Belfast Telegraph

Roger Federer keen to end year on a high

by Paul Newman

Two autumns ago in Shanghai, Andy Roddick was asked what he thought about Roger Federer's “average year”, in which the Swiss had won the US Open and reached two other Grand Slam finals.

“All I know is that if someone calls Roger ‘average' they had better be really, really, good at what they do,” Roddick said.

“People saying that has been pissing me off all year. I don't know what else the guy needs to do to get the respect that he deserves. I'll take his average year any time.”

With the world's top eight men heading for London's O2 Arena, where the year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals begin this Sunday, the question will no doubt be posed again.

Almost any player in history would have settled for Federer's 2010 season, which he will end as world No 2 after winning one Grand Slam tournament, reaching the semi-finals of two others and the quarter-finals of the fourth.

However, when you have won more Grand Slam singles titles (16) and more prize money ($58.4m or £36.7m) than any other man, you are not expected to lose to opponents like Ernests Gulbis and Albert Montanes, as Federer did in Rome and Estoril respectively this year.

Having beaten Andy Murray at the start of this year in the final of the Australian Open, when he reckons he played some of the best tennis of his life, Federer saw his record run of 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals end when he lost in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros to Soderling, a player he had beaten 12 times in a row.

At Wimbledon Federer nearly went out in the first round to Colombia's Alejandro Falla, who won the first two sets, before his run of seven successive finals at the All England Club was ended in the semi-finals by Berdych. Djokovic's victory at the same stage of the US Open ended his sequence of six consecutive appearances in the final at Flushing Meadows.

If Federer is concerned that his days of domination might be over he is not letting on. As the Swiss sat back in a chair in the players' lounge at last week's Paris Masters, he insisted that 2010 had been a good year, one that could have been better but for a handful of “wasted opportunities”.

Federer said: “I had match points in Miami [lost to Berdych], in Indian Wells [lost to Baghdatis] and at the US Open [lost to Djokovic].

“At Halle [lost to Hewitt] I was up 6-3, 4-4 and 0-40. If I'd won one more round each time it would have been a little bit of a different season. I've missed quite a few big opportunities, which has made my season look somewhat fragile — which it wasn't. I think it was a good season.”

Until this spring the last time Federer had lost after having a match point was the 2006 Rome Masters final against Nadal. Could he put his finger on what had changed this year? “I don't know. To be honest I don't remember any shocking matches. The shock moment was almost going out in the first round at Wimbledon.

“That for me was the one I remember the most — not knowing what to do any more, just hanging on to a thread and thinking: ‘This is not looking good here. I don't think I'll come out of this one.' But somehow I did.”

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