Roger Federer has become the oldest world No. 1 in history after defeating Robin Haase to reach the semi-finals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam on Friday night.
The 36-year-old, who had to make it to the last four in the Netherlands to guarantee he would have enough points to usurp current top dog Rafael Nadal, will officially return to top spot for the first time since October 2012 (the longest gap in the record books) when new ATP World Tour rankings are released on Monday.
Federer has now replaced Andre Agassi as the eldest statesman to accomplish the feat, with the American legend having held the record since 2003 when he was number one aged 33 years and 131 days.
Remarkably, the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s fairytale climb back to the summit of world tennis comes 14 years and 17 days to the month since he first got there.
The Swiss, of course, is no stranger to leading the men’s game having previously held the No. 1 berth for a record 302 weeks throughout his career, with 237 of those being consecutive in a staggering run which started in February 2004 and lasted until August 2008.
Federer, a twice winner in Rotterdam, was granted a wildcard into the event last week by former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek after he made a last-minute decision to chase the milestone following his exertions in Melbourne.
Indeed, the fact injury-stricken Nadal is not due to play until Acapulco at the end of the month, gave the legendary star a small window of opportunity to have a crack at the milestone and he was clearly right to chance his arm.
The Swiss was made to work hard for it on Friday though and lost the first set 6-4, before rolling over the 30-year-old 6-1 in just 19 minutes to level it up. He then saw off the journeyman Dutchman, who appeared to be suffering from sickness, 6-1 in the decider.
Federer, who is now just two wins away from his 97th career title, was visibly emotional after shaking hands at the net with his opponent.
Roger Federer delivered a crushing 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Ruben Bemelmans in just 47 minutes on Wednesday as the Swiss star moved just two wins away from becoming the sport’s oldest world number one.
The 36-year-old top seed, a two-time champion at the Dutch indoor event, needs to reach the semi-finals to take back the number one spot from Rafael Nadal.
With two more victories, Federer would become the oldest man by three years to hold the top position in the rankings.
“It’s very surprising how good things went today,” Federer said. “The key is to start well, put him under pressure.
“I wanted to make him think he had to do something special to beat me. I did well there, I felt good, I’m healthy and I’m confident. It was a great first round for me.”
Federer gave no quarter as he raced to a 5-0 lead, with the out-matched Bemelmans winning his first game after 16 minutes.
The outcome was never in doubt as Federer dominated with six aces and four service breaks, winning an impressive 21 of 23 first-serve points in the demolition.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion on Thursday takes on German Philipp Kohlschreiber, against whom he stands 12-0 in career meetings.
“You always prefer to play the guy whose game you know,” Federer said.
“You know his patterns, it’s nice to play someone like that, you know what to expect.
“My start will be crucial, I need to stay focused all the way. Any lapses can get you into trouble.”
Third seed Alexander Zverev fell in an upset to qualifying lucky loser Andreas Seppi of Italy, 6-4, 6-3 in the second round to open up Federer’s half of the draw.
Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin, the duo who faced off in last year’s season-ending ATP Finals, both advanced with straight-sets wins.
Second seed Dimitrov, who beat Belgian fourth seed Goffin in the London final last November, had to fight back in the second set to defeat Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) in their first-round encounter.
Goffin made light work of veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, cruising through 6-1, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
— ABN AMRO WTT (@abnamrowtt) February 14, 2018
Roger Federer is a man who possesses more talent than most of us could only dream of, with one of the Swiss’s powers seemingly being his ability to go back to the future.
Or, that’s what it feels like anyway as Federer is set to defy time again.
This week, fresh from his record-breaking 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month, he will begin his campaign at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam and the end goal of becoming the world’s oldest number one in the history of the ATP World Tour.
The 36-year-old, who lies just 155 ranking points behind current top dog Rafael Nadal, can surpass his great rival if he makes the semi-finals at an event he has won twice previously.
Injury-stricken Nadal is not due to play until Acapulco at the end of the month, meaning a last-four berth this week would see Federer replace Andre Agassi as the eldest statesman to accomplish the feat. The American has held the record since 2003, when he topped the world aged 33 years and 131 days.
Federer, himself, is of course a man with a great affinity to top spot having been at the summit for a record 302 weeks throughout his career, with 237 of them being consecutive from February 2004 to August 2008. Obviously, that was another squiggle in the history book next to his name.
The fact he hasn’t been atop of the rest since November 2012 just adds another dimension to a man who seems to be getting better with age.
A master of his schedule, the Swiss was granted a late wildcard by tournament director and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to enter the event – knowing full well that his window to go top was small given he has plenty of points to defend at Indian Wells and the Miami Open next month. For UAE tennis fans, it is disappointing that we won’t see Federer in action at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship this year but again, it’s easy to see why he chose to play in the Netherlands.
Federer, who only dropped two sets en-route to a record-equalling sixth major crown in Melbourne, will face Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans in the first round on Wednesday and could take on compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals. That’s not a foregone conclusion despite the three-time Grand Slam champion’s indifferent form, but Alexander Zverev potentially awaits in the semi-final and Grigor Dimitrov in the final.
Few would argue against him going all the way to the title.