Roger Federer is the oldest man in the top 20 of the tennis rankings, yet he continues to set records.
The 30-year-old Swiss beat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 for a record sixth title at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 arena yesterday.
It was Federer’s 70th tournament victory in 100 career finals. He’s the oldest man to win the year-end title since Ilie Nastase in 1975 and, although he turned pro in 1998, he says he’s not done yet.
“It feels very special,” Federer said in a news conference after he won the match with a forehand volley. “This definitely is an amazing finish again to the season. I’ve never finished so strong. I thought I played well.”
Tsonga, 26, agreed.
“He’s the best player indoors for the moment, he’s maybe the best player ever, because he’s really quick,” Tsonga said. “He’s playing well. That’s it.”
The Frenchman produced 37 winners, seven more than Federer. The Swiss made 26 unforced errors, 15 fewer than his opponent.
Federer’s younger rivals in the top four failed to make it to the weekend in London. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia, world No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain and third-ranked Andy Murray of Britain all left in the group stages of the tournament for the top eight singles players in the world.
Djokovic, 24, told reporters he was mentally and physically tired at the end of a long season during which he won three majors and took the No. 1 spot. Nadal, 25, said he had lost some of his “passion” for the sport following a tough season during which he won one major, the French Open. Murray, 24, withdrew after his opening round with a groin strain.
Federer said he’d benefited from a six-week break after the U.S. Open in September to overcome some “doubts” in his mind after three close defeats.
The Swiss lost in the final of the French Open to Nadal, squandered a two-set lead in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon against Tsonga and failed to beat Djokovic in the semifinals of the U.S. Open despite having two match points.
“Jo played better than me at Wimbledon,” Federer said. “Maybe not much, but enough just to come through. Same as Rafa at the French Open in the finals, Novak in the semis of the U.S. Open. It’s fine to respect that. But I feel when it happens maybe that often, I do have to question myself that maybe I did something wrong. I’m mentally good right now.”
The fourth-ranked Federer will move back to No. 3 in the rankings today. His win over Tsonga extends his win streak since the U.S. Open to 17 matches and includes tournament titles in Basel, Switzerland, Paris and now London.
Federer still has a shot at winning one of the four majors, according to former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker.
Unlike the ATP Tour Finals, the four Grand Slam events are played outdoors and in a best-of-five format, instead of best-of-three. Federer’s victory over Tsonga yesterday follows a season during which he failed to win a major title for the first time since 2002. He won the last of a men’s record-extending 16th Grand Slam singles title at the 2010 Australian Open.
“If the circumstances are right and he gets a bit of luck on his side, he can do it,” Becker said in an interview in London shortly before the ATP Finals.
“Yes, times are tougher, he’s no longer 25,” said the German. “You have more young players coming up and challenging his position. But he’s so talented and he’s got so much quality, that I think as long as he wants to play and he’s motivated and inspired, as long as he picks up a racket, he’s got a chance to win a Grand Slam.”
Federer said a major title “might be around the corner.”
“Sure, to win Grand Slams would be nice,” he said. “I’ve missed out on a few occasions now this year, and maybe also some last year.”
His offensive playing style may have helped him prolong his career, he said.
“My body, even if it’s injured, it can still play really well, whereas maybe other players, if they are injured, it doesn’t work anymore,” Federer told reporters after he handed Nadal his worst defeat in 26 meetings in their group match.
“But that’s because I play offensively, and I think that’s an advantage, too. Many matches in my career I’ve played hurt, as well, but was able to somehow find a way to at least compete or sometimes even to win.”