x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Roger Federer proves in Paris he will be a grand slam contender in 2019

Impressive showing in loss to Novak Djokovic a sign that the world No 3 can add to his 20 majors tally

Roger Federer can be encouraged for 2019 despite his loss to Novak Djokovic at the Paris Masters. AP Photo
Roger Federer can be encouraged for 2019 despite his loss to Novak Djokovic at the Paris Masters. AP Photo

It is very easy with sport sometimes to get sucked into the simple winning and losing view of things.

Yes, athletes and teams are ultimately judged by victories or defeats, but often there is more to take from proceedings then simply the result.

Roger Federer is a case in point. He was beaten by Novak Djokovic on Saturday in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters.

Yet, the 20-time major winner described himself as being "happy" with his efforts despite the fact it was Djokovic, poised to return to world No 1 for the first time in two years on Monday, who prevailed.

Federer was right to be. It was a hugely encouraging effort from the 37 year old that serves as a reminder that he will still be a threat for grand slam titles in 2019.

Djokovic is playing superb tennis and is a man clearly reinvigorated now he is back to full fitness and his elbow problems appear to be in the past.

Before Sunday's final in Paris against Karen Khachanov the Serbian has won his past 22 matches, a run stretching back to last August.

Federer came closest to ending that run as he went down 7-6, 5-7, 7-6. The match ultimately came down to a final set tie-break that Djokovic won 7-3.

Federer gave a performance mixed with quality play and resilience that genuinely troubled his in-form opponent.

What was impressive was how Federer dug in. He was not broken in the match, even though Djokovic created 12 break points.

Now it is easy to write it off as Djokovic spurning a number of opportunities, but Federer deserves credit for gritting it out and getting himself out of trouble to ensure the match went the distance.

There is still the ATP Tour Finals in London to come later this month, but the performance against Djokovic is a welcome reminder that Federer, even at an age when most of his peers have long since retired, is still capable of more titles.

It has been a year of two halves for Federer. It started very well with his 20th grand slam title in Australia. Then he took the world No 1 spot for the first time in five years, but by his high standards, the rest of the year had been underwhelming.

His Wimbledon title defence ended at the quarter-finals stage to Kevin Anderson, and he was beaten in the fourth round of the US Open by John Millman.

He won in Basel in October, but Danill Medvedev (the world No 20) was the highest ranked player he beat on his way to triumphing there.

If the season had ended then it would have been easy to write a narrative that Federer was on what could be his final decline as his age and the demands of the sport finally caught up with him.

____________

Read more

Roger Federer 'happy' with form despite Paris Masters loss to Novak Djokovic

Rafael Nadal pulls out of Paris Masters, Novak Djokovic set for No 1

Dominic Thiem, Hyeon Chung and Karen Khachanov join Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Novak Djokovic and Venus Williams confirmed for Mubadala World Tennis Championship

____________

But he was superb in Paris. He was a comfortable victor over both Fabio Fognini and Kei Nishikori and then came within a tie-break of defeating Djokovic.

Now that is something much more positive to take in the short winter break before everything begins again in January.

Majors remains the focus for Federer, as it has done for the past two years since his return to the sport after knee surgery.

Expect 2019 to be the same as the past two years with Federer being very careful with the schedule he allows himself to play.

He is not chasing the No 1 spot. Djokovic is going to have that for a very long time given his current form.

Winning the big ones is the goal. It will be tough. Certainly winning a third successive Australian Open in January will be a tall order, given Djokovic's form and the fact Melbourne is the scene of six of the Serbian's 14 major wins.

Wimbledon will be the most likely location of a 21st grand slam. He was out-gunned by an inspired Anderson in July, but he remains a force on grass.

He proved a real thorn in Djokovic's side in the 2014 and 2015 finals, at a time when the 31 year old was a dominant force.

Federer will be confident that, if at full fitness, he can still claim a ninth Wimbledon crown.

Djokovic may still be establishing himself back at the top, but Paris certainly gave Federer and his fans that 2019 can be another year of success for the popular veteran.