The glorious Indian summer of Roger Federer’s career shows no sign of burning itself out, and on Friday he notched up another remarkable accolade to add to his twenty Grand Slam titles.
The 36-year-old Swiss became the oldest world No 1 in history when he overtook Rafael Nadal to assume top spot in the rankings after his late entry into the ABN Amro World Tennis event in Rotterdam.
He defeated Dutchman Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 to make the semi-finals, thus edging ahead of his Spanish rival to reach the summit for the first time since October 2012.
That makes him the oldest man to do so, replacing Andre Agassi, who held the position at the age of 33.
‘Reaching number one is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport,’ Federer said on court after being handed a huge No 1 shaped plaque by Dutch former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, the tournament director.
‘Sometimes at the beginning you just kind of get there because you played so well, but later you have to fight for it and have to wrestle it back from someone who deserves to be there. When you are older you maybe have to put double the work in. This maybe means the most to me in my career.
Rotterdam is rarely on the Swiss master’s schedule, but following his repeat triumph at the Australian Open last month a clear window of opportunity opened up.
Federer did the arithmetic and realised that he could reclaim No 1 if he made the last four this week. Tournament organisers gleefully offered him a late wildcard, and tickets to the whole event quickly sold out, making it another full house on Friday.
His victory puts him on 9785 points, just 25 ahead of Nadal, and it is possible that this latest reign might not last too long.
Next month Federer is defending his titles at the Masters level events at Indian Wells and Miami, meaning that he has 2,000 points potentially dropping away under the ATP’s 12-month ‘roll on-roll off’ system.
Nadal is defending only 990 points between now and the end of Miami so, with him scheduled to return from injury later this month in Mexico, a strong showing could see him snatch it back again.
Their two main competitors from recent years, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, are recuperating from hip and elbow surgery respectively and not due back until the Spring or early summer.
This latest milestone is yet another testament to Federer’s extraordinary longevity.
He first became world No 1 in February 2004 and has held the status for 302 weeks already, which is also a record.
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