Federer returns to winning ways in Basel

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BASEL, Switzerland, November 7 – Roger Federer has emerged as the fittest of the tennis elite heading into Monday’s start of the final event of a long ATP season, the Paris Masters.

The 30-year-old world number four has remained remarkably injury-free throughout a career which has yielded 16 grand slam titles. He earned a 58th trophy in Sunday’s 6-1, 6-3 thrashing of Japan’s Kei Nishikori to win a fifth Swiss Indoors.

“It’s been a long time since I felt so good physically,” Federer said after playing and winning for the first time after a six-week pause following September Davis Cup.

“I’m feeling ready and fit and fired up, that’s how it’s supposed to be. This is the last push of the season and I’m ready for it.”

Federer aside, the top of the Paris field looks particularly vulnerable as another marathon season draws to a close, with next week and the year-end World Tour Finals still to come.

World number one Novak Djokovic is doubtful for Paris after re-injuring his right shoulder in his semi-final loss in Basel to Nishikori, set to rise from his 32nd ranking.

Rafael Nadal pulled from the Bercy indoor event, ostensibly on fitness grounds. But the clay king has never felt his game at the Bercy arena and does not get any love from the Paris crowds who jeered him when he quit a match injured in 2008.

Number three Andy Murray created a stir a week ago when asking for a Basel wild card. But the Scot then said that an injury to a glute muscle – he said it was sustained in his sleep – leaves him as another question mark,

Federer, by contrast, appears to be ready to go after another triumph at home.

The Swiss leaves standing 29-1 at his home event over the past six years after playing six straight finals. The tournament is the only non-grand slam tournament where he has won more than 40 matches.

“It’s been a great start to the autumn, I think my pause paid off. I’ve got different priorities than some of the younger guys who are ranked around me.

“I needed to take that time off, it was best for my mind, my body, my family and my fitness. There is a lot of tennis to be played until the end of the season and it will be packed in early 2012.

“I want to be a danger everywhere that I play.”

Federer improved to 54-12 this season as he competed in his first final since losing to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros in June.

The seed, who hit with Nishikori several seasons ago in Miami and had the Asian youngster marked for a promising future, was playing in his 98th ATP final, standing 68-30 and 2-2 in 2011.

Federer nailed five aces and broke on four of 13 chances against Nishikori, who was playing his second final of the season after Houston in the spring. The Swiss saved the only break point he faced.

“I started nervous, I was excited to be playing the final against Roger,” said Nishikori. “But I only remember playing well in the last few points of the match.

“I’m a little disappointed at home I played today. My serve didn’t go well. But Roger gives you no time to think out there, I really couldn’t do anything.”

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