Federer failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, then wasted a match point in the tiebreaker as Tsonga threatened to stage another improbable comeback against the former No. 1.
Tsonga became the first player to rally from a two-set deficit to beat Federer in a Grand Slam tournament in this year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals, but the hard-serving Frenchman couldn’t pull off another surprise this time.
Playing in his 100th career final, Federer broke for a 5-3 lead in the decider and served out the match at love, sealing his 70th career title with an easy volley.
“I couldn’t be more happy. I couldn’t be more exhausted,” Federer told the crowd at the O2 Arena after being presented with the trophy for the second year in a row.“Jo sucked every last bit of energy out of me today.”
With the victory, Federer moved past Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras, who both won five titles at the season-ending event for the world’s top eight players, previously known as the Masters Cup.
The Swiss star has not lost a match since the U.S. Open semifinals. He finished the year with a 17-match winning streak after titles in Basel and Paris before coming to London.
“He’s the best player indoors for the moment,” Tsonga said. “He’s maybe the best player ever, because he’s really quick. He’s playing well. That’s it.”
It was the third Sunday in a row that featured a meeting between these two players; Federer beat Tsonga in the Paris final two weeks ago and again in their first round-robin match in London last weekend.
The third win proved the hardest for Federer. He appeared to be headed to a fairly routine victory after breaking for a 3-2 lead in the second set, hitting a forehand return winner on the line. But he faltered when serving at 5-4, going down 0-40. Tsonga eventually earned the break with a volley winner.
In the tiebreaker, Federer led 5-2 and held a match point at 6-5, but Tsonga saved it with a forehand winner before ripping a scorching forehand return on his first set point to level the match.
“Today I fight all I can,” Tsonga said. “I’m just happy tonight because I had a good week. Of course, to win is better. But anyway, I give everything. Tonight I can see myself in the mirror and say, ‘Yeah, you fight enough.’ ”
Federer wasn’t about to allow another comeback, and he picked up a break in the eighth game of the decider when Tsonga sent a running forehand wide, before easily clinching the victory.