Every time Roger Federer steps onto the court these days it seems another milestone is within his grasp.
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He seized another one Saturday, reaching his 100th career final by beating David Ferrer of Spain 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals. Federer could add a few more Sunday. He is in position to win his 70th title overall and a record sixth at the season-ending tournament for the world’s top eight players.
”It’s a special occasion for me,” said Federer, who will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final.
Tsonga continued his strong play this week by beating Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 in the late match, putting the sixth-seeded Frenchman into the final of this event for the first time, in only his second appearance.
The victory over Ferrer sent Federer past Andy Murray to No. 3 in the year-end rankings, trailing No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic and Nadal were eliminated after losing two of their round-robin matches this week, both saying their minds and bodies weren’t up for top-level tennis following another grueling season. Murray pulled out injured following his opening loss to Ferrer on Monday.
Federer — who holds a record 16 Grand Slam titles — is tied with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras with five victories at the ATP Finals, formerly known as the Masters Cup. A win Sunday would also tie Lendl’s record of 39 match victories in the event.
Federer became the fifth player to reach 100 finals in the open era, joining Jimmy Connors (163), Lendl (146), John McEnroe (108) and Guillermo Vilas (104).
”I’m shocked every time that I’ve reached so many finals or won against so many players or whatever record it is,” Federer said. ”It strikes me and makes me obviously very happy and very proud that I’ve been able to do it for so many years at the highest of levels.”
And with his 806th victory Saturday, Federer moved into a share of sixth place on the career list with Stefan Edberg.
”Stefan was my idol,” Federer said. ”So to achieve something that he achieved is obviously very nice. I don’t think it matters much, but it’s still very nice to get reminded that you equaled your idol’s or hero’s achievements.”
In a tournament where his biggest rivals complained of fatigue after failing to make it out of the group stage, Federer showed no signs of slowing down. The 30-year-old Swiss extended his unbeaten streak to 16 matches after winning titles in Basel and Paris before coming to London.
Federer has played some of his best tennis of the year in London, and while he did not look as sharp against Ferrer as he did in his three group-stage victories, he never faced a break point. He broke the fifth-seeded Spaniard twice in the second set and converted his second match point with a forehand winner.
Ferrer came within two points of the first set six times in Federer’s service game when the Spaniard led 5-4. But he never earned a break point in a game that went to deuce five times, and Federer finally held when Ferrer sent a backhand passing shot wide. That marked a turning point, with Federer winning the next four games as well to take control.
”It was a key 5-4 game for me,” Federer said. ”That was a crucial sort of 15, 20 minutes for me. I’m happy I was able to decide the match right there.”
Ferrer dropped to 0-12 against Federer. The Spaniard started the week by beating Murray and Djokovic convincingly, but couldn’t keep up that level of play less than 16 hours after losing a three-set match against Berdych on Friday.
”Maybe I didn’t have really time to relax, but (that) is not the excuse here,” Ferrer said. ”He played better than me.”
Berdych also struggled against the rested Tsonga, landing just 53 percent of his first serves and double-faulting five times – including on break point to go down 4-3 in the second set.
The Czech broke back immediately but then lost serve again to let Tsonga take a decisive 6-5 lead, and the Frenchman served out the match with an ace.
Tsonga will play Federer for the third Sunday in a row, after losing to him in the Paris final two weeks ago and their first round-robin match in London last weekend.
”Roger is the best player for the moment indoors,” Tsonga said. ”It’s going to be really special here, for my first final here. It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere on court, and I like that. . . . I know it’s the last match (of the year) so I will give it everything.”
In doubles, Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Daniel Nestor of Canada reached the final by beating American twins Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (6), 6-4. They will play Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski of Poland, who beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes of India 6-4, 4-6, 10-6.