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Federer ends frustrating year on high

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TENNIS / Tsonga's determined show cannot stop the Swiss from getting a record sixth title

SMACKING SUCCESS: Roger Federer made his 100th summit clash memorable by winning a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title on Sunday. — PHOTO: AFP
SMACKING SUCCESS: Roger Federer made his 100th summit clash memorable by winning a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title on Sunday. — PHOTO: AFP

Roger Federer won a record sixth ATP World Tour Finals title with a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory over France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday.

Federer came to London's O2 Arena determined to end a frustrating year on a high and he fulfilled that ambition by moving ahead of Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl on the list of Tour Finals champions in the 100th final of his majestic career.

The 30-year-old, who retains the title he won 12 months ago, has now won 70 trophies in his career and has also equalled Lendl's record of 39 match wins in the end-of-season event.

While rivals Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have all faded in the final weeks of a gruelling season, Federer is still going strong and this triumph — which followed back to back titles in Basel and Paris — will be a major boost to his confidence heading into 2012.

Although Federer, who takes home the winners' cheque worth $770,000, ends the season without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002, talk of his demise seems greatly exaggerated.

The 16-time Grand Slam winner has reeled off a 17-match winning streak since the US Open and he will rise back above Murray to third in the world rankings as a result.

“I couldn't be more happy my season ends this way. I'm exhausted, Jo sapped every last energy out of me”, Federer said.

“I thought we had an amazing match at Wimbledon, and an amazing one here. I hope we get a chance next year.”

Tsonga added: “It's a bit tough, without Roger maybe I can get some titles, but he is here and he is the best.”

Tsonga had hoped to become the first Frenchman to win this event in its 41-year history.

But the 26-year-old was unable to emulate his famous Wimbledon quarter-final win in June when he became the first player to beat the Swiss star from two sets down in a Grand Slam.

Tsonga has served more aces than anyone on the ATP Tour this season and bashed down his 815th of the year to open his first service game in front of an 18,000 crowd including the Duchess of Cambridge and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was an emphatic statement of intent and Tsonga — who lost just one point in his first three service games — was able to keep Federer at bay in the early stages of a thrilling encounter.

Federer so often produces a piece of inspiration that turns the course of a tight match and that was the case again at 0-30 on Tsonga's serve in the seventh game.

When Tsonga forced Federer into a lunging return that took his opponent wide of the tramlines it seemed the point was over, but the Swiss star somehow recovered his balance and swept back across court in time to flick a forehand winner down the line.

As Tsonga shook his head in disbelief, Federer pressed home his advantage, converting his first break point and then taking the set on his third set point.

Federer kept up the pressure at the start of the second set and broke with the score tied at 2-2, deftly guiding a forehand winner on the Frenchman's second serve.

However, to his credit Tsonga didn't throw in the towel and, out of nowhere, he found a way back into the match when Federer lost his cool as he served for the title.

Tsonga earned three break points and although Federer saved two of them, the Frenchman nailed a volley on the third.

Suddenly Tsonga was inspired. Even when he trailed 5-2 in the tie-break, he was swinging with such freedom and power that a nervous looking Federer couldn't contain him.

Tsonga saved a match point with a blistering forehand and then took the set with another superb return of a weak Federer second serve.

If Federer was haunted by the ghosts of his Wimbledon meltdown he didn't let it show in the final set.

He had three break points at 3-4 and converted on the third when Tsonga hooked a forehand wide before finally serving out a dramatic victory. — AFP

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