Federer looks to make most of current form

Djokovic, Nadal will pose big threat to Swiss sixth title hopes

With successive titles in Basel and Paris, Switzerland’s Roger Federer will look to carry the momentum into London. AFP

The world number four, who opens round robin action in the defence of his crown on day one against dangerous Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, is level in the season-ending tournament’s roll of honour with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras.

Despite being the oldest player in the eight-man draw, and arriving with his lowest ranking since 2003, few would bet against the Swiss 16-time Grand Slam champion supplying a show-stopping end to a year dominated by Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.

Now in its third year beside the River Thames, the appeal of the tournament has never been higher with more than 250,000 people set to watch eight days of action at the event often dubbed the ‘fifth’ Grand Slam.

While Federer, like American soul diva Beyonce, just turned 30 and has fallen behind Djokovic, Nadal and Murray in the rankings after a rare year without a major, he is still the biggest draw in the sport.

Successive titles in Basel and Paris in the run-in to London, surprisingly the first time he has won back-to-back tournaments since 2006, proved Federer’s mercurial game and remarkably injury-free body are in good shape as he prepares for his 10th consecutive appearance at the season-ender.

With serious questions over the state of Djokovic’s serving shoulder and Nadal, who is also in Federer’s group along with American debutant Mardy Fish, not enjoying his best year away from his beloved European claycourts, the Swiss is arguably the favourite to claim the title again.

Djokovic, who is a group with Murray, Czech Tomas Berdych and Spain’s David Ferrer, looks to have hit the wall after lifting three of the year’s four Grand Slam titles and seizing the number one ranking.

The Serbian pulled out of the Paris Masters last week before his quarterfinal with Tsonga citing pain from the shoulder injury that has dogged him since he won the US Open.
Despite being less than 100 percent fit, however, the 24-year-old will be keen to avoid a disappointing end to a superb season in which he has amassed a 69-4 record.

Home fans will be hoping world number three Murray can land the biggest title of his career, having lost a three-set semifinal classic against Nadal last year.

Murray, who reached at least the semifinals of all four Grand Slams this year, appears the most likely player to prevent Federer setting yet another record.

Outside the big four, Tsonga could be the surprise package, having stayed clear of the injuries that have blighted his career to qualify for the season-ender for only the second time and the first time since 2008.

Those sentiments were echoed by Fish whose rise into the top eight as Andy Roddick’s career goes into decline ensured a 25th consecutive year that an American will take part in the tournament which has swapped venues regularly over the years but now seems to have found a natural home in London.

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