Federer rekindles London love affair on way to final

 

The flow of Grand Slam titles may have dried up, but Roger Federer's thirst for victory remains unquenchable. The former world No 1 will today contest the 100th final of his career – only Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Guillermo Vilas have played more in the Open era – as he attempts to end the year with a successful defence of his title here at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Federer's 7-5 6-3 victory over David Ferrer in yesterday's semi-finals was his 16th successive win followinghis title triumphs in Basle and Paris and took him into the final of the season-ending championships for the seventh time. Victory against the winner of last night's meeting between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych would give him the title for a record sixth time. Meanwhile yesterday's win ensured that he will replace Andy Murray as world No 3 and end the year ranked inside the top three for the ninth season in succession – despite the fact he has not won a Grand Slam title for 22 months.

If the performances of Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been a disappointment over the last week, Federer's electrifying form has been a major consolation. The British public's love affair with the 30-year-old Swiss goes back a long way and yesterday's capacity crowd of 17,500 wasted no time in rekindling it, greeting his winners with rapturous applause.

In truth there were not too many moments of magic in a contest that lasted only 85 minutes. Federer did not hit the heights that he had earlierin the week, most notably in his crushing 59-minute victory over Nadal, but he hardly needed to. Ferrer, who has now lost all 12 of his matches against the Swiss, draws from an apparently bottomless well of energy and has a fine return of serve and cool temperament, but the 29-year-old Spaniard lacks the big shots to trouble the very best.

With his opponent's backhand regularly misfiring, Ferrer went within two points of winning the first set on five different occasions. But when the world No 5 served at 5-5 Federer took control with the ease of a man flicking on a light switch. A smart lob followed by a crisp volley created two set points, the second of which he converted by forcing Ferrer into a forehand error.

Having served out for the set, Federer turned the screw, breaking serve immediately with a huge forehand return winner down the line. Ferrer, to his credit, stuck to his task but, when the Spaniard served at 3-5, Federer took his second match point with another trademark forehand driven into the corner of the court.

Of the many landmarks Federer continues to reach, winning the 806th match of his career yesterday, matching Stefan Edberg's total, gave him particular pleasure. "Stefan was my idol," Federer said. "I finally had a chance last year to play with him, which was a dream come true, so to achieve something that he achieved is obviously very nice."

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