Commentary

Roger Federer seeks history in London

Updated: November 27, 2011, 8:23 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | ESPN.com

Most of the time, Roger Federer says he doesn't know when he's broken a record or is about to break one. It must be hard to keep track.

The media usually informs him and did so again Saturday.

If Federer beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finale of the ATP World Tour Finals, he'll become the first men's player to win the year-end championships six times. He would tie Ivan Lendl for the most men's match victories at the elite extravaganza.

"There's a lot on the line, and in a way, there's not," Federer said in his news conference. "All I can do is try to play a good match against a dangerous player."

[+] EnlargeRoger Federer
Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer is seeking his record-breaking sixth year-end championship.

Federer, who'll appear in his landmark 100th final, tied idol Stefan Edberg in career wins (806) when he predictably dispatched David Ferrer, 7-5, 6-3, in the semifinals.

It wasn't, in truth, one of Federer's better displays. He began in lethargic fashion, perhaps amazed that he was facing the Spaniard. For most of Friday evening, it looked like he'd confront Novak Djokovic.

But when Ferrer failed to take advantage at 5-4 in the opening set, Federer's fate was sealed.

Tsonga changed things up in his 6-3, 7-5 win in London against Tomas Berdych. Known as a high-risk, attacking character on court, he tempered his game, mostly playing patiently from the baseline.

Tsonga reverted to type, though, late in the second set when an increasingly resilient Berdych rallied from a break down to force several extra games. The potent serve was a mainstay.

Tsonga and Federer have grown accustomed to meeting in 2011, so no advance scouting is required. They'll battle for the eighth time this year -- and third consecutive Sunday.

"We have someone who is very confident right now and has played well indoors," Federer said. "He's going to believe in his chance."

"I will give everything," Tsonga said in his news conference. "If I have to break my two ankles to win, I will do it for sure," he jokingly added.

Why Federer can win

He's surging

How else would you describe someone who's won 16 matches in a row?

OK, so Federer wouldn't have had to defeat anyone in the top four on the final weekend, but he crushed world No. 2 and major rival Rafael Nadal in the group stage. In that all-important match, his forehand was firing and never broke down.

He excels in year-end finals

Federer, Lendl and Pete Sampras have all won the year-end championships five times. However, Federer's winning percentage is better than Lendl's and as good as Sampras' (.833).

When he gets here, he hardly ever loses.

His lone loss came against David Nalbandian in 2005, when he entered the tournament with an ankle that wasn't 100 percent.

He's figured out Tsonga

Yes, Federer lost to Tsonga at Wimbledon. And just as he did against Nalbandian, he relinquished a two-set advantage.

But that was more than four months ago. Federer has won their past three head-to-heads, dropping a mere one set.

Why Tsonga can win

Confidence is soaring

After falling to Federer in the first encounter of the World Tour Finals a week ago, Tsonga left the court visibly annoyed. He knew he missed an opportunity in the three-set loss.

"What I [learned], it's [that] I can do it," Tsonga said.

Since then, Tsonga has won three matches in succession, ending losing streaks against Nadal and Berdych.

He's beaten Fed before

Not only has Tsonga downed Federer, but he did it at Wimbledon, which isn't far away from the O2 Arena (13 miles southwest, to be more precise).

Although Ferrer already had lost half the battle before he even stepped onto the court Saturday (he'd tasted defeat in all 11 of his previous duels against Federer), that won't be the case with Tsonga.

He's due for a big title

Hmmm, let's see here: Tsonga has ousted Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, and at least twice each.

How many others can say that? It's about time he wins a sizable tournament away from home.

His confidence would escalate even further, setting him up nicely for 2012.

"They are all big champions," Tsonga said, referring to past winners of the World Tour Finals. "So if I can [join] them, it's going to be amazing for me."

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.