LONDON, November 16 2014: Roger Federer won the match of the 2014 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Saturday night, saving four match points in a pulsating comeback victory, to keep alive his hopes of clinching the season finale title for a record seventh time.
Federer, who will play year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s blockbuster final, came back from the brink of defeat to beat his Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka, the third seed, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(6) in two hours and 48 minutes at The O2 in London.
â€œI thought it was a very exciting match, to say the least,â€ said Federer, at his press conference close to 1 a.m. local time Sunday. â€œI think the crowd got really into it. â€œI really didn’t think I was going to turn it around anymore because Stan looked very good for a long time, was able to win the second set somehow by hanging around. Then in the third, I think he played very well. Maybe a serve let him go a little bit when he needed it the most.
â€œI was frustrated being down in the thirdâ€¦ I clearly got lucky tonight. There’s no doubt about that. But you’ve got to keep believing that maybe there is a slight chance that you are going to be able to turn it around somehow. It happened today. I’m very pleased. It’s very hard, obviously, against Stan.â€
Heading into a record-equalling ninth season finale, World No. 2 Federer leads Djokovic 19-17 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. But Djokovic is unbeaten in his past 31 indoor matches.
Wawrinka appeared on course to cap a career-best season with a spot in his 17th tour-level final, but he could not convert four match point opportunities in the deciding set at 5-4, 40/30 and two at Ad In; then a fourth at 6/5 in the tie-break. Federer converted his first match point chance at 7/6Â with a drop volley to improve to 15-2 lifetime against his Swiss friend.
Federer has won five titles in 10 finals this year.Â Â The 33-year-old superstarÂ is five victories shy of becomingÂ just the third player (after Jimmy Connors andIvan Lendl)Â in the Open Era to recordÂ 1,000 career match wins.
Wawrinka dominated the opening exchanges, breaking Federer’s serve in the fifth and seventh games, and controlled baseline rallies. Although Federer got one break back, at 2-5, Wawrinka kept his nerve. He won all 10 of his first service points to clinch the 35-minute opener.
The pressure fell on Wawrinka in the second set, when he served second. Federer pressed hard, yet he could not convert three break point opportunities at 3-2. Wawrinkaâ€™s unforced error count soared to 28 in their 17th meeting. At 5-6, Wawrinka hit two groundstrokes and one smash into the net to drop his serve to love.
In the first game of the third set, Federer did not clearly register the score. When 0/40 was called, he questioned the chair umpire. He thought it was 15/30, thinking an earlier call had gone his way. Wawrinka capitalised to break and, despite saving two break points at 4-3, 30/40 and Ad out, looked set to cling onÂ and maintain the advantage to record his 39th match win of the season. But Federer was not finished.
Wawrinka could not convert his first match point opportunity at 5-4, 40/30, when, out of position, he came into the net only to see Federer rifle a forehand winner down the line. Wawrinka then saved a break point, after a lengthy rally, with a backhand crosscourt winner. Controlling his nerves, he kept coming forward. But once again he could not convert his second match point chance, backhand volleying into the net. A third chance came and went, with Federer ruthlessly striking a short forehand winner. Ultimately, after 11 minutes of play, Federer got the break when Wawrinka hit a backhand into the net after a long rally.
Federer rallied from 15/40 at 5-5, butÂ Wawrinka regained his composure. In the tie-break, a fourth match point went begging for Wawrinka at 6/5Â when he mis-timed a backhand. Federer, under the guidance of former serve and volley master Stefan Edberg, kept the points short by attacking the net. Ultimately, the match clincher, for his 72nd victory of the season, came within feet of the net.
Wawrinka is now 8-3 this yearÂ against Top 10 opponents in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He ends the season with a 38-17 match record, highlighted by his first Grand Slam championship title at the Australian Open (d. Nadal) in January.
â€œFor sure that game at the end I was nervous,â€ said Wawrinka. â€œIt was not easy to play from the baseline. He was normally just pushing his slice backhand return. I was like, â€˜Okay, I’m going to try to take it, try not to wait for a mistake, try to go for it.â€™
â€œI think there were only few points that made the difference. I was playing great tennis. [I was] really happy with the way I was playing. But I had some big opportunities in the third set. I should have taken them, especially serving for the match with two match points.â€
Next week, Federer and Wawrinka will join forces for Switzerland against France in the Davis Cup final in Lille.