Rank not Fed's no. 1 issue

Greater emphasis on winning matches, says Swiss as he prepares for Miami Open defence

MIAMI • Roger Federer has said that retaining his world No. 1 ranking is no more than a "mini goal" as he prepares his bid to defend the ATP Miami Open title.

The 36-year-old Swiss star needs to advance to the quarter-finals in Florida to hold on to his top ranking, or face being supplanted by old rival and world No. 2 Rafael Nadal.

However Federer, who was beaten by Juan Martin del Potro in Sunday's Indian Wells final, said he is not attaching too much importance to hanging on to his ranking.

"The No. 1 ranking is in my head a little bit, but no more than that," Federer said. "It's a mini goal. It would be nice to stay there but it's no more important than that.

"You have to win matches to go far here. Going far enough to stay No. 1, it helps my motivation to have a goal.

"But, even if I don't manage it, it's not the end of the world."

Federer will launch his Miami campaign today in the second round against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.

A winner of an incredible 20 Grand Slam singles titles, Federer also spoke admiringly of del Potro's rehabilitation into the tennis circuit's winner's circle following a career-threatening wrist injury.

"It's such a nice story because he finally did it, but he had to do it the hard way, put himself out there, knowing he was not going to win all the matches he was going to play," the Swiss said.

"It's tough to do that, you know. That deserves a lot of respect, in my opinion, especially knowing what level he can achieve as a player."

Federer also said he had already moved on from Sunday's defeat by del Potro, saying he was due a loss after a successful 2017.

"Didn't take me a whole lot of time to get over it, to be honest, because I felt like it could have gone either way," he added.

"Unfortunately I wasn't on the winner's side because maybe I have had enough luck throughout the last 14 months on my side of the court, so it's okay to lose some.

"I felt that also Juan Martin had to earn it. He had to play good to get it. Then you kind of move on with it."

In the women's draw in Miami, Federer's fellow world No. 1 Simona Halep battled back to eliminate France's Oceane Dodin 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Thursday to reach the third round of the competition.

Dodin led 4-2 in the third set, powered by punishing groundstrokes that at times baffled the top-seeded Romanian, before Halep roared back to win her first match after an opening bye.

"It was a crazy match," Halep said. "I didn't know where the ball is coming, and I had to pay attention to every shot she hit. But I won it and I'm happy."

Halep will remain atop the WTA rankings, no matter how she fares in Miami, but Dodin served notice her path will not be an easy one.

Halep next faces Poland's 30th-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska, a former world No. 2 who was a 2012 Wimbledon runner-up.

"I'll have to be more aggressive, find some angles to push her back, and open the court," Halep said. "Hopefully I can win it."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Rank not Fed's no. 1 issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe