Well I'm back from the o2 in London and was lucky enough to see Roger play twice in 2 days! My weekend was topped off by Roger winning his 6th end of year title and finishing the season in even better form than last. Winning in Basel, Paris and now in London has seen him rack up a 17 match winning streak which is arguably the strongest end of season finish in his career.
The match got underway with Roger serving first, both players started tentatively but it was Tsonga who played the better tennis early on, fortunately for Roger though whilst his ground strokes weren't up and running, his serve was and he managed to dig himself out of a hole on several occasions. I lost count of how many times Tsonga made it to 30 on his serve, but it was an awful lot. At 4-3 though Roger suddenly came to life and hit 3 great backhand returns to setup 3 break points, break he did and he served out the set 6-3.
In the second set the level of play dropped off quite considerably, after serving pretty big in the first set Tsonga struggled in the 2nd to keep his serve within the lines, serving 2 double faults at 1-1 which gave Roger 2 break points. To his credit he saved them both to hold, however he was in trouble again at 2-2 as Roger broke to lead 3-2. 5-4 came around extremely quickly and Roger served for the championships.
This was a tough scenario really, whilst I undoubtedly wanted Roger to win, I also wanted to see more tennis as I'd paid for a ticket and the 2nd set had been somewhat disappointing! It's as though Roger knew exactly what I was thinking as his first serve didn't fire in that game, and Tsonga made some excellent returns to break back and level at 5-5. A tie break quickly followed, Roger got the early advantage, but Tsonga hit back to take it after Roger held match point at 6-5.
Federer could have easily finished the match on 2 separate occasions before it went into a deciding set, however, I never felt as though the match was in any doubt. The good thing about the 3rd set was that the quality of tennis improved significantly and Roger played much better. He held serve so smoothly in that final set and Tsonga never really looked like breaking. Time and time again we've seen Federer seemingly throw matches away this year that were totally in his hands, but on Sunday I never got that feeling. Everything had an air of inevitably about it. Tsonga slipped to a double break point at 4-3 Federer, but after getting the game to deuce he made an error on adv. and Federer took the break.
Any notion of a repeat of the 2nd set where Tsonga broke back were soon quashed as Roger served it out to love with a volley winner on match point. From his celebration you could tell he was over the moon with the victory, a victory which has really changed his season from an average one, to a very good one.
It feels very special indeed,” said Federer, 30. “I know it's one of my greatest accomplishments. It was the strongest finish to a season I've ever had in my career.”
Federer vs. Tsonga Match Stats
1st serve %
Winning % on 1st Serve
Winning % on 2nd Serve
Break Points Converted
36 of 49 = 73%
26 of 49 = 53%
3 of 9 = 33%
The presentation ceremony was great to watch (I don't get why some people left early???), I think Mark Petchey is good at the on court interviews (barring his ridiculous hair cut) and Tsonga was really gracious in defeat. He actually looked to genuinely congratulate Fed at the net with a big handshake. Roger spoke eloquently as usual so it was a great end to a great match.
I thought I played well,” said Federer. “Look, I thought Jo played well. Could I have won it easier? I guess. I had it in my hands. I had a chance to go a double break in the second [set]. I had chances to serve it out. I had chances in the tie-breaker. Yeah, it wasn't meant to be. I had to go through the third set, which was tough, but eventually I made it, which felt probably even better going through three sets. The relief was amazing. The joy, of course, as you can imagine, was great.
A Fitting End to the Season
Up until a few weeks ago, it looked like it was going to be a season to forget for Fed fans barring one or two genius moments. A poor start in Australia, a disappointing quarter final loss at Wimbledon, and then the heartache of the US Open semi final against Djokovic were all telling moments of this calendar year. In fact, the truly memorable French Open semi final against Djokovic and perhaps the manner in which he beat Monaco at the US Open were the only things it looked like we had to cling onto. Sure there were, as ever, some majestic shots, but nothing substantial enough to really get excited about.
But, as has been the case many times before, ultimately, Federer had other plans, after slipping to number 4 in the world after Murray heroically defeated some of the best players outside the top 50 to win in Asia many people began to write him off. Roger came back after a 6 week break in a rich vein of form, he dominated in Basel to win his 5th title there, he then took home is first title at the BNP Paribas Masters, something which has been lacking on his CV for sometime and then went onto to win the ATP World Tour Finals in truly dominant fashion. He now stands alone as the record holder for end of season Masters Cup with 6, and with his victory on Sunday won his 70th title in only 100 attempts which is an awesome strike rate. Especially when you consider a large number of those losses have come on clay to probably his biggest rival – Nadal.
As a Fed fan it's hard not to get just a little bit excited for next year, I did last year after he beat Nadal in the final in London and definitely expected him to win a slam, something he failed to do for the first time since 2003. However, I think most people expected this year to be the year of Nadal and Federer, but Djokovic came through to really dominate. However, for 2012 I don't think he can maintain such a high level of performance – his game is too strenuous. So I really am confident Roger can win a slam especially with the renewed confidence these last few tournaments will have given him. Of course, someone else could spring a surprise and play great tennis like Djokovic did this year, but I just don't see who it could be – Murray, Tsonga, Berdych, Monfils, Tomic – I don't think any of those players are ready, or capable of winning a slam.
From here I believe Roger is taking 10 days holiday and then practising for the 2012 season. I'll leave you with a quote from his press conference which pretty much sums up why he's the biggest asset to the game of tennis (ever), if not the world in general right now…
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. It's a lot of effort I have to put in every day. I know that. But I do enjoy that because what I get in return is moments like I got today, with my team, with my family. It's priceless really. So for this reason I'm very excited for next year.
P.S. – I've decided to scrap posting on the Ferrer match, I did plan on posting from London but I just didn't get chance, and to be honest it was a total non event. Federer played very poorly, but Ferrer just has no weapons to cause Roger any damage. The key moment was at 4-5 where Federer managed to hold after facing deuce about 12 times. I was hoping I'd be able to tweet more too during the matches but my signal at the o2 (I'm on vodafone) was seriously shit. Was lucky to get 1 bar on Edge connection.
I'll also post some pictures from the o2 later on, not sure on the quality as none of our cameras are really great spec, digital zoom rather than optical unfortunately. But I'll see what they look like.