VICTORY is all the sweeter when it comes on home soil but Roger Federer had even greater reason than usual to celebrate his customary victory in the Swiss indoor championships in Basle yesterday.
It was the former world No 1's fifth triumph in his home city, but, just as importantly, it ended his longest run without a title for more than nine years.
When Federer won the second title of his career at Sydney in 2002 it came 11 months after his first. Since then he has never gone as long between successes as he has this year. Yesterday's 6-1, 6-3 victory over Japan's Kei Nishikori was Federer's first in a final since he beat Nikolay Davydenko in Doha in January.
Federer won his 68th title, in his 98th final, with a minimum of fuss. Nishikori, who had beaten Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych en route to his third ATP final, was swept aside by a barrage of winning shots from the 30-year-old Swiss, who dropped only one point on his serve in the first set and went on to secure the match in just 72 minutes.
"He didn't give me a chance," Nishikori said afterwards. Federer now heads for Paris, where he will be among the favourites to win the last Masters Series tournament of the year.
There are injury doubts over Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, while Rafael Nadal, the other member of the big four, is not playing in the French capital. The world No 2 has decided instead to concentrate on preparing for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which begin at the O2 Arena in London in 13 days' time, and Spain's Davis Cup final against Argentina next month.
Djokovic, the year's outstanding player, suffered a shoulder injury in losing to Nishikori in the semi-finals in Basle, only his fourth defeat since last November. Basle was the Serb's first tournament since he hurt his back and ribs winning the US Open two months ago.
Murray did not even make it to the start line in Switzerland. The Scot has been having treatment on the damaged gluteal muscle which forced his withdrawal, but he is in Paris and expects to play at the only hard-court Masters Series tournament where he has not reached the final.
After a first-round bye Murray is seeded to meet either France's Jeremy Chardy or Spain's Marcel Granollers. The seedings suggest Murray should then play Andy Roddick in the third round, Berdych or Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals, Federer in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final.
The Paris Masters will decide the final three places in the elite eight-man field for the World Tour Finals. Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Federer and David Ferrer have already booked their places, while Berdych, Mardy Fish and Jo- Wilfried Tsonga are best placed to take the three remaining spots.
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