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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

'The facts are not right': Roger Federer fumes over scheduling row

The 20-time grand slam champion hit back at comments from Julien Benneteau that the Swiss was able to use his reputation to secure favourable scheduling

Roger Federer beat Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-3 in his latest round-robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on Tuesday. AFP
Roger Federer beat Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-3 in his latest round-robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on Tuesday. AFP

Roger Federer has hit back at claims he gets preferential treatment from tennis tournaments due to his status as one of the sport's all-time greats.

Federer was responding to controversial comments from French veteran Julien Benneteau, who said the 20-time grand slam champion was able to use his reputation to secure favourable scheduling.

Benneteau offered Federer's matches at the last two Australian Opens as evidence, suggesting the Swiss was granted his preference to play in the evening session to avoid the blistering Melbourne heat.

"Over the last two Australian Opens, he played 14 matches, because he was champion and finalist. And he played 12 or 13 of them in the night session," Benneteau told France's RMC Sport recently.

"On the same day Federer played Jan-Lennard Struff, Novak Djokovic played Gael Monfils.

"Any tournament director would put Djokovic-Monfils on the night session at 7.30pm, right? But no. They played at 2.30pm, in 104 degrees. And Federer-Struff played at night.

"It's normal that he gets preferential treatment, with everything he's done. But, in some tournaments, there are big differences in the conditions. He has no idea what that's like."

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But Federer was supported by world No 1 Novak Djokovic on Monday, with his rival suggesting the six-time Australian Open winner had actually earned the right to "special treatment" for all the good he has done for the sport.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also released a statement saying the scheduling of Federer's matches for the evening was a response to fan demand to watch a "once-in-a-generation athlete", rather than any desire to cater to tennis's biggest star.

Tiley is an investor in the Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style annual tournament promoted by Federer and his management group Team8, but denies a conflict of interest.

Asked about the controversy, former world No 1 Federer said that while he does speak to tournament chiefs about scheduling, he doesn't believe he gets special favours.

"I get asked 'would you like to play Monday or Tuesday' sometimes. Sometimes I get asked, 'Do you want to play day or night?' Sometimes they go ask my agent," Federer told reporters after his 6-2, 6-3 win over Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals at London's 02 Arena on Tuesday.

"Sometimes they ask me, you know, Asia wants you to play at night. Yes, sometimes we have our say. But I asked to play Monday at the US Open and I played Tuesday night.

"It's all good, you know. I've had that problem for 20 years in the good way. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don't. I think there you have it.

"Yeah, sometimes they come ask, sometimes they don't. But a lot of the facts are not right, just to be clear there, from what I heard."

Federer is bidding to win his 100th career singles title at the ATP Finals and he made it clear he wanted to draw a line under the favouritism issue.

"I don't really in feel the mood during a World Tour Finals to discuss that topic, to be honest," he said.

"The radio interview that happened over a week ago that surfaces now in French, Julien, who is a nice guy, I know him since the junior times, I think all of this has been totally taken out of context."

Federer, who has only failed to reach the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals once in 15 appearances, will still need to beat group leader Kevin Anderson in straight sets on Thursday to be absolutely sure of making it to the weekend.

The mathematics of the round-robin format, however, means he could lose and still progress depending on what happens in the match between Thiem and Kei Nishikori, whom Federer lost in straight sets to earlier in the week.

"I could win and still not make it, so from that standpoint it's not in my power," Federer said of his clash with Anderson who he lost to in an epic Wimbledon quarter-final this year.

"Important for me is to play a good last match here in the round-robin, try to beat Kevin. He has been playing great. He has had a wonderful season."