World number 3 and the eight-time Basel champion has extended his domination in the hometown despite not playing his best tennis this week, ousting Filip Krajinovic, Jan-Lennard Struff-Gilles Simon and Daniil Medvedev to enter the 14th final in the hometown and the 151st overall, becoming the Tour-leading player in 2018 with seven finals reached.
Marius Copil defeated Alexander Zverev in the other semi-final and he will be the 56th different Roger Federer’s rival in the title matches, standing as only the fourth qualifier who will try to steal the trophy away from Roger! Copil is the first qualifier in the ATP final against Roger Federer since 2005 and we will take a look at the previous three title matches the Swiss had to play against the rivals who had to start from the rock bottom in order to get a chance to fight for the title.
Three weeks after winning his maiden title in Milan in February 2001, Roger Federer was ready to go all the way in another indoor tournament in Rotterdam as well, facing Nicolas Escude in the battle for the trophy. Escude was ranked 60th and he had to qualify to enter the main draw, beating Jonas Bjorkman, Tim Henman, Ivan Ljubicic and Vladimir Voltchkov, all in straight sets, seeking his second ATP crown after Toulouse in 1999.
After two hours and 33 minutes, Escude prevailed 7-5 3-6 7-6, taking the deciding tie break 7-5 to leave Roger empty-handed. Both players struggled to find the first serve and that opened the window for the returners to create many break chances, especially Roger who earned no less than 18! That wasn’t enough for the win, though, as Nicolas fends off 14 of those to reduce the deficit in his games and keep himself in contention after stealing Federer’s serve four times from nine opportunities.
The Swiss one point more overall (113-112) and almost nothing could separate them in the winners and unforced errors department as well. They were equally efficient in the shortest points up to four strokes while Escude created the difference in the mid-range rallies from five to eight strokes.
Federer managed to overcome that in the longest rallies and it was one of the closest finals of the entire 2001 season. The Frenchman fends off four break points in the opening service game to avoid an early upset and break Roger in the very next game to take the lead.
Federer pulled the break back in the very next game for a 2-2 and he wasted two break points in the fifth game that could have moved him ahead. Instead of that, Escude survived and he grabbed the second break at 5-5 after an unforced error from Roger, moving 6-5 up and closing the set in the following game after saving two break points.
Things went from bad to worse for the youngster, suffering another break in the third game of the second set but breaking back in the next game for a 2-2, delivering a nice hold and converting the fourth break point in the sixth game for a 4-2.
Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer repelled two break points to bring the set home and force a decider where he had the momentum on his side. They traded breaks at the start of the final set and served well in the rest of the set (Federer lost more points in his games to face a few deuces) to set up a tie break where Escude raced into a 6-2 lead.
Federer saved the first three match points but Nicolas sealed the deal on the fourth to celebrate the title. A year later, Roger played against another qualifier in the final of Sydney, ousting Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3 6-3 in 53 minutes for his second ATP title overall.
Federer defeated Andy Roddick in the semi-final after a solid fight and he had an easier job in the title match, losing just 10 points in nine service games against the Argentinian and facing no break points. Chela struggled on his second serve and he failed to save a break point, giving his serve away three times to end on the losing side.
Roger was the dominant figure on the court, hitting more than 20 winners and taming his shots nicely to overpower Chela in every segment on the court. The Swiss gained the biggest advantage in the shortest points up to four strokes, dominating with his serve and the first groundstroke after the initial shot to keep the points on his racquet all the time.
The first set was decided in the sixth game when Juan Ignacio played some loose shots behind his serve, allowing Roger to move 6-3 up after commanding holds. Federer pushed even stronger in set number two and he broke Chela in games three and nine, wrapping up the match with a volley winner for his second ATP crown.
Roger Federer’s score in the ATP finals against qualifiers:
↓ SHOW RESULTS ↓
2001 Rotterdam vs Nicolas Escude 5-6 6-3 6-7(5)
2002 Sydney vs Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3 6-3
2005 Hamburg vs Richard Gasquet 6-3 7-5 7-6(4)