SHANGHAI, Nov 19 (Reuters) When asked what advice Roger Federer the coach would offer any player facing him in a match, the imperious Swiss joked: ''Don't even try, pal!'' But after watching the world number one capture his fourth title in five years at the season-ending Masters Cup yesterday, none of his rivals will be laughing.
Federer produced a vintage display to beat Spain's David Ferrer 6-2 6-3 6-2 in a one-sided final in Shanghai -- and then warned he will only get better.
''It's been a fantastic year,'' said Federer, having made a mockery of suggestions he was in crisis following his shock loss to Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in his opening Red Group match.
''It's been in some ways a breakthrough year for me. Not losing a set during the Australian Open, beating (Rafael) Nadal for the first time on clay.
''I still would like to play a little more offensive, you know, come to the net a little bit. I'm in a great position for next year as well.'' When Federer was ambushed by Gonzalez in his round-robin opener it was his ninth defeat since January, the Swiss having lost only nine times in total throughout 2005 and 2006.
It also marked back-to-back losses for Federer -- the first time that had happened for more than four years -- and triggered some fanciful headlines.
The only person not panicking was Federer.
Another three grand slam titles in 2007 and finalist at the French Open, Federer smiled: ''Some might think that's a disaster. I don't.'' EMPHATIC WIN Unruffled, he beat Russia's Nikolay Davydenko before destroying American Andy Roddick 6-4 6-2 and nemesis Nadal 6-4 6-1, his most emphatic win over the Spaniard to date.
''I didn't read the press that closely or listen to what people said,'' smiled Federer. ''Once I get on a roll it's hard to stop me.
It's always been like this.'' Federer may transcend his sport, in the way Tiger Woods does golf, or Michael Jordan did basketball, but his hunger remains as fierce as ever.
''When I prove myself again and again now, it's not as big a surprise because this is why I work my tail off basically,'' said the 12-times grand slam champion.
''The red carpet stuff is interesting but I'm trying to cut it down as much as I can because in the end my big focus is tennis.'' Federer's off-season preparation will now be geared towards breaking Pete Sampras's record of 14 grand slam singles titles in 2008.
''I surprise myself at times,'' said the 26-year-old Federer, who plays Sampras in a series of exhibition matches in Asia this week.
''I hope I can keep it going for many more years.'' Federer, who finished the year as number one for the fourth season in a row, wants to play until he is 35 -- disastrous news for Nadal.
''Maybe I am the best world number two in history,'' said the French Open champion with a wry smile. ''When Roger plays well it is impossible to stop him.'' Reuters TB DB0952