Roger Federer believes his record sixth title at the ATP World Tour Finals will be the ideal springboard to end his Grand Slam drought in 2012.
Federer has finished the season without a Grand Slam for the first time since 2002, but the Swiss star will go into the new campaign on the back of a 17-match winning run that brought him trophies in Basel, Paris and at the prestigious end-of-year event at London’s O2 Arena.
Although the 30-year-old has been written off as a fading force after his barren run in the Grand Slams, Federer gave one of the performances of his life to demolish Rafael Nadal in the group stages at the Tour Finals before holding off a spirited challenge from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win the final 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion — who last won a major at the 2010 Australian Open — is adamant this week’s work in south-east London is conclusive proof he can still compete with the best in the latter stages of his career.
“I felt like I played great during these last few weeks and it gives me a lot of confidence for next year,” said Federer after capturing his 70th career title in his 100th final.
“But regardless of how it went here, I would have been in a good state of mind for next year. And I think that counts for all the other top guys as well … for me, it was the strongest finish I’ve ever had in my career, which I’m very proud of. I’m looking forward to next year … Sure, to win Grand Slams would be nice. I’ve missed out on a few occasions now this year, and maybe also some last year. So I feel like it might be around the corner. Maybe not. The other players obviously have a role to play in this.”
Federer knows that his main threats for the big prizes next year will likely be the familiar trio of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
“Novak was the player of the year, which goes without saying. A guy who can win 40 matches in a row from the start of the season completely deserves it,” Federer said.
“I thought Andy played a very good season this year, he’s going to be very tough to beat next year. And Rafa, with his class, he’s always going to be a threat for the throne and to win all the big tournaments.”
London has been a happy hunting ground for Federer, who has won six Wimbledon crowns and now back-to-back successes in the Tour Finals.
And with the Olympic tennis tournament being played at Wimbledon next year, Federer will be favourite to claim a first gold medal.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to London hopefully on three occasions next year,” he said.
“It would be unfair to the other tournaments to pick London Olympic Games as my number one priority because I have priorities first before that … but I clearly don’t want to miss it and I hope to be healthy when the Olympics do come around.”
With more titles already on his CV than almost anyone who has ever played the game, it would be easy for Federer to lose his appetite for success, but he insists he remains as driven as ever.
“I don’t go through phases where I feel like I want to play 10 more years and then only six more months. I always look ahead one and a half to two years, and that’s still the same right now,” he said.
“I love this game more than anybody, so I’m not all of a sudden going to wake up in the morning and say I don’t like it anymore … it’s a lot of sacrifice but I do enjoy that because what I get in return is moments like this with my team, with my family … it’s priceless really. So for this reason I’m very excited for next year.”
Despite the disappointment of ending the campaign with such a dramatic defeat, Tsonga acknowledged that he has enjoyed the most consistent season of his career.
“My biggest achievement was becoming more consistent in my head and that’s why I was good this year,” Tsonga said.
“But I lost a bit physically so I need to improve again. I have to work hard for my body to be quicker on the court.” — AFP