LONDON • Roger Federer has hit back at claims he gets "preferential treatment" from tennis tournaments due to his status as one of the sport's all-time greats.
The Swiss was speaking to reporters after he put a troubled start to his 16th ATP Finals behind him by outclassing Austria's Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday.
The 37-year-old brushed off the controversy stirred up by Julien Benneteau in an interview with France's RMC Sport.
The French veteran felt Federer's reputation meant he was granted his preference to play in the evening session to avoid the blistering Melbourne heat and offered the Swiss' matches at the last two Australian Opens as evidence.
But Federer, who stayed on course for the knockout stage and will play South Africa's Kevin Anderson today, refuted suggestions that he gets special scheduling favours from tournament chiefs.
"I get asked, 'Would you like to play Monday or Tuesday?' some times. Sometimes, I get asked, 'Do you want to play day or night?'. Sometimes, they go ask my agent," said Federer.
"Sometimes, they ask me, 'Asia wants you to play at night'. 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... A lot of the facts are not right.
"I don't really feel that I am in the mood during a World Tour Finals to discuss that topic, to be honest.
"The radio interview that happened over a week ago... Julien is a nice guy, I know him since the junior times, all of this has been totally taken out of context."
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley also said 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 sport's biggest star.
"It needs to be said that Roger Federer is a player widely regarded as one of the biggest 'box office' athletes in the world," Tiley said.
"He has been regularly voted Australia's favourite athlete. The fans demand his appearance in the big stadiums and our broadcasters naturally want his matches to air in prime time.
"And I don't think there's a tournament director in the world who is not going to take those factors into account when setting the schedule.
"This is the case with all the big names in tennis, and in sport in general."
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic edged closer to securing a place in the last four of the ATP Finals after defeating Germany's Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-1 yesterday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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