Roger Federer at 2018 ATP World Tour Finals: Preview and Prediction
The year-end ATP World Tour Finals, historically known as Masters Grand Prix, ATP Tour World Championships and Tennis Masters Cup at different times, is often referred to as the fifth Grand Slam of the year. Indeed, both in terms of prestige and ranking points involved, it is just a notch below the Grand Slams and a notch above the Masters 1000 tournaments.
At present, Roger Federer holds the record of winning the most number of singles titles with six. He has reached the finals a whopping 10 times and has won six of those. He won his first World Tour Final in Houston in 2003, when he defeated Andre Agassi in three straight sets. This was a period when the finals were best of five affairs.
The very next year, he won his second title, defeating Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets, in a final that was reduced to a best of three match, due to rain. He reached his third straight finals in 2005, this time in Shanghai, but lost to David Nalbandian in a five-set encounter, after winning the first two sets in tie-breakers.
But he was the champion again the next year, when he defeated James Blake in three easy sets. He reached his fifth successive final in 2007 and defeated David Ferrer in another straight set affair. He could not reach the finals the next two years.
But when he reached his next final in 2010 in London, the final was no longer a best of five set affair, but best of three sets. He met Rafael Nadal in that year’s final and beat him in three sets.
In 2011, Federer defeated Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in a tight three-set encounter to lift a record sixth World Tour Finals Championship. After that, he has reached three more finals, only to finish second best to Novak Djokovic on all those occasions, including a walkover in 2014. The last time he reached the final was in 2015 where he lost to Novak in straight sets.
In all likelihood, if he is to win one more title at the year-end tournament, he may have to cross swords with Novak this time too. But before he could entertain the thought of putting one across his nemesis, he would have to contend with three great players who are part of his group – Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori.
He has a 4-1 head to head record against the world number 6 Kevin Anderson. But his only loss came this year in the all-important quarter-final of the Wimbledon Championships, where he gave up a commanding two-set lead to lose that match. But with the kind of form he is in now, it’s difficult to see him losing to Kevin this time round.
But surprisingly, Federer has a losing head to record against the world number 8, Dominic Thiem. He has won one and lost two matches to Thiem, including one on grass! But all of their three matches came in 2016, when Federer was admittedly going through an extended lean patch. The Swiss Maestro should be able to easily put it across Thiem in London.
Kei Nishikori is the other player in the group and Federer has a commanding 7-2 win-loss record against the Japanese. In fact, he has won six straight matches against him, dating back to 2014, and a seventh straight victory is very much on the cards.
Federer is the overwhelming favourite to win the Lleyton Hewitt group. He will then meet the second-placed player in the other group in the semi-final, which could be anyone from that group not named Novak Djokovic. He should be able to wade through that challenge, on current form.
And if it indeed comes down to a Federer–Djokovic final, on the evidence of their Paris Masters 2018 semi-final match, it’s going to be another mouth-watering clash, and the margin between victory and defeat will be razor-thin.
Federer will top the Lleyton Hewitt Group
Semi Final: Federer defeats Zverev in straight sets
Final: Federer defeats Djokovic in 3 sets