At 36, Roger Federer continues to defy age and logic after his latest Grand Slam win, becoming the oldest player in tennis history to be ranked world number one, more than 14 years after first achieving the feat. This, however, raises the question whether there is paucity of talents in the game or that the Swiss Express is just special
Roger Federer celebrated his return to the top of the world rankings by winning the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in RotterdamÂ on Sunday, and declared it “very special”. The 36-year-old needed just 55 minutes to see off ailing Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in a one-sided encounter.
Federer told the official ATP World Tour website: “It’s definitely one of those weeks I will never forget in my life. It’s unbelievable to get my 97th title and get back to world No 1. It’s very special.
“I was expecting it to be tough today. Grigor is a great player and a great athlete and he’s been playing super well in recent months.I thought that this wasn’t going to be the result, but he looked to be struggling a bit and I never looked back. I was able to execute my tennis the way I wanted to. I’m very happy.”
Federer, who had previously won in the Dutch city in 2005 and 2012, has played two tournaments this year and won both – the other being January’s Australian Open which he won for the sixth time.
“I saved the best for last,” added Federer. “I had a great first match and a great last match. In between, it was a battle, it was nerve-wracking getting back to No 1. But I was able to manage my nerves and the expectations. I was able to handle that pressure, today I played great from the beginning.”
However, Rafael Nadal, whom the Swiss dethroned from the top spot, seems to have taken news of Federerâ€™s rise back to the summit in good faith. He says he is not fussed about dethroning his rival anytime soon.
â€œHe didn’t need to return to No 1 to show who he is in tennis. What he’s achieved is very difficult and you can only congratulate him. Rankings don’t lie; he did a little bit better than me in the last 12 months. Iâ€™ve been in the top two for many years. Being No 1, No 3, No 5 doesn’t make much difference.
â€œWhat makes me happy is feeling competitive and able to win tournaments. I won’t fight to be back at No 1. I’ll fight to have my best possible season. If that means later in the season I have a chance to be back at it, OK.I only fight to be happy and competitive in every tournament I play. That’s my goal. We’ll see where I’m at the end of season,â€ Nadal said.
Meanwhile, former No 1, Marat Safin has charged the new wave of men’s tennis talent to challenge the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Marat Safin has questioned the younger tennis generation after Rafael Nadal and Roger Federerâ€™s renaissance in form.
The last five Grand Slam titles were shared by the illustrious duo and they won a combined 13 titles last season.
Safin described Nadal and Federer as “superstars” and admitted he was “impressed” with their achievements on their return from injury but wants to see more from the new guard.
When asked what he made of Nadal and Federer’s campaigns, Safin said: “What impressed me was when you consider the rest of the players. They are still winning and crushing everybody.
“I think, well, they -Nadal and Federer are superstars. What is wrong with the juniors? They need to start to make the next step.”
Alexander Zverev enjoyed a breakthrough season, winning five titles in 2017, to finish the year as the world No 4 as a 20-year-old and Safin has backed the German to continue his progression at the top echelons of the sport.
“For me, Zverev, I think,” Safin said: “Plus he has a good coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. He was a good player and has done good work with him.
“He is number four in the world, so he can manage, so let’s see. The rest of the young stars, we’ll wait.”
Ten years ago, during his run of 237 straight weeks at No. 1, Federer outlined his intention to â€œplay through the generations like Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors.â€ A commendable goal, but in reality, when Federer underwent knee surgery in February 2016, few could have predicted that arguably the sportâ€™s greatest stylist would today have broken myriad of ATP Rankings records and once againÂ re-write the history books.
His return to the summit of menâ€™s professional tennis for the first time since November 4 2012, a record gap of five years and 106 days, began at No 17 in the ATP Rankings just 13 months ago under the guidance of Severti Luthi, his coach since 2008. Federer acknowledged a few years ago that to continue to play the sport deep into his 30s, he needed to be smarter with his playing schedule and further develop his incredible work ethic. His team helped to maintain his mental focus in order to prolong his career, and his confidence has soared.
Today, in his 21st season as a professional, with 97 tour-level trophies, Federer has eclipsed Agassi â€“ aged 33 in September 2003, to become the oldest player to ascend to top spot. In doing so, he has provided inspiration to all those, regardless of their age, who strive to attain a goal. Since he first rose to No. 1 a record 14 years and17 days ago, he has redefined what it means to be a great sportsman, let alone a top-level tennis player.
After capturing his 20th Grand Slam championship last month at the Australian Open, Federer provided a glimpse of why he keeps playing tennis: â€œAt the end, it’s seeing that my parents- Robert and Lynette – are incredibly proud and happy that I’m still doing it. They enjoy coming to tournaments. That makes me happy and play better.
â€œThen, of course, my wife, Mirka, who makes it all possible. Without her support, I wouldn’t be playing tennis any more – for many years. We had a very open conversation years ago, if she was happy to do this or not. I’m happy that she’s super supportive, and she’s willing to take on a massive workload with the kidsâ€¦ This life wouldn’t work if she said, â€˜Noâ€™.â€
Federer has risen again, and only the small-minded and cynical could not be moved by the impossibility of it all.
So what next? With nine titles from his past 10 finals, Federer has won 97 trophies overall and 1,144 matches. Is Connorsâ€™ ATP World Tour-era leading tallies of 1,256 match wins and 109 titles under threat? Having already made an indelible mark on the sport, free of back and knee pain, Federer may soon consider that those long-standing records are worth chasing.