WASHINGTON, February 17, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
After clinching the No. 1 world ranking a day earlier, Roger Federer came into his ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament semifinal match against No. 33 Andreas Seppi on Saturday evening looking to clinch a berth in the final against No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov.
Federer not only advanced to Sunday’s championship match against the World No. 5 Dimitrov, whom he has never lost to in six previous meetings. He also put on a master class for the fans who gathered to see the Swiss maestro’s 6-3, 7-6 (3) win over Seppi at the Rotterdam Ahoy arena in this ATP 500 event. It was their first meeting since the 2015 Paris Masters, and Federer improved his career head-to-head against Seppi to 14-1 with his latest triumph over the Italian.
During their 1 hour and 24 minute match on Centre Court, Federer played the big moments very well. He won the opening set with a flourish by capturing the final four games, which included breaking Seppi’s serve twice during that span. Then, after each player battled point for point in the second set to force a tie-break, Federer raced to a 5-1 lead. He set up match point at 6-3 with a service winner, and won it with an authoritative, forehand volley winner at the net.
More than 14 years after he first gained the No. 1 ATP ranking – and nearly six years since he was last ranked at the top – Federer is once again the toast of the tennis world. And, if age is just a number, well the 36-year-old Federer has that covered, too. Not only is he the World No. 1, he’s also the oldest No. 1 player since Andre Agassi, who was ranked No. 1 at age 33 back in 2003.
“I think reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement, in our sport,” said Federer, during an on-court ceremony following his quarterfinal win over Robin Haase on Friday evening. “So, sometimes at the beginning you just all of a sudden get there just because you’re playing so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back and you wrestle it back from somebody else who deserved to be there. And when you’re older, you know you feel like you have to put maybe sometimes double the work in. So, this one maybe means the most to me (of any achievement) throughout my career, getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old. (It) is an absolute dream come true, I can’t believe it.”
Since returning in January 2017 from a six-month absence due to a knee injury, Federer has improved his world ranking from No. 17 to No. 1. He has compiled a 64-5 match record, including winning three of the last five Grand Slam titles, and he’s also won three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events and two other tournaments.
By overtaking Rafael Nadal at No. 1, ending the Spaniard’s 26-week stint at the top of the Emirates ATP Rankings, Federer has rewritten the ATP record book. Among the ATP Rankings records he’s broken are:
• Longest period between stints at No. 1 (5 years and 106 days)
• Oldest player to attain No. 1 (36 years old)
• Longest duration between first and last days at No. 1
• Dimitrov advanced to the Rotterdam final after a serious eye injury forced No. 4 seed David Goffin to retire early in the second set. Dimitrov was leading 6-3, 0-1 when he hit a forehand passing shot which hit the frame of Goffin’s racket and deflected the ball into his left eye.
Grigor Dimitrov 🇧🇬 reached his first Rotterdam final, in unfortunate circumstances. David Goffin 🇧🇪 had to retire with an eye injury..
— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) 17. Februar 2018
After the match, Dimitrov spoke about the incident, tweeting: “Saw him right after, little bit of a shock how he felt. It was not pretty what I saw. But he’s in hospital right now… We are trying to help with whatever we can on site. I hope the exams and everything go well.”
According to reports, there was no structural damage to Goffin’s left eye, but there was some fluid behind the eye. Afterward, Goffin withdrew from next week’s Open 13 Provence tournament in Marseille, France, where he would have been the top seed in the ATP 250 event.
• Federer, who is a perfect 10-0 in his last 10 matches on hard courts, improved his career record at Rottterdam to 25-5 with his win over Seppi. He’s played the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament eight times and won the championship twice, in 2005 and 2012.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.