World no. 2 and 33-year old maestro Roger Federer won his fifth title of the year—his hometown tournament at Basel—his first here since 2011, in his 11th final here. He remains the only player in the ATP Open era to reach 11 finals at the same tournament.
Federer, who at this stage last year was fighting for a spot in the top-8 at the World Tour Finals after losing this final to Del Potro, has enjoyed an almighty surge in 2014, winning 5 titles (or more) in a calendar year for the 8th time in his illustrious career.
He hasn’t won a Major all year, but he reached two semi-finals (Aus, US) and one Final (Wimbledon), and won two Masters events, including his first-ever Shanghai Masters title (he has now won 7 out of 9 active Masters events). He has been phenomenally consistent post-Wimbledon, possibly the best player in the world since June, reaching the final at Toronto and winning at Cincinnati again, before reaching the semis at the US Open (upset loss to champion Cilic), winning Shanghai and now winning Basel.
This has been a hard-court hot streak few others had been able to match, except perhaps his final opponent, young baby-faced Belgian assassin David Goffin, who himself was on a 15-match winning streak after an impressive second-half of 2014 which has catapulted him back into the top 90. But Federer has been Goffin’s idol, even watching him from posters in his room not too long ago, and this reverence showed in the final.
The Swiss legend destroyed the upcoming star, just like he has been destroying the hopes and spirits of Dimitrov and Raonic this year, 6-2 6-2 in the final after losing a set to ace-giant Karlovic in the semi-final.
Federer looks in fine form, and will be the man to beat at the Bercy Masters next week. Interestingly, he is less than 500 points behind World no. 1 Djokovic now, with 2500 combined points up for grabs in the two remaining Masters events (Paris and London WTF), before he can grab an extra 250 points in his first-ever Davis Cup Final (against France) after the season is over.
Who would have believed this when the season begun in January, with Federer ranked 6th in the world, and struggling to beat a top-10 player?
But then Stefan Edberg entered the fray and was hired as his coach. Rarely has a coach had such an immediate and obvious effect on his player’s style and results, for Federer has not only been winning, but has been charging the net and bringing back the lost art of serve-and-volley audaciously in this baseline-killing era. He has surprised most players, including Djokovic, with his persistent volleys, cutting points short and rarely missing overhead lobs.
There is a sharpness to his game that he perhaps didn’t even show in 2012 when he was back to the top after winning Wimbledon again. He has adapted, and has a game-plan, which showed from the way he let Goffin serve first in the final after winning the toss. He elected to return, knowing that Goffin had gotten in only 46% of his first serves in all tournament. The first game had Goffin make just one first serve, and it wasn’t enough, with Federer charging out of the blocks and forcing the youngster into making rushed errors. By the time Goffin had gotten into any sort of rhythm, Federer was already 4-2 up, and then struck the killing blow by breaking him again.
Federer has now won 82 titles in his career, behind only Connors and Lendl. Remarkably, this was his 65th tour win of the year, with 10 losses, easily the best statistics of 2014. It was his 989th career win, and is only 11 off a mark that could forever seal his status as the most consistent and adaptable player of all time.
If he wins at Paris, and goes on to outlast Djokovic in both tournaments, which is entirely possible with the Serb’s firstborn his top priority now, then Federer could finish no. 1 for the sixth time in his career, equaling Sampras’ record.
He will want this one, simply because it was Djokovic who snatched the year-end ranking in 2012 from him with a hot streak towards the end, after Federer could stay on top only for four months post-Wimbledon.