London: Former world number one and six-time champion Roger Federer feels he has the right momentum for heading towards a possible seventh crown at the year-ending Nitto ATP Finals this weekend.
Needing a win following his first round loss to Japan Kei Nishikori on the opening night, Federer stuttered but eventually clinched a 6-2, 6-3 win over Austrian youngster Dominic Thiem in 66 minutes to keep his hopes alive at The O2 Arena here late on Tuesday.
The 37-year-old will next take on South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in their third and final group match on Thursday with several permutations and combinations eventually deciding the two semi-finalists from the Group Lleyton Hewitt.
The winner of 99 career titles so far is not looking too far ahead. “I feel like I’m ready to go for the next one [against Anderson]. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know what happened against [Kei] Nishikori. Maybe it’s the round-robin format that got to me. You don’t feel like you have the knife here, like in another tournament where if you’re struggling in the first round, you know if you don’t get your act together, you’re home in 30 minutes,” Federer explained.
“You know here you’re going to play three matches. Sometimes that’s going to make you feel a bit easy,” he added.
All that was behind him though as Federer had an easy outing against an out-of-sorts Thiem to bring their all-time career record to 2-2. On the 15 previous occasions Federer has qualified for this tournament, starting with his first appearance in 2002, the Swiss ace has always won his second group match. He has dropped a set just five times in his second match, and one of these rare occasions was in 2005 against current coach Ivan Ljubicic.
Federer can go through to the knockout semi-finals if he wins in straight sets or even in three sets against his South African opponent on Thursday. The maestro feels he’s had too much of tennis in recent weeks, something that could have come in the way of a win while playing Nishikori in Sunday’s opener. The Swiss ace simply cancelled his practice session the next day and got himself refreshed mentally for his crucial match against Thiem on Tuesday.
“I will do the same again tomorrow because it worked [cancelling practice]. The important thing was not about my forehand or my backhand or my serve or anything. I guess it was my head. For that sometimes you need a break. I’ve been playing a lot of tennis the last two months. That’s why yesterday I saw the Nishikori match on the way back to the hotel and that was positive,” Federer observed.
“We all had a lot of time to talk. We came to the conclusion or the coaches thought, ‘take it easy, enjoy the day with your family, and come out happy’. When you play Thiem, that’s what we care about, the head, not the shots. The shots are there. I felt that way today. So I’m very happy that that was the right decision and I was able to show a reaction from my first-round match,” he added.