Federer back in No1 reckoning
At the beginning of the year, it was a distant dream for Roger Federer and his devotees to see the Federer's name atop the ATP rankings — cut to April, it is a realistic possibility. At the age of 35, the 18-time Grand Slam winner is truly staring at a chance of becoming the oldest world No 1.
The current record of holding the top position in the men's ranking belongs to Andre Agassi, and Stan Wawrinka, world number 3 and Federer's fellow countryman believes that his friend and compatriot can definitely become the oldest world No 1 in the history of tennis.
"He's playing really well, what is different maybe is, he is playing closer from the baseline, preferring, using less his slice, he is using more topspin, putting more pressure all the time, returning better, that's the difference I see," Wawrinka said at the Miami Open. "For sure he has a shot for No 1, he has just won the first Masters final. For sure he has a big shot," he said.
Wawrinka didn't hold back from praising the resurgent Federer. "From him, nothing is a surprise, but for sure to see him moving that well at that age it is something amazing," he said. "It is good for me to see that you can be at the top [at that age]. It is amazing to see how he is playing after a six-month injury," Wawrinka said.
Federer began the year by emerging victorious in his age-old rivalry with Spain's Rafael Nadal to take home the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year. The Swiss (Federer) followed that up by winning two Masters tournaments - Indian Wells and Miami Open.
After lifting the Miami Open trophy, Federer raced up to the fourth spot in the men's ranking with 5,305 points while Andy Murray sits at the top with 11,960 points, Novak Djokovic holds the second spot with 7,915 points and Wawrinka sits just above Federer with 5,785 points. The landscape of the men's tennis has seen a humongous shift from late last June when Djokovic looked like an unstoppable force while Federer was battling with age, form and injury. Today, Djokovic's game and mental state are in shambles and Murray has had an extremely rough start to the year. On the other hand, post a six-month injury lay-off, Federer looks better than before and all set to conquer the tennis world for one last time.
What has changed in Federer? Perhaps the knee injury was the body's way of telling Federer that he must respect his age and body, and provide his system with adequate rest. After playing ages of tennis, that six months of rest was much required for his body. Also, during the last six months of 2016, Federer may have worked on developing his game. Federer has always had a certain amount of grace in his game that he still exhibits but his overall game has seen a sharp change which is why his opponents are finding it tough to beat him — and yes, even Nadal is unable to find answers to this new Federer. He looks fiercer, bosses the baseline and is making his beautiful backhand is accurate. Federer has enhanced his will power to an extent that he's able to squeeze himself out of tough situations to ultimately taste the victory.
The regular ATP rankings work on a rolling system that resets every week (only a player's points from the last 52 weeks are used). For instance, Federer earned 2,000 points for his Australian Open win but only jumped 1,280 points in the rankings as he was defending the 720 points he earned from reaching the 2016 semi-finals.
At Indian Wells and Miami Open, he won wholesome points — Federer gained 1,000 points each with his victories as he hadn't played either tournament the previous year. Since Federer hadn't played for the whole second half in 2016, the scenario of points defence is going to be the same for Federer that he had in Indian Wells and Miami Open. With only four tournaments to defend and none after Wimbledon, Federer has just 1,260 points that'll come off his total with the chance to gain thousands. That's exactly where the No 1 spot comes in sight.
Federer, after winning the Miami Open, announced that he will be taking an eight-week break.
"It's more about relaxing right now, more about injury prevention. My knee was strange on the clay last year so maybe being away from it as much as possible is a good thing, even though I don't think it was because of the clay as such. But my physio, my fitness guy, thought that could be a good thing not to be too much on clay.
"I feel very comfortable, very confident, it is the right decision. I will probably stay on hard courts for the next few weeks and I will get on the clay two weeks before the French. Hopefully, I will play the French and then for me that's when the season really starts," Federer said.
"Wimbledon has to be the biggest goal now," added the 35-year-old.
It is evident that Federer is aiming for the top spot and is going to play on his strengths. Clay has been Federer's least favourite and except the French Open, the Swiss will give the rest of the clay court tournaments a miss. It is the grass and hard courts that Federer will make a comeback at, the environment where Federer has always flourished.
With this new-found 'just happy to be playing" attitude, Federer has found his way to late blooming. If Federer continues his monstrous form and manages his schedule smartly, the top spot isn't miles away.