Roger Federer Wins 5th ATP Champions Title
November 28, 2010 -- Roger Federer silenced the skeptics with a decisive victory over nemesis and world's number one Rafael Nadal today at the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
This is Federer's fifth year-ending title, and the fourth as the undefeated champion. The last time he won this prestigious title was 2007. He lost last year to the eventual champion, Nikolay Davydenko, in the semifinals.
Nadal and Federer came in to today's final without having dropped a match. Federer had a perfect score in the round robin segment; he didn't lose one set. Nadal had two tough three-set matches: one against Andy Roddick and the three-hour marathon against Andy Murray yesterday in the semifinals.
This is only the second time since 1986 that the top two ranked players have reached the season ending final. That year, Ivan Lendl defeated Boris Becker.
Last year Nadal didn't win one set at the O2 Arena and today he played in his first final. He didn't hoist the big silver trophy; however, he made it quite clear that some day he could. Nadal had his best year of tennis so far in his young career, winning three consecutive major titles. The last time Federer won a major final against Nadal was in 2007 at Wimbledon.
However after Federer's disappointing loss to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the U. S. Open, his record improved to 21-2, including today's victory. He has played a lot of matches since New York and joined forces with Pete Sampras's former coach, Paul Annacone.
Federer, being a man of tennis tradition, seems to have met the perfect person in Annacone to walk alongside, as the best player of record -- 16 major titles -- approaches his 30th birthday next summer. Millions of tennis balls will fly over the nets of the world between then and now; however, Federer demonstrated raw power, risk, and a steady positive attitude to come through against the man who holds the edge in head-to-head competition: 14-8, including today's result.
Both men won their opening games at love. As the set unfolded, Federer debuted his new backhand. Well, not a completely new backhand. He didn't grab his trusty Wilson with two hands, but he solidly connected with the high loopy backhands Nadal has continually punished Roger with over their seven-year rivalry.
Nadal did the same today. Just under 100% of his serves attacked Federer's backhand. However, Federer hung with him. He didn't back up. He hit with conviction and won points that would have gone against him a year ago. The most notable was the angry cross-court backhand winner that gave him the break in the first set.
If Federer can hit that one shot -- and win points like he did today -- on this court, which has a relatively low bounce, then he might repeat it on red clay, which can have a high bounce in the right weather conditions. If Federer and Nadal meet in the final of Roland Garros, again, and this is a long-sighted and -winded projection, Federer has a better chance of seriously challenging Nadal's chokehold on the terre bateau.
Federer's second best weapon today was his serve. In the first set he won 15 out of 15 points on first serves. In the final set, he won 15 out of 18 points on first serves. Only in the second set did that percentage drop. It was the one set he lost, too.
"I always believed in a plan from start to finish," Federer said. "I always stayed true to how I wanted to play. Even though I lost the second set, I'm really happy the way I stayed positive throughout the match."
From the first strike of the ball no one doubted Federer's aggressive stance. Any time he received a second serve he went for a clean winner or at least a shot that would put him at an advantageous court position. He missed many of these returns, which gave Nadal a high percentage of points won on second serves. However, Federer didn't want to hang out at the baseline and do battle with the man who can roll the ball better than anyone.
The third set was the highlight of the week for diehard Fed fans and an unraveling of nerves for Nadal fans. They both dug deep, but Federer's game surpassed anything Nadal could muster.
With a 40-15 lead in the fourth game, Federer danced to a finely tuned melody only he can locate on his internal satellite radio. And again his backhand struck a masterful cord. When Nadal pushed a routine down-the-line forehand wide, the break was Federer's.
"He played unbelievable," Nadal said. "He was unplayable I think in the first set. I tried my best this afternoon, but he was better than me."
From that moment forward, Federer risked more and more, as Nadal's game broke down. Federer's first serve remained steady. He served and volleyed. He broke Nadal's belief of dominance. This was key. Had Federer not consolidated his break, Nadal could have been right back at it.
Federer broke for the second time at 1/4. As he served for the championships, the points went like this:
Ace - score: 15/0
Serve and volley - score: 30/0
Serve and volley - score: 40/0
Serve and volley off second serve - score: 40/15
Short rally, winning shot a loopy (like Nadal loopy) forehand winner to the corner deuce court pocket.
For a moment everyone stopped. Was the ball good? Without a challenge from Nadal, the call stood and Federer beamed. Scoreline: 63 36 61.
Roger Federer now has 66 career titles on his resume. In order to reach today's sixty-sixth, Federer had to play with a high level of consistency the entire week. Each match was a test against one of eight top players, a tall order for all the participants.
Nadal demonstrated to the packed audience why he won this year's Stephan Edberg Award for Sportsmanship when he spoke directly to Federer, during the awards presentation. "You played unbelievable during the week, so well done for everything."
Federer pocketed the maximum payout in prize money, U S $1,630,000, having been undefeated throughout the week. He also earned 1,500 ranking points. It's not enough to catch Nadal in the rankings. The top spot remains the Spaniard's.