London, 21 November 2011 | AFP

Roger Federer started his bid for a record sixth title at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory over France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday.

Federer’s triumph at London’s 02 Arena 12 months ago moved him level with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl on five titles in the end of season finale.

He is determined to successfully defend his crown in London after a frustrating campaign.

The 30-year-old, down to fourth in the world rankings, will finish the year without a grand slam title for the first time since 2002.

However, he arrived for 2011’s concluding tournament in good form after back to back titles in Basel and Paris.

He has now won 13 matches in a row and 18 of his past 19.

“Jo-Wilfried served well in the second set and it was hard to control the rallies at the baseline,” Federer said.

“But I think this is the best I’ve played all year. It helped that I had some good time off before playing great at Basel and Paris.”

Tsonga added: “I think he was a bit surprised because I played so bad in the first set.

“Then I played correctly in the second, but it’s always difficult because he’s really quick.

“Sometimes you think you will get the point but Roger is still there. That’s why it’s tough to play against him.”

Federer suffered arguably the most stunning meltdown of his career when he last met Tsonga in London in the Wimbledon quarter-finals earlier this year.

For the first time in a grand slam the Swiss star was beaten after holding a two-set lead.

But he was finally back to his dominant best a week ago in the Paris Masters, which he won by defeating Tsonga in the final.

Federer, who had former Arsenal star Thierry Henry sitting in his box at courtside, picked up where he left off in Paris and took the first set in emphatic fashion.

Tsonga didn’t help his cause with two woefully mistimed forehands to present Federer with the first break in the fourth game.

Federer never looked likely to relinquish that advantage and he wrapped up the set with another break after Tsonga double-faulted at 0-30 and then netted a half-volley.

Tsonga found his game to take the second set, and was able to save a break point with a booming forehand at 2-3 in the final set, but Federer had a little more momentum.

The decisive moment came when Tsonga served to stay in the match at 4-5.

Federer unloaded some blistering ground-strokes to earn three match points and Tsonga couldn’t stem the tide as the Swiss clinched a hard-fought victory.

World No.2 Rafael Nadal will play America’s Mardy Fish, making his Tour Finals debut, in the other Group B match later on Sunday.