Roger Federer further cemented his legacy as the greatest tennis player of all time on Friday by returning to the summit of men’s tennis. In an evening of sustained emotions, Federer overcame Dutch hopeful and close friend Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1–and at 36, becomes the oldest World #1 in history–beating the previous men’s record of American Andre Agassi, who topped the rankings at 33. (Federer is also older than the oldest-ever women’s #1, a record that Serena Williams held at the age of 35, in March of last year.)
At a sellout Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Swiss legend had on paper a seemingly straight-forward task of winning three matches, the last of which weighed more heavily on his ageless body. But Federer was the definition of calm and guile as he could not pass the opportunity of becoming tennis’ top man once again. Federer has now passed Rafael Nadal at the top, and he becomes the World #1 for the first time since November 2012.
The match against Haase was a tough one. The Dutch started out well, holding his serve until late in the first set. He then managed to break Federer and serve out the set, perhaps putting history on hold. Federer, though, responded like the all-time great that he is, and quickly and efficiently put Haase away, running away with a 6-1 second set and then breaking twice to open the third, effectively putting the match away.
In fairness, his rejuvenation is certainly complete. Federer, who spent six months out of the game and convalescing on a career-threatening knee injury during the second half of 2016, slipped to as low as 17th during the Australian Open in 2017. But astonishingly, he recorded one his best seasons on tour last year by winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the latter of which was a record-breaking eighth title at the All-England Club. Along with title wins in Indian Wells, Miami, Halle, and Shanghai, Federer finished 2017 behind old rival Rafael Nadal, who topped the rankings.
But having successfully defended his crown in Melbourne this year, which was also another milestone (20th Grand slam, and record-tying 6th Australian Open), Federer trailed Nadal by a mere 155 points following the conclusion of the Australian Open. In what is now lauded as an absolute masterstroke, it is Nadal who Federer has replaced at the top of the rankings with his semifinal showing in Rotterdam.
The Rotterdam Open, which commemorates its 45th edition since its inception, is an event Federer has won twice before, in 2005 and 2012 respectively. Richard Krajicek, the tournament’s director, earlier this week explained that Federer’s decision to come to the Netherlands was not a last-minute desperate move but a calculated decision ever since the Swiss was in Australia.
For Roger Federer, it feels like times never change, and on 16th February 2018, he has added another chapter to his glorious tennis career. When the ATP rankings are updated on Monday, Roger Federer will once again be the World #1.
Embed from Getty Images