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Federer credits mid-tournament break with reviving quest for 100th title at the ATP Finals

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 16 Nov 2018
  • Roger Federer turned his ATP Finals around after taking a rest day
  • 'I'm a big believer in taking time off sometimes'
  • Federer faces Alexander Zverev in the semifinals on Saturday
Roger Federer celebrates reaching the semifinals at the Nitto ATP Finals (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP)

Roger Federer credited a mid-tournament rest day with reviving his quest for a 100th title at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Federer faces Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of the season-ending championships, played at London's O2 Arena, at 2pm GMT on Saturday.

The Swiss star, who holds a record six titles at the ATP Finals, got off to a rocky start at the year-end tournament when he lost his opening round-robin match to Kei Nishikori in straight sets. In addition to being defeated 6-7(4), 3-6 by Nishikori - who failed to win another set in his two subsequent matches - Federer was given a warning by the umpire for swiping a loose ball into the crowd and generally looked like an extremely grumpy 37-year-old at the very end of a season the exorbitant length of which has been a frequent talking point of late.

Speculation was rife when he cancelled his scheduled practice at Queen's Club the following day. But when Federer returned to the courts, he revived his campaign for a seventh ATP Finals title with a straight-sets victory over Dominic Thiem.

'Look, I'm a big believer in vacation. I'm a big believer in taking time off sometimes. When I go to work, I go hard, I go the right way, I go professional about it with my team,' Federer said. 

'I didn't think of taking a day off, to be honest, after the Nishikori match. I thought, "What are we going to do? Where are we going to train?"'

It worked so well that Federer took another rest day before defeating Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3 to secure a top-of-the-group finish. 

'It's one of the first times I've done it like that,' Federer said. 'I'm happy it's paying off so far. But I’ve got to be very, very focused the moment I step on court for the practice, the warm-up. I think that's key, as well.'

Finishing top of Group Lleyton Hewitt, as secured by Federer's straight-sets win over Anderson, could prove to be crucial for Federer's chances of avoiding defeat in the semifinals for the second straight year. The player who finishes top of one group faces the man who finished second in the other - and with Novak Djokovic going unbeaten in Group Gustavo Kuerten, the task of taking on the world no. 1 falls to Anderson. Federer, meanwhile, faces Alexander Zverev, who has beaten him before, but is still a much, much less formidable opponent than the incredibly in-form Serb, who is on track for one of his most dominant finishes to a season.

Should Federer win the Nitto ATP Finals, he will not only capture a record-extending seventh title, but win his 100th title overall - something which only one other man, Jimmy Connors, has achieved. Connors ended his career with 109 titles. 

'Personally I'm still not thinking of the number, 100. I won't let that get in my head, make me go crazy because it should be something I'm excited about and not something I should feel extra pressure [to earn],' Federer said. 

'It's just going to be hard to finish it. I'm happy I gave myself the opportunity. I'm happy that I'm raising my level of play throughout this week. This is what I hope to do. It's exciting to be in this situation now, of course, no doubt.'

One thing working in Federer's favour is the rest day that he has enjoyed between Thursday's final round-robin match, and Saturday's afternoon semifinal against Zverev.

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Federer credits mid-tournament break with reviving quest for 100th title at the ATP Finals

Roger Federer could be closing in on his 100th career title at the ATP Finals. The six-time champion attributed reaching the semifinals to rest days during the tournament, where he faces Alexander Zverev in Saturday's semifinals

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