PARIS — Roger Federer‘s tough season is ending on a high note after the Swiss star beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6 (3) on Sunday to win his first Paris Masters title and the 69th of a glittering career.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion had never previously reached the Paris final but gave the sixth-seeded Frenchman limited opportunities after saving two break points in his opening service game.
“I’m just ecstatic to have played so well this week,” Federer said. “I have had many attempts to win Paris and for some reason I wasn’t able to. It’s a special victory.”
The former No. 1 will end the season without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002, and his ranking has dropped to No. 4. But Federer has bounced back of late, winning the Swiss Indoors last week before arriving in Paris.
“I have had some really tough losses this year, but I kept believing the year wasn’t over,” said Federer. “I’m not playing to prove anything to anybody. I play for myself, I play for Switzerland (and) just to enjoy myself.”
Federer took six weeks off after the Davis Cup playoff against Australia in mid-September and feels it paid off.
“I always plan in the long term,” Federer said. “I know how grueling it is out there. Even I need my time away.”
His 18th Masters title puts him one ahead of Andre Agassi and one behind all-time leader Rafael Nadal. The 30-year-old heads into the eight-man ATP World Tour Finals in London next week on a 12-match winning streak.
“I can still finish this year on a high,” he said. “Now I have a massive highlight coming up in a week’s time.”
But with Djokovic troubled by a nagging shoulder injury, Federer will be confident of defending his title in London.
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Tsonga improved his serve in the second set, but Federer was simply too strong in the tiebreaker, taking victory on his third match point when Tsonga’s return landed out.
“I felt good today but Roger was just better than me today,” Tsonga said. “I knew
I needed to play a great match if wanted to win today and I was not able to.”
Tsonga won the tournament in 2008 but was let down by too many unforced errors on his forehand as he tried to find a way to pressure Federer in their sixth meeting this year.
“I just wish I could have competed more,” said Tsonga, who this year beat Federer in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, but lost at the same stage to the Swiss star at the U.S. Open. Overall, Federer now leads Tsonga 6-3.
Federer took only 80 minutes to beat Tomas Berdych in straight sets in Saturday’s semifinals, while Tsonga labored for three hours and saved three match points before getting the better of unseeded American John Isner.
Federer’s sharpness showed as he mercilessly attacked Tsonga’s weak second serve in the first set. He opened a 4-0 lead after Tsonga, visibly frustrated over too many loose forehands, double-faulted.
The opening set lasted only 30 minutes, Federer clinching it with a whipped winner into the open court after Tsonga returned a strong second serve to Federer’s forehand.
“On this kind of surface, Roger has always been among the best players,” Tsonga said.
Tsonga had to raise his game in the second set or risk a thrashing, and he dug out a crosscourt winner with a booming forehand in the fourth game to set up break point. With Federer on second serve, Tsonga missed his chance when his hurried forehand went out.
With Federer’s seemingly impregnable serve dipping for the first time in the match, the Frenchman missed another opportunity at 30-40 in the eighth game when he sent a forehand long.
Federer hardly had to dig deep, but he did thrill the crowd at the Bercy arena with one moment of brilliance in the next game.
A closely contested rally saw Tsonga send Federer scampering to the back of the court to retrieve a lob. Federer waited for the ball to sit up nicely, spun around and hit a devastating backhand pass without even looking to see where Tsonga was.
Tsonga appeared nervous in the tiebreaker, netting a forehand long and a backhand into the net — either side of Federer’s forehand winner and service winner — to trail 0-4.
Federer raced to a 6-1 lead, and though Tsonga saved two match points with a neat drop shot and a service winner, it was a brief reprieve from an inevitable ending.
Having won the Swiss indoors and Paris Masters back-to-back, taking his total career wins to 802, Federer heads to London in fine form.