Show of hands – who remembers autumn 2002? Need your mind refreshing? Avril Lavigne's angry anthem & # 39; Complicated & # 39; struggled with Shakira's sugary & # 39; When, Anywhere & # 39; like the top pop song. Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber was the top grossing film of the season. In the fall of 2002, no one had a Facebook account, twitter was something birds did, and google was best known as an obscure math event.
And that November in Shanghai, a 21-year-old ponytail from Switzerland – blessed with immense talent not yet fully alchemized – played in what was then called the Tennis Masters Cup. It was ATP's annual competition at the end of the year, with the top eight players in the world teaming up against each other in a round-robin format, followed by knock-out rounds. Moving with a kind of cat game, zing a drop-dead-gorgeous onehanded backhand, failing to sweat or grimace, and playing with an artist's sensitivity (and sometimes an artist's temper), this rising Swiss player won his first three matches before dropping in a close three-set semi-final to Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.
No one knew of course at the time, but this tournament in 2002 would mark the start of a remarkable tennis race. Roger Federer, the young Swiss talent, was just warming up. This year marks the 17th time – let this number sink in – that Federer has qualified for the ATP Tour & # 39; s end of lollapalooza, now known as the Nitto ATP Finals. It’s a tournament record: Federer has failed to qualify just once since 2002, in 2016, and this was the year he ended his season after Wimbledon to recover from an injury.
Since 2002, this event has been running across the globe before setting firm roots in London. It has been indoors and outdoors and then again indoors and with slightly different formats (the finals were previously the best of five sets). It has come to feature replacements over disputed line calls. It has become synonymous with Nitto, the title sponsor. Throughout it all, there has been one reliable constant: Federer's presence.
There are, of course, ample claims that Federer is the unique towering player in men's tennis, GOAT or Greatest of All Time, in the linguistic. When considering the evidence in support of his case, he should pay close attention to his work on this event by the end of the year. Playing against the other seven best players in the world – no byes, no wildcards, no light matches – Federer has compiled a steady record. Runners talk about “finishing strong” and finishing the race without regret. Federer does this during the tennis season. Year-in, year-out, at this year's coda event, he is still going strong, still capable of his most breathtaking tennis. It is a testimony not only of superior tennis, but also of superior durability.
Federer's overall record in the Nitto ATP finals? It's so rude that it triggers a smile. Remember the quality of the opposition before taking the full measure of these statistics. In 16 appearances, Federer has won a record six titles, winning 57 of 72 matches and nearly $ 16 million in prize money. Don't remember Federer's 20 Grand Slam singles titles. On his record at the end of the event alone, he was able to qualify for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Some highlights from Federer at his final season event. In 2003, Federer really announced himself. A few months removed from his big breakthrough – the 2003 Wimbledon title – Federer limited his year by inserting his wizardry to great effect on an outdoor court in Houston, Texas. It was a fitting way to end the season. And Federer made the world aware. "Believe me," said Andre Agassi, after losing the final, "you'll hear a lot more from Roger Federer." Of course, Agassi wasn't right, but it didn't take long. A few weeks later, Federer rose to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, and he ended 2004 winning that title again.
In 2006 and 2007, Federer cemented his greatness, not only by winning the majors, but also by landing back-to-back championships at the end, ruthlessly charging through the field and beating a number of opponents, including in 2007 a 6-4, 6- 1 takedown over Nadal, one of Federer's more extensive victories over his rival.
Federer's finest ATP Finals event? It might have come at The O2 in 2010, when he won his first four matches in straight sets. In the final, he notched another win over Nadal, beating him 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Afterwards, he was asked how long he could continue. "At present, I have no plans at all to stop, stop whatever you want to call it," he said. “I hope I can play for many years to come. That is a goal anyway. I think it's possible. "And next year, he won this tournament again, the third time he landed back-to-back titles.
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Federer came to his 17th Nitto ATP final in a precarious position. You will remember his previous singles match played in the Greater London area. In the 2019 Wimbledon final, Federer, then a few weeks from the age of 38, had match points to beat Novak Djokovic and win at the All England Club for a record-breaking ninth time. You will probably also remember what happened next. Federer hit a serve in the middle that was destined to be an ace. But the ball then cut out the net and seemed to say, "Nah, I'm fine with this." The crowd moaned. Djokovic grinned with relief. Then he won the points, the game and the match 13-12 in the fifth set.
It was a golden chance for Federer to win a 21st Grand Slam and it was difficult to overcome the waste. But the half-full glass is that the guy turns 40 and that he still comes within inches (literally) of winning majors. The guy who talked about retirement speculation nine years ago is still among the elite.
As a reliable patron who returns to a welcoming pub, Federer returns to the comfort and confidentiality of the Nitto ATP finals. The draw will be filled with challenges and challengers. Federer knows all too well that it's not how you start, it's how you end. After qualifying for the 17th time, Federer will try to end a tennis season on a winning note by once again conquering his most elite event.
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