Federer shrugs off accusation of getting special treatment

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Roger Federer of Switzerland competes during the singles match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during Day 3 of the 2018 Nitto ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 Arena in London, Britain on Nov. 13, 2018. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

Roger Federer on Tuesday dismissed a rival's claim that he gets preferential treatment from tournament organizers due to his status as one of the tennis' all-time greats.

French veteran Julien Benneteau last week accused the 20-time Grand Slam champion from Switzerland of using his reputation to secure favorable scheduling.

Benneteau cited Federer's matches at the past two Australian Opens as evidence, suggesting the Swiss star was granted his preference to play in the evening session to avoid the blistering Melbourne heat.

"Over the last two Australian Opens, he played 14 matches because he was champion and finalist. And he played 12 or 13 of them in the night session," Benneteau told France's RMC Sport.

"On the same day Federer played Jan-Lennard Struff, Novak Djokovic played Gael Monfils.

"Any tournament director would put Djokovic-Monfils on the night session at 7:30, right? But no. They played at 2:30 in the afternoon, in 104 degrees. And Federer-Struff played at night.

"It's normal that he gets preferential treatment, with everything he's done. But, in some tournaments, there are big differences in the conditions. He has no idea what that's like."

But Federer was supported by world No 1 Novak Djokovic, with the Serbian star suggesting the six-time Australian Open winner had earned the right to "special treatment" for all the good he has done for the sport.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also released a statement saying the scheduling of Federer's matches for the evening was a response to fan demand to watch a "once-in-a-generation athlete", rather than any desire to cater to the game's biggest attraction.

Tiley is an investor in the Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style annual tournament promoted by Federer and his management group Team8, but he denied a conflict of interest.

'Sometimes I get asked'

Asked about the controversy, former world No 1 Federer said that while he does speak to tournament chiefs about scheduling, he doesn't believe he gets special favors.

"I get asked, 'Would you like to play on Monday or Tuesday' sometimes. Sometimes I get asked, 'Do you want to play day or night?' Sometimes they go ask my agent," Federer said after his round-robin victory over Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals in London on Tuesday.

"Sometimes they tell me, you know, 'Asia wants you to play at night'. Yes, sometimes we have our say. But I asked to play on Monday at the US Open and I played on Tuesday night.

"It's all good, you know. I've had that problem for 20 years in the good way. Sometimes I get help, sometimes I don't. I think there you have it.

"Yeah, sometimes they come ask, sometimes they don't. But a lot of the facts are not right, just to be clear there, from what I heard."

Federer is bidding to win his 100th career singles title at the ATP Finals and he made it clear he wanted to draw a line under the favoritism issue.

"I don't really in feel the mood during a World Tour Finals to discuss that topic, to be honest," he said.

"The radio interview that happened over a week ago that surfaces now in French-Julien, who is a nice guy, I know him since the junior times, I think that all of this has been totally taken out of context."

Finals bid alive

Federer staved off elimination from the ATP Finals as the six-time champion eased to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Thiem.

After losing his opening match at London's O2 Arena against Kei Nishikori, Federer would have crashed out if he had been beaten by Thiem.

Only once before has Federer failed to qualify from his group for the knockout rounds in his 15 previous appearances at the prestigious season-ending event.

That lone flop came 10 years ago when the Finals were held in Shanghai.

Federer is still in contention with a chance of avoiding that ignominious fate thanks to his comfortable 66-minute dismissal of Austrian world No 8 Thiem.

Bidding for a record seventh ATP Finals crown and a first in the tournament since 2011, world No 3 Federer must beat South Africa's Kevin Anderson in his last group match to make the semifinals.

"It feels good. I am very happy that I showed a reaction after the last match," Federer said.

"Against Kei, instead of seeing things positively, I thought negatively. It was disappointing but it happens.

"Today I was more positive and happy on the court. I love playing in London and I had to remind myself what a privilege it is. I hope I showed it."

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