WASHINGTON, February 16, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Roger Federer arrived in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam earlier this week with an unexpected opportunity of reclaiming the title of World No. 1 tennis player. Federer was given a wild card and a top seed in the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, an ATP 500 event, in exchange for interrupting his winter vacation at home in Switzerland.
A perfect draw scenario required the World No. 2 Federer to only reach the semifinals – where he would earn 180 ATP rankings points – and if successful, the No. 1 ranking would be his by a mere 25 points over current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. After a pair of straight-set wins advanced him to the quarterfinals, Federer played for history on Friday night against his good friend, unseeded No. 42 Robin Haase of the Netherlands, on Centre Court in front of a sellout crowd at the Rotterdam Ahoy, plus a worldwide TV audience.
The Swiss maestro didn’t disappoint anyone.
In an emotional touchstone, Federer beat Haase, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, in one hour and 19 minutes and received a standing ovation from the appreciative Dutch crowd, many of them waving signs and banners. Federer briefly broke down after his meaningful and historic achievement was completed. Then, he was honored by the tournament’s director, Richard Krajicek, who presented Federer with a commemorative trophy for becoming the oldest to reach the ATP No. 1.
“It’s been a journey for me,” said Federer, who has reached the No. 1 ranking four times during his illustrious career and first reached No. 1 just over 14 years ago. “Achieving this in Rotterdam means a lot to me. Robin put in a good week.
“Sometimes, you get there by playing well. This is an absolute dream for me,” he said during the on-court ceremony.
Although recapturing the No. 1 ranking for the first time since Nov. 4, 2012 — and supplanting Andre Agassi by more than three years to become the oldest male tennis player to be ranked World No. 1 – hasn’t been a primary goal of his in 2018, everything has fallen into place very nicely for the 20-time Grand Slam champion. First, Federer helped Switzerland win the Hopman Cup in Perth to begin the year. Then, he won the Australian Open for a record-tying sixth time on Jan. 28. While other former No. 1 champions such as Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have struggled with injuries, Federer remains healthy and undefeated with a perfect 10-0 tour-level record (14-0 in all competitions).
The Australian Darren Cahill, who knows a thing or two about coaching World No. 1 players – he currently coaches women’s No. 1 Simona Halep and formerly coached men’s No. 1 Agassi – tweeted Thursday: “Go get it Rog! Amazing 14 months of tennis. Amazing career.”
Indeed, in the past 14 months since January 2017, Federer has won three of his 20 Grand Slams (two Australian Opens and Wimbledon). In a professional career spanning 20 years, Federer has played 1,392 matches and won 1,142 of them – simply, an amazing achievement.
In a recent interview with Tennis TV, Federer said, “it would be absolutely incredible” to reach No. 1 again. “I can’t believe I’m this close, but No. 1 has never been simple, never been easy to get there. So I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work for me this week mentally just to cope with everything, just also not thinking too far ahead.”
Still, it’s amazing to see Federer playing so well at age 36 – breaking records on the court while balancing family life away from it – and, according to U.S. Davis Cup captain and former No. 1 and Grand Slam champion Jim Courier, in a recent New York Times interview, “That he can make another run at the No. 1 ranking this week is a testament to his immense talent, diligent work habits and intelligent scheduling over the course of his career.”
• In Saturday’s first semifinal (not before 3 p.m. CET), No. 2 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Andrey Rublev, faces No. 4 David Goffin, who won in walkover against No. 6 Tomas Berdych (illness). In the second semifinal (not before 7:30 p.m. CET), Federer plays lucky loser Andrea Seppi of Italy, who beat qualifier Daniil Medvedev, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.