02:45 PM GMT November 16, 2017
Roger Federer won't finish 2017 as the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. But the second seed has put himself in great position to still finish his fairytale comeback season with a perfect ending.
The 36-year-old Swiss won his third consecutive match at the Nitto ATP Finals on Thursday, dismissing fifth seed Marin Cilic 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 to finish Group Boris Becker play 3-0. It's the 10th time Federer has ended group play unbeaten, and he'll head to Saturday's semi-final full of belief, not that he has been lacking.
The six-time Nitto ATP Finals champion has reeled off 13 consecutive wins, including eight indoors, dating back to his Swiss Indoors Basel title run. This weekend, he'll be the favourite to win his seventh Nitto ATP Finals title and his eighth crown of the season.
Alexander Zverev and Jack Sock will play for second place in Group Boris Becker on Thursday night. In Group Pete Sampras, first-time semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov has won the group, and David Goffin and Dominic Thiem will play for second place on Friday afternoon.
Federer leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Goffin 6-0, but the Swiss trails Thiem in their rivalry 1-2, although all three matches took place last year.
“I played very well so really happy to be playing at this level right now,” Federer said on court after his 55th Nitto ATP Finals win.
CIlic had lost his first two matches and had no chance of making the semi-finals. But with the pressure off, the Croatian played his best tennis of the week to start the match.
He saved all four break points and didn't wait for Federer to misstep in the first set tie-break. Cilic smashed a forehand winner crosscourt, his 20th winner of the set, to take the opener and snap a six-set losing streak against the Swiss.
The second set had been more of the same as Cilic stepped up to serve at 4-5. But at 15/40, he lobbed an 84 mph second serve to Federer, who ran around it and crushed a 100 mph forehand winner to even the match. Federer rolled from there, breaking Cilic in the second and sixth games to advance.
“It wasn't easy. I mean, look, it's a fast court. It's indoors. We've seen it now: when you miss a few too many opportunities, you can really pay the price at this tournament. So we've seen some swings of momentum in a lot of the matches this week,” Federer said.
“I think in the beginning I was slightly overaggressive in the first set on some crucial points rather than maybe being patient. I was able to turn that around late in the second set. Then just had a much better feeling in the third set.
“Maybe also Marin's level dropped, I'm not sure. But definitely was dangerous there for a while.”
Cilic fell to 1-8 during his three appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals. All three of his matches this week lasted three sets.
“Even though it's three losses, I felt that my tennis wasn't too far off of playing really, really well. Good positives at least in that. Hopefully I'm going to recover good and start a new season on a good level,” he said.