Ageless Federer turns clock back

Twenty-time Grand Slam singles winner Roger Federer celebrating his top ranking after beating Dutch player Robin Haase in their quarter-final in Rotterdam on Friday. American Serena Williams was previously the oldest tennis No. 1 at 35.
Twenty-time Grand Slam singles winner Roger Federer celebrating his top ranking after beating Dutch player Robin Haase in their quarter-final in Rotterdam on Friday. American Serena Williams was previously the oldest tennis No. 1 at 35.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Swiss legend No. 1 again after 5 years, is oldest player to do so after reaching Rotterdam semis

LONDON • The Swiss know a thing or two about time - their cuckoo clocks, luxury watches and unerring train timings are proof of that.

Yet it is the Alpine nation's favourite son, Roger Federer, who has apparently mastered the art of reversing it.

The Peter Pan of men's tennis rewound his time machine again after a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 win over Robin Haase on Friday to reach the Rotterdam Open semi-finals and returned to the summit for the fourth time running - the oldest man to do so since the ATP rankings came into being in 1973.

This was his first time back on top since November 2012, having first claimed it in February 2004.

Fourteen years after he first achieved it, this felt special, said the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

"Well it's a deep sense of satisfaction," Federer told reporters after his milestone victory.

"A lot of work went into it, coming back from the injury obviously. Just having had the year that I've had, winning three Slams, that's what it took to get the ranking.

  • ROGER FEDERER'S UPS AND DOWNS

  • 36

    Age at which the Swiss will become the oldest world No. 1 tomorrow. The previous record holder was Andre Agassi at 33 when he topped the pile in September 2003.

  • 303

    Most weeks as ATP No. 1, ahead of Pete Sampras on 286.

  • 1,933

    Longest gap in days (5 years 106 days from Nov 5, 2012 to Feb 19, 2018) between stints as ATP No. 1

"I've shown resilience. I always planned for longevity and I never gave up that I could get back to winning ways, without ever dreaming of world No. 1 again to be honest, that was too far."

Federer took a wild card for Rotterdam, an event where he received his first wild card in 1998, knowing that a run to the semi-finals would knock Rafael Nadal off the top and become the oldest player, man or woman, to be world No. 1. Serena Williams last held the mark when she was ranked first last May.

Haase began as though he had not read the script but Federer was never going to let the opportunity slip - saying afterwards that it had been the perfect scenario to complete a fairy-tale comeback.

"It was great that I had to play for it this week," he said. "I just didn't just get it by Rafa losing somewhere or dropping points or me sitting on the sidelines.

Federer admitted he was taking his status as the new top dog in his stride. "The goal (this time) was to be world No. 1 for a week, that's plenty for me," he said.

"It's the ultimate achievement in our sport to get the No. 1 ranking, it just doesn't come easy."

Federer's vast army of fans, including the man he deposed as the oldest top-ranked male player, took to social media to laud a maestro who continues to defy time.

"36 years 195 days... Roger Federer continues to raise the bar in our sport. Congratulations on yet another remarkable achievement!," American great Andre Agassi, who was 33 when he last enjoyed the honour of being world No. 1, said on Twitter.

The man himself was happy to be part of a great day for his country.

"I was just watching the (Winter) Olympics, got distracted in a good way, because Switzerland won three medals today," he said.

But despite all the feting, Federer only has his eyes on the prize, with a place in the Rotterdam final against Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov should he get past his semi-final against Andreas Seppi.

"I came here to get to No. 1 and then win the tournament," Federer added.

That deep-seated desire to win offers a far more pragmatic explanation for his ability to make a mockery of the ageing process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Ageless Federer turns clock back'. Print Edition | Subscribe