PARIS (AFP) - It's taken 10 months for Roger Federer to defeat a top five ranked player this year, but the Swiss great feels that his Paris Masters win over Juan Martin del Potro on Friday could herald a strong finish to what has been a troubling year.
Federer defeated the world number five from Argentina 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to set up a semi-final showdown with second seed Novak Djokovic in what will be the first matchup this year between the two.
The only other time this year he has defeated a top 10 player was at the Australian Open in January when he defeated Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals.
That sad state of affairs for the tennis legend has meant that he has failed to add to his haul of Grand Slam titles, currently stuck at 17, and failed to increase his collection of Masters Series titles, which is stalled at 21.
But after taking time off following his US Open loss to Tommy Robredo to work on his game out in Dubai, Federer is optimistic he can finish the year with a flourish both at Paris and at next week's season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
"Yeah, it's been a while," Federer said of his inability to beat the top players.
"But I have had some decent matches along the way - maybe against less famous players than Juan Martin - so I'm happy it worked out well today.
"I think it was a good match from start to finish. That's definitely good for my confidence, because those are the kind of wins I need right now."
Part of the reason for his late resurgence Federer believes lies in his having taken the time off after the US Open to recover both physically and mentally from his earlier efforts.
That and the massive support he always gets from an adoring Paris public who watched him struggle for years to win the French Open against a dominant Rafael Nadal, before finally triumphing in 2009.
"You know, I remember 10, 15 years ago we would come here (Paris), like, Oh, God, I just want to go on vacation, you know? "This year I don't feel like this. When I speak to players, everybody is eager to do well and play well.
"It seems like we are recovering quicker and really take every tournament extremely serious.
"It's become super professional, as you can imagine it to be. So it's less sort of up and down with the mood swings, as well." Next up though is Djokovic, world number one for most of the year before Nadal dethroned him in early October.
It will be the 30th meeting between the pair - although the first since Djokovic defeated the Swiss star in the the ATP World Tour Final a year ago - with Federer 16-13 ahead.
At 32, many are saying that Federer's best days are behind him, but he believes he can still compete with the best, starting with Djokovic.
"I prefer to play him now than four months ago. I'm again more confident now and I believe again in my chances," he said.
"But if I had played him a few weeks ago or a few months ago I might have thought that I was not sure.
"It might have been more difficult. I believe I can win more now. I will try my best against him because he's again having a very good year."