here, then centre as well. So it's not always exactly the same conditions."

Federer has once again been handed the evening slot tomorrow so he will clash with Thiem at 8pm.

A defeat will likely spell the end of his campaign with one round-robin match remaining.

"I've been feeling, I mean, fine. It's just that practice has been a bit all over the place," Federer said.

"I practised in Queen's, practised on the outside courts here, then centre as well. So it's not always exactly the same conditions."

Federer has once again been handed the evening slot tomorrow so he will clash with Thiem at 8pm.

A defeat will likely spell the end of his campaign with one round-robin match remaining.

The court is very weird," said Zverev.

"When you hit it flat and hard like Cilic does, the court is very fast.

"When you hit it with more topspin, the court takes it away and it bounces up.

"It's more different than other tournaments. For me, it is pretty quick.

"Also Roger wants to play on the fastest court possible, I guess (smiling)."

This does not bode well, I guess we'll see tomorrow, but this is definitely not good. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Roger Federer loses 1st round of round robin in straight sets at ATP World Tour Finals

Seventh seed Kei Nishikori defeated six-time former champion Roger Federer 7-6(4), 6-3 on Sunday night at the Nitto ATP Finals. Nishikori, who is a two-time semi-finalist at the season finale held at The O2 in London, had not beaten Federer since March 2014 in Miami.

Nishikori required 88 minutes to wrap up the Group Lleyton Hewitt round-robin match. It marked his 43rd match win of the season, which includes three runner-up finishes at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Nadal), the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 (l. to Medvedev) and the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna (l. to Anderson.

Nishikori dropped to 0/30 when serving at 5-6, but trusted his technique and attacked Federer’s backhand to work his way back to level terms with a net approach and half volley backhand on the stretch. Nishikori shut the door closed and in the tie-break won six of the first seven points to put pressure on Federer. The second seed recovered to 4/6, however Federer struck a forehand in the net to end the 51-minute opener.

The pair exchanged service breaks at the beginning of the second set, then Nishikori broke Federer’s serve for a 4-2 advantage when aggressive play from the baseline once again reaped dividends.

Federer, who has now competed at the year-end championships 16 times, lifted the trophy in 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11. He drops to a 46-9 match record on the season.

“I felt we both struggled throughout the first set,” said Federer. “I had my chances maybe a bit more than he did. Then I started to feel better in the second set. I think we both did. The level went up. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the lead that I got early. That was important, I think, at the end. That was the key of the match, that sort of - I guess – [a] 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe 1-1 in the second.”

Federer will next play sixth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem on Tuesday in the round-robin group. Thiem lost to first-time qualifier and fourth seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa during the afternoon.

The up and down performances of 2018 continue, this was probably his worst one, or 2nd worst one after Wimbledon.  Paris was his best (even though he also lost), this was definitely his worst.  

He was looking all kinds of uncomfortable and unhappy, it wasn't the Roger we know and love that's for sure.

Neither player was particularly impressive in this one to be honest, but Nishikori did just enough in the end by cleaning up his unforced errors.   

It's the first time in years that he's lost the opening round of round robin at this tournament in straight sets (and 46 previous victories). So things will only be harder now. 

But I'm holding on to hope that he'll find a way to bounce back against Thiem on Tuesday.