ATP Finals Flashback: Roger Federer restores order



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ATP Finals Flashback: Roger Federer restores order

After a dominant display in 2004 and 2005, Roger Federer went even further in 2006. The Swiss claimed 12 titles and 92 victories from 97 matches, standing far ahead of Rafael Nadal and other rivals in a one-person show. Roger won three Majors and four Masters 1000 crowns to extend his incredible journey.

The Swiss conquered the season's final 29 encounters following the Cincinnati loss to Andy Murray. Federer was the last man standing at the US Open, Tokyo, Madrid, Basel and the ATP Finals in Shanghai, where he reclaimed the trophy lost to David Nalbandian in a thrilling final a year ago.

Interestingly, Federer lost the opening set against Nalbandian in the 2006 ATP Finals campaign before scoring a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory. The second round-robin clash was even more challenging, and Roger prevailed against Andy Roddick 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in two and a half hours.

The Swiss fended off three match points in the second set to extend his winning streak. He delivered a 7-6, 6-4 triumph over Ivan Ljubicic to top the group standings and set Rafael Nadal clash in the semis. Rafa fought well after defeating Roger four times that year.

Still, it was not enough to overpower the Swiss on an indoor court, with world no. 1 claiming a 6-4, 7-5 triumph in an hour and 53 minutes. Federer advanced to his fourth straight ATP Finals title clash, becoming the first player to achieve that since Ivan Lendl in 1987!

Federer took down James Blake 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 37 minutes on November 19 for the third title at this event in the last four years. It was the sixth meeting between Roger and James and the sixth win for the Swiss, already the fourth and most dominant one in 2006.

The American had a great season behind him. He played in the eighth final and stood with Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko despite missing a chance to lift the sixth title in the most important clash of his career. Roger was a player on the mission that day, winning 33 points more than his rival and fending off ten out of 11 break chances in three different service games.

Roger Federer claimed his third ATP Finals title in four years in 2006.

Blake hit only four aces and lost half of the points in his games to play against 13 break chances and suffer six breaks. He made the worst start and failed to convert the opportunities he created later in the encounter.

They had a similar number of unforced errors. However, Roger was much more efficient in the winners department, hitting almost 40 and keeping Blake below 20. The Swiss cemented his backhand to have the upper hand in most rallies, blasting 30 service winners against the American's 16.

The former champion forged the lead in the shortest points and an even bigger one in the mid-range exchanges, where he completely silenced Blake's forehand. The more experienced player kicked off the match with a break in the second game and cemented it with three winners in the next one for a 3-0 lead.

James was 40-15 up in the fourth game. Still, he was yet to get his name on the scoreboard after suffering another break thanks to Roger's backhand winner. The Swiss fended off five break chances a few minutes later and closed the game with a service winner to keep his serve intact.

The set was over after Federer's return winner at 5-0, wrapping up the encounter's first part in 26 minutes and setting the perfect ground for the remaining sets. Roger held at love with a service winner at the beginning of the second set and missed a chance to clinch the eighth straight game after squandering two break opportunities in game two.

James could have moved in front for the first time, but Roger stayed focused in game three and repelled four break opportunities - three with winners - to keep his serve intact. Gathering momentum, Federer opened a 3-1 gap after breaking Blake and clinched the set with a forehand winner at 5-3, looking sharp and determined to finish the job in set number three.

The third set's third game secured another break for Roger, overpowering James in the backhands exchange to win all four points and make another big step towards the finish line. Blake saved a break chance the next time he served to avoid an even more significant deficit.

Federer secured that second break with a backhand down the line winner in the seventh game, jumping into a 5-2 lead and serving for the title. That turned out to be Roger's worst service game in the entire match. He sprayed a forehand error to get broken at 15 before Blake reduced the deficit to 4-5 with four winners in game nine.

There were no mistakes from Federer in game ten, delivering four winners to take the set 6-4 and finish his 2006 duties with the ATP Finals trophy in his hands.