Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Federer goes for radical new approach

THE BEST Federer's fourth Masters Cup title in five finals was all the more impressive given his late-season wobble, but now he is preparing to dominate in the long-term

AFP , SHANGHAI

World No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a backhand against his opponent David Ferrer of Spain during the finals match at the men's Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

With three more Grand Slams and another Masters Cup title, it looks like business as usual for Roger Federer. But the results mask a watershed in what the Swiss calls a "breakthrough" year.

Federer, top-ranked for four seasons now, has gone for a radical new approach, shedding his coach and slimming down his schedule as he sets his sights on dominating tennis for the foreseeable future.

There have been hiccups, including defeat here to Fernando Gonzalez. But after breathtaking performances against Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, Federer's stature is not only undiminished, it has grown.

"Roger is the best in history," said Ferrer, vanquished 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in Sunday's final.

"He did it all: serve, volley, slice. I was never comfortable on the court. I don't return badly but when Federer serves on line, I can't do anything."

No one who watched the impeccable Swiss would disagree. And the new approach, similar to Tiger Woods adapting his swing, should now extend the career of tennis's greatest champion.

"It's been in some ways a breakthrough year for me," he said.

"Maybe I didn't win 10 titles, but it's not necessary to stay number one in the world all the time. If I keep this level of play up, I'm in a great position for next year as well."

Federer's fourth Masters Cup title in five consecutive finals was all the more impressive given his late-season wobble, crashing twice against David Nalbandian before losing again here.

But neither success or failure seem to surprise the unflappable Swiss, who said he expected a tough few weeks and, aged only 26, is mature enough to learn from his mistakes.

"I didn't read the press that closely and listen to what the people said that much," he said. "I hear rumors that people are talking to some degree.

"I knew the reasons why I lost. It's very important to analyse it frankly and openly to yourself.

"I think in the long run that's a good thing. I turned it around. I'm happy to have proved myself yet again."

Federer is now in danger of pulling away from his rivals, demolishing his closest competitor Nadal here for his third win against the world number two this year -- and on three different surfaces.

"He killed me," Nadal admitted after their semi-final.

"It was crazy play, inside the court and not making any mistakes. Nothing to say, just congratulate him."

Federer takes the applause, but insists his victories are built on hard work and professionalism.

"I practised hard to get this level. This is really what it comes down to for me," he said. "I'm professional. I believe in my chances. I believe my way of handling my career is the right one.

"And, of course, when it all comes together in a final like today, it's fantastic," he said.

History is now the 12-time Grand Slam champion's biggest competition and the record of 14 held by Pete Sampras, whom he will meet in three exhibition matches this week, appears a formality.

"I wander around sometimes and all of a sudden I find myself in the room staring at the trophies and going through them," Federer said of the trophy room at his Switzerland home. "It's a good feeling."

After title number 53, victory understandably lacks the raw emotion of earlier wins. But Federer says he still takes pride in beating the best.

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