Roger Federer by reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 ABN Amro ATP 500 Tournament at Rotterdam became the oldest Number 1 in the history of tennis at 36 years and 195 days . Andre Agassi who in 2003 at 33 was the previous record holder was one of the 1st to congratulate Federer by saying “36 years 195 days…@RogerFederer continues to raise the bar in our sport. Congratulations on yet another remarkable achievement!!”
Federer is back as Number 1 after a gap of 5 years and 106 days. This in itself is a record for the longest time between reigns at Number 1. The champion chose to crack a joke at his own expense by saying “Apparently I’m the oldest tennis player with a #1️⃣ ranking. Somebody might have mentioned that to me already but I had a hard time hearing”.
Federer’s achievement in reaching the top of the ATP rankings is an even more remarkable story if one sees his tennis story of the previous 5 years in general and the previous 2 years in particular. If we go back to 4 years prior to the Australian Open of 2017, we see no Grand Slam titles after the 2012 Wimbledon. He already had 17 Majors which in itself was an awesome tally but it seemed he would not add to them.
To his fans it was a bit strange to see their hero reaching say the semi-finals and then losing. To the more discerning however there were two important aspects. Federer was normally winning against almost everyone and only unable to close out matches against his illustrious rivals Nadal and Djokovic, that too in the best-of-five matches at the Grand Slams. At the best-of-three Masters and other matches he was holding his own against them as well. Hence it was theoretically possible that if their game slipped a bit or his improved he would be back.
2016 however was a particularly disappointing year which started with him losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals. It was the 45th meeting between the 2 great rivals, and it was the first time that Novak took a career head-to-head lead against Federer by winning his 23th match to Fed’s 22nd. Was it going to be symbolic of the beginning of the end ? Possibly.
The disappointments of 2016 continued with Federer missing Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells after he went through arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. His return was scheduled at Miami but he opted out due to a stomach virus. The clay season, as such, never his strongest point anyways saw him lose to Tsonga at Monte Carlo and Thiem at the Italian Open. He had to opt out of French open as well ending his record 65 appearances at the Grand Slams.
Federer however prepared to return for the grass season. He however lost to Thiem at Stuttgart and Sascha at Halle. It seemed that finally he had started to lose to others apart from Novak, Rafa and Murray. At Wimbledon, he reached the semi-finals before losing to Milos Raonic. Federer was then out for the next 6 months due to injury. He even had to give up his Olympics Gold medal dream. It seemed all was possibly over for the great champion though he insisted he was taking a break to come back stronger.
Federer made a comeback just an year ago as 17th seed at Australian Open 2017. People were doubting whether he would ever win one more Grand Slam and regaining world number 1 position looked impossible. He had after all not won a single title in 2016, which was his 1st blank year since 2000. It was the 1st time since 14 straight years that he was out of the world Top 10. Ominously he had started losing to players other than his illustrious rivals at the top which was surprising as his middle name was Consistency.
However Federer turned in a magical 2017. He won the Australian Open with a brilliant win over Rafa in the final by coming from a break behind in the final set. In this tournament he defeated 4 top ten players back to back, namely Berdych, Nishikori, Wawrinka and Rafa. He won Wimbledon by defeating Cilic in the final. He defeated his greatest rival Rafa three times more during the year. He had a 91.23% success rate and won 7 titles, including Indian Wells, Miami and Shanghai Masters 1000 tournaments where he had wins over Wawrinka and Nadal (twice) in the finals.
Federer had a chance to be Number 1 at Cincinnati 2017 if he would have won the tournament. In fact it was an unusually dream situation as Cincinnati was the only Masters tournament where he and top seed Nadal had never met here and both he and Nadal had a chance to be Number 1 by winning the tournament. However Federer’s withdrawal led to Nadal becoming Number 1 and regaining the Number 1 ranking after 3 years. Rafa of course thoroughly deserved the Ranking as he too had a magical year including 2 Grand Slam and 2 Masters titles.
Since Cincinnati 2017, Rafa maintained his Number 1 ranking, until Rotterdam 2018 when Federer dethroned his worthiest rival to become the oldest ever Number 1 ranked player of all time.
Federer has Shown, “Old is Gold”.
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