Roger Federer has won more Nitto ATP Finals than anyone in the tournament’s history, with six. And as he gets set to compete in the season finale for the 17th time, the Swiss naturally has high expectations, considering the last and only time he failed to advance through the group stage was in 2008. But the 38-year-old arrives at The O2 understanding that there are seven other elite players in the field who want to lift the trophy at the end of the week just as much as he does.
“Of course it would be nice. I’m not the only guy who has that hope and that dream. So we’ll see how it goes,” Federer said of his hopes of triumphing. “But I think indoors, it’s more of a nostalgic thing for me as well. That’s where I had my first success on the Tour. When I came onto the Tour this is where I made my first points on the satellite-level, challenger-level and tour-level. That’s how I got up the [ATP] Rankings, it was through the indoors. And so I always feel comfortable regardless of what indoor court I go to.”
Federer owns the most wins and the best winning percentage indoors of all the players competing in this year’s Nitto ATP Finals. And his 57-15 record at this tournament speaks for itself.
“It feels like I come home in some ways [when I play indoors], so it’s the same thing here,” Federer said. “So far I’ve felt great, the court plays nice and I’m sure we’ll see some great tennis.”
When the groups were announced earlier this week, Federer landed in Group Bjorn Borg, in which five-time champion Novak Djokovic will also be competing. The last time the two legends played one another, Djokovic saved two championship points to defeat Federer for the Wimbledon title.
“Wimbledon was epic,” Federer said. “That was a special match for both of us. Maybe a bit more for him than for me, but that’s okay. I moved on a long time ago. When we match up I think our games really match up nicely. It’s great for the crowd, super-athletic. We have different playing styles. It’s pretty quick here I feel, the court. So it will be interesting. Indoors you focus more maybe on your serve and all that stuff rather than what your opponent does, but it should be exciting. I’m excited to play against Novak again here.”
Second among active players behind Federer in indoor victories and winning percentage is Djokovic, who leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 26-22. The second seed has won three of five Nitto ATP Finals clashes against Federer, with each of those battles coming in London. A reporter asked Federer if he feels the indoor conditions will give him the edge against the Serbian.
“I hope so, I don’t know,” Federer said. “He’s been playing indoors okay, too. So it’s not like his record is nonexistent or is like so much worse than mine. I don’t even know if it’s worse than mine or mine is better. But honestly I’m very excited to play against Novak again here. I’m happy to be in his group.”
Also in Group Bjorn Borg are Dominic Thiem. Thiem is competing at the season finale for the fourth straight year, but Berrettini is making his debut. Last year when the world’s best were battling in London, the Italian was outside the Top 50. Now he is among the sport’s best, as are fellow debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who are in Group Andre Agassi.
“What I like about the young guys like Matteo here qualifying for the first time, it goes away from just saying, ‘Oh, we have some talented players on the Tour.’ There’s a difference between that and already being somewhat of a national hero in your country already and being a Top 10 player in the world in tennis, which is not easy to achieve,” Federer said. “So I think that’s great that they’re part of the [Nitto ATP] Finals. It’s going to give them great experience as well moving forward to then achieve great things at Slam level, Masters 1000s, being surrounded with the eight, having the pressure to play against fellow Top 10 players from the get-go here. It’s something that will only help your career. Sascha’s win last year was definitely also a bit of a catalyst for the rest of the group that qualified this year.”
But Federer will hope that this year, they don’t break through, and that he is the one lifting his seventh Nitto ATP Finals trophy at the end of the week.