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Roger Federer Remains Perfect At 2017 World Tour Finals

Switzerland’s Roger Federer in action during his round robin match against Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the ATP World tennis finals in London, Britain, 16 November 2017. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

 

 

By Richard Pagliaro

 

LONDON—Roger Federer wasn’t working for the weekend, but remained committed to the cause at the ATP World Tour Finals.

 

Federer slashed 17 aces and did not drop serve dispatching Marin Cilic, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1, at the O2 Arena, scoring his 13th consecutive victory while raising his record against Top 10 opponents to 14-1 this season.

 

“It wasn’t easy,” Federer told a packed press conference afterward. “I think in the beginning I was slightly overaggressive in the first set on some crucial points rather than maybe being patient. I was able to turn that around, you know, late in the second set. Then just had a much better feeling in the third set.

 

“Maybe also Marin’s level dropped, I’m not sure. But definitely was dangerous there for a while, you know, being down a set and breakpoints beginning of the second set.”

 

Continuing his quest for a record-extending seventh World Tour Finals title, Federer concluded round-robin play with an undefeated record for the 10th time in 15 career appearances at the season-ending event.

 

Federer will face either David Goffin or Dominic Thiem in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

The father of two sets of twins has won World Tour Finals titles in three different cities–Houston, Shanghai and London–evolving from feeling like “a kid in a candy store” in his younger years to feasting on a younger generation of opponents these days.

 

“I enjoy it now in a different way,” Federer said. “I think it was more exhilarating when I was younger because everything was new, it was fresh. I didn’t know. It was the unknown. And today I know most of it, you know.

 

“I’m very calm. But there’s a deeper understanding what I’m going through. So maybe the satisfaction is when I do win and I do show up at the best tournaments in the world, like here, I know it’s not normal maybe to be here, so I appreciate it actually maybe even more so now at this age.”

 

Given the fact he’d already secured his spot in a 14th World Tour Finals semifinal, the Swiss’ final round-robin match put Federer in the unique position of trying to sustain his form without expending too much energy—or risking injury—in the process.

 

Down a set and facing a break point at 1-all in the second, Federer used a drop shot-volley combination to quell the threat. He dropped just four points on serve the rest of the set.

 

Federer tore through the final set in 26 minutes winning 16 of 19 points played on his serve.

 

The match was a rematch of the Wimbledon final where Federer crushed Cilic permitting just eight games in the most overwhelming final victory of his SW19 career.

 

In winning seven of their prior eight meetings, Federer applied his variation to displace the 6’6” Croatian from the center of the court and compel Cilic to counter from awkward positions.

 

In today’s rematch—their third consecutive meeting in London—Federer challenged Cilic’s serve immediately earning three break points in the opener.

 

The bearded baseliner stood up to the stress saving all three break points to navigate a tough hold with his second ace.

 

Neither man managed a break point the rest of the set. Federer’s second double fault of the set gave Cilic the mini-break and a 2-1 lead. Pouncing on a short slice, Cilic hit an inside-out forehand winner, eventually extending to 4-1.

 

A drop volley winner gave the world No. 5 set point. Cilic cranked a crosscourt forehand snatching a one-set lead after 53 minutes, more than doubling the Wimbledon champion’s winner output (20 to 9).

 

Fending off break point with the drop shot and open-court volley, Federer held for 2-1 and was not challenged on serve the rest of the match.

 

Sliding an ace out wide, Federer held for 5-4. Then Cilic blink. Three errors in a row, the last a scattered backhand, gifted the break and second set to the 36-year-old Swiss.

 

Federer fired a statement shot—a crackling forehand return winner down the line—breaking for a 2-0 third-set lead.

Slashing two aces off the center stripe in nearly the identical spot, Federer stamped a love hold stretching the lead to 3-0.

 

The 19-time Grand Slam champion cracked his second break of the set, stretching his lead to 5-1.

 

Spinning a backhand down the line, Federer gained triple match point and when Cilic punched a forehand pass into net, Federer was through in one hour, 54 minutes.

 

Credit Cilic for his spirited fight all week.

 

This was the third three-setter he lost and he held leads in all three matches, including leading final sets of both his opening match against Alexander Zverev and second match on Tuesday against Jack Sock.

 

The 2014 US Open champion dropped to 1-8 lifetime at the World Tour Finals.

 

Federer raised his 2017 record to 52-4 joining Jimmy Connors are the only men in the Open Era to win 50 or more matches for 14 straight years.

 

The one-time “kid in a candy store” is now a 36-year-old champion–and Lindt spokesman–whose appetite for sweet success remains undiminished.

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