2010 was a season of change in men's tennis, with Spain's Rafael Nadal taking over the top spot in the world rankings from Switzerland's Roger Federer. Federer can look ahead to the 2011 season with confidence, however, after dominating Nadal Sunday in the season-ending ATP World Tour final.
World number-two Roger Federer downed top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at the O2 Arena in London to capture the event for a record fifth time. Federer dominated the match, winning 92 percent of the points on his first serve.
"It is fantastic! Really thrilled the way I played all week. To win [this tournament] the fifth time is obviously amazing. I am just really happy the way I was able to finish the season in style, playing some of my best tennis, really saving best for last. And beating Rafa in the final obviously makes it extra special because of the year he had," said Federer.
Displaying his usual sportsmanship, Nadal gave Federer full credit for the win.
"He played better than me, he beat me, so just I can congratulate him for his victory and a great tournament for him," said Nadal. "He played unbelievable during all the week without losing a set being in the final. So, his level was very high and I tried my best this afternoon, but he was better than me."
Federer and Nadal are engaged in what some consider the greatest rivalry in the history of men's tennis. They are the only two men to finish six consecutive years as the top-two ranked players on the ATP Tour.
The 29-year-old Federer started a record 237-week run at the top of the men's world rankings in February 2004, and continued as number one until Nadal broke his streak in August 2008. Federer regained the top spot the following June, but the 24-year-old Nadal re-took the number-one world ranking after winning the 2010 French Open, one of his three Grand Slam titles this year.
Nadal also won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010. With his victory at the U.S. Open, Nadal became just the seventh player in tennis history to win all four Grand Slam titles (he won the Australian Open in 2009).
Despite his success, Nadal battled injuries throughout the 2010 season and had to skip the Paris Masters tournament the week of November 8 with a shoulder injury. But the Spaniard refused to blame his physical condition for his loss to Federer.
"I do not want to say I lost the match because I was tired. I feel I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer. And when he is playing like this it is very difficult to stop him, no? I had a little bit [a few] chances but it was not enough."
Nadal owns a 14-8 advantage in career meetings against Federer and has won five of their seven Grand Slam finals. Federer has won the ATP World Tour title all three times he has played the Spaniard, though, and says he will have confidence in 2011.
"I am sure I am going to play well," said Federer. "That never guarantees success, but I am sure the confidence I took away from this tournament could help down the stretch in beating fellow top-10 players. So there [are] many positives to take away from this tournament."
Can Roger Federer regain the number-one ranking and extend his record total of 16 Grand Slam victories in 2011, or will a healthy Rafael Nadal prevent the Swiss star from surpassing him? We will have to wait until the new season - which starts in January - plays out to determine that.