Roger Federer: Road to the 2011 ATP Championship in London
Roger Federer finally won the BNP Paribas Masters after nine tries this past weekend. In fact, 2011 marked the first time the Swiss even reached the finals in this Master’s event.
Nonetheless, on Sunday, the Swiss defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to take the title, winning his 18th Master’s Shield. The win marked Federer’s second in a row, having just won his hometown tournament in Basel the week before.
Does this sudden momentum shift mean that Federer will become the favorite to win his sixth ATP World Tour Final in London starting next week?
The ATP Masters year-end tournament, first played in 1970, features the top eight players on the men’s tour, selected based on accumulated calendar year ATP ranking points.
The top eight men draw to create two teams with members of each four-man team competing with each other in three round-robin matches.
From each group, the two players with the best results move onto the semifinals, where the top-ranked player from each group plays the second-ranked player from the other group.
The final is contested by the winners of the semifinal contests. For his efforts, the overall winner reaps 1500 ranking points as well as the honor and prestige of winning in a field comprised of the eight best tennis players in the world.
Last year’s champion was Roger Federer, who won the tournament for the fifth time in his long, illustrious career. That moved the Swiss into a tie with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl, who each have five wins. Will 2011 give Federer his sixth ATP World Tour Finals Championship?
Let us review how Federer arrived at a chance for win number six.
Year One: 2003
Roger Federer first qualified for the the ATP year-end tournament in 2002. The Swiss lost to the eventual champion Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals.
In 2003, however, Federer would take that last step into the championship circle. The tournament had moved from Shanghai to Houston in November of 2003—eight years ago.
Federer was a member of the Blue Group, along with Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andre Agassi and David Nalbandian. The Red Group included Andy Roddick, Guillermo Coria, Rainer Schuettler and Carlos Moya.
At the conclusion of the round-robin portion of the tournament, Federer faced Roddick, while Agassi met Schuettler in the semifinals.
Federer and Agassi advanced to the finals, where Federer defeated Agassi 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 in a best of five final. Rain delayed action on court, but did not slow down Federer, as he went on to dominate Agassi in the American’s final appearance in this event.
During the week-long tournament, Federer was never defeated, finishing the event with a 5-0 record. The Swiss would end the year ranked world No. 2.
Year Two: 2004
2004 was an amazing year for Federer, who would end the year with single-digit losses—going 76-6 while winning 11 titles. Plus he was the reigning world No. 1 player.
Once again traveling to Houston, Federer qualified for the annual ATP year-end tournament, where the Swiss was drawn into the Red Group with Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Gaston Gaudio. The Blue Group included Andy Roddick, Marat Safin, Guillermo Coria and Tim Henman.
At the conclusion of the round-robin contests, Lleyton Hewitt faced Andy Roddick in the semifinals, while Federer met Marat Safin. In the final Federer would do battle with his old nemesis Hewitt.
After the dust settled, Federer had outpaced his opponent 6-3, 6-2, winning his second consecutive year-end championship. Once again, facing a rain-delayed final, tournament officials ended the match as a best of three instead of playing the traditional best of five format.
For the second year in a row, the Swiss marched through the top-eight field without losing a match—ending with a 5-0 record.
Year Three: 2006
After losing in the ATP 2005 Finals in Houston to David Nalbandian 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6, Federer was back in 2006—but in Shanghai once again.
Advancing to the semifinals in 2006, Roger Federer faced Rafael Nadal in one match, while James Blake faced David Nalbandian in the other. In the finals, Federer defeated American James Blake 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.
Again, Federer did not lose a match, ending his campaign at 5-0.
Year Four: 2007
November of 2007 found the ATP elite eight gathered again in Shanghai, competing for the ATP year-end championship.
In the semifinals, Roger Federer defeated Nadal 6-4, 6-1 while David Ferrer upended Andy Roddick 6-1, 6-3.
In the finals, Federer defeated Ferrer 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to collect another ATP Championship title.
Federer did not go 5-0 that year, as he was defeated by Gonzalez in their opening round-robin match. But the Swiss did go on to win the tournament for the fourth time in his career.
Year Five: 2010
In 2008 Federer failed to make it out of the round-robin, defeated by Gilles Simon of France and Andy Murray of Great Britain. It was the first time Federer had not made the semifinals since 2002.
In 2009 Federer again made the semifinals, but was defeated by Russian Nikolay Davydenko, who went on to win the tournament, overcoming Juan Martin del Potro in the final.
But in 2010, events returned to normal in the ATP year-end championship, now being played in London.
In November, Federer was drawn into Group B along with Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer. The A Group contained Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick.
In the semifinals, Federer defeated Djokovic 6-1, 6-4, while Rafael Nadal won over Andy Murray 7-6, 3-6, 7-6.
In the final, the Swiss defeated Nadal 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
It was Federer’s fifth ATP year-end championship, tying him with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. It also marked Federer’s fourth time getting through the tournament undefeated.
Year Six: 2011?
Tied for the No. 1 spot for the most wins in the history of this tournament, Roger Federer is one of five active players who have won this tournament. Lleyton Hewitt has won it twice, while Nikolay Davydenko, Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian have each won the year-end title once.
Federer, however, has dominated this tournament, appearing in five consecutive finals from 2003-2007 and winning four of them.
To date, Federer ranks fourth in all-time match wins, at 34-7, with the No. 2 ranking in winning percentage at .829, behind Ilie Nastase at .885. Federer is tied for first place with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl for number of titles, with five.
Federer has qualified 10 times for the tournament, sitting directly behind Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras, who each qualified 11 times. Andre Agassi leads with 14 appearances, followed by Ivan Lendl, who played in 12 ATP year-end championships.
The Swiss has earned an appearance in the tournament every year from 2002-2011.
Federer is one of three men who has won the tournament without a defeat. While Michael Stich did it in 1993 and Lleyton Hewitt in 2001, Federer accomplished the feat four times, in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
The Swiss, along with Ivan Lendl, has won back-to-back titles twice. He is tied with Nastase for second most consecutive finals at five.
The question for many is will Federer be able to win his sixth title in 2011 and take the lead over Sampras and Lendl?