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3 milestones Roger Federer could achieve in 2020

Bhargav
Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Roger Federer has been the epitome of sustained excellence and longevity during a stellar 22-year professional career.

Federer has been an omnipresent presence in the top 100 of the singles rankings since 11 October 1999. The Swiss maestro has reached a tournament final each year on tour since reaching his maiden title match at Marseille 2000, where he lost to compatriot Marc Rosset in a third set tiebreak.

Since making his singles title breakthrough on the carpet of Milan in 2001, Federer has not gone 'title-less' in a season except for a truncated 2016 which was beset by injuries. The Swiss' 12 singles titles in 2006 is the most won by any active player on tour.

After a win over Carlos Moya in the 2003 Vienna final, Federer went on a stunning 24-match win streak in tournament finals before David Nalbandian stopped him in a five-set ATP Finals (then called the "Tennis Masters Cup") title match in 2005.

Federer has been creating new milestones almost every season he has been on tour. In 2017 he became the first eight-time winner at Wimbledon and won two Grand Slam tournaments in a year for the first time since 2009. 2018 saw Federer become one of the oldest players in the Open Era to successfully defend a Grand Slam title when he won a record-equaling sixth Australian Open title en route to his best-ever start to a season (17-0).

Also read: 10 highlights of Federer's 2019 season

In 2019, Federer became the first player since Jimmy Connors to win 100 career singles titles when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Dubai final. A few weeks later, Federer became emulated the American in becoming the only player to win 1,200 singles matches (Miami quarterfinal - beat Kevin Anderson) en route to becoming the oldest Masters 1000 champion.

At Halle, Federer became the first player to win 10 grasscourt titles at a single tournament. The Swiss maestro narrowly failed to become the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title, after he squandered two championship points on serve at 8-7 40-15 in the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic.

A few months later, at his hometown tournament of Basel, Federer became the first player to win 10 hardcourt titles at a tournament. In the process, the 38-year-old also became the first player to win 10 titles at a tournament on two different surfaces.

Making a record-extending 17th appearance at the season-ending ATP Finals, Federer beat Djokovic for the first time in 6 matches to reach his 16th semifinal at the tournament (lost to Tsitsipas).

As the 2019 season draws to a close and the new season beckons in a few weeks' time, let us have a look at 3 potential milestones awaiting Federer in 2020:

#1 Oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era

Ken Rosewall (37 years) is the oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era
Ken Rosewall (37 years) is the oldest Grand Slam singles champion in the Open Era

Federer looked set to take down this record on the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon this season. In his record-extending 12th final at the grass-court Major, Federer broke Novak Djokovic deep in the fifth set and arrived at two consecutive championship points on serve.

8-7 40-15. Twice a swing of the racquet away from rewriting history.

But destiny and Djokovic had other ideas in store. Wimbledon descended into a deafening silence when the championship points disappeared for Federer almost as quickly as they had materialised, and Djokovic broke back.

"An incredible opportunity missed", Federer would reminisce later, as he also failed to convert a break point at 11-11 before going down in a historic first-ever Wimbledon fifth-set tiebreak.

At the next Major of the year, following his Wimbledon conqueror's early exit, Federer looked set to have another shot at history when he arrived at a quarterfinal against Grigor Dimitrov; he had never lost to the Bulgarian in seven previous matches.

But at Flushing Meadows, as it was at Wimbledon, it was not going to be Federer's year. The Swiss maestro squandered a set lead on two occasions before going down in five sets to the inspired Dimitrov.

In 2020, Federer will have his first chance to extend his record-Grand Slam tally to 21, at the Australian Open. The Swiss has played well in Melbourne over the years. Barring a third-round defeat to Andreas Seppi in 2015 and a fourth-round loss last year, Federer has reached at least the semifinals Down Under each year since 2004, winning the title in two of his last three appearances (2017-18).

If not at the Australian Open, Wimbledon would be the best opportunity for Federer to become the oldest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era. Those agonizing misses against Djokovic in the 2019 final notwithstanding, Federer has made at least the quarterfinals at SW19 each year since 2003 except for a second round defeat in 2013 to Sergei Stakhovsky, and the semifinals every year since 2014.

#2 Most singles match wins

Jimmy Connors holds the record for most singles match wins in the Open Era
Jimmy Connors holds the record for most singles match wins in the Open Era

American Jimmy Connors holds the record for most singles wins by any player in the Open Era.

The eight-time Grand Slam champion won the last of his 1274 match wins on tour when he beat Martin Sinner in the last 16 in Basel in 1995, before losing to Marc Rosset in the quarterfinals.

In 2019, Roger Federer became the only player after Connors to achieve 1200 singles match wins, when the Swiss maestro beat Kevin Anderson in the Miami quarterfinals en route to winning his 28th Masters 1000 title. Federer closed the season with a 1237-270 win-loss record, following a semifinal defeat to eventual champion Stefanos Tsitsipas at the season-ending ATP Finals in London.

Federer has been averaging 52 wins a season for the last three seasons, going 54-5 in 2017, 50-10 in 2018, and 53-10 in 2019. If the same trend were to continue in 2020, Federer, who is 37 short of Connors' mark, would claim the record outright some time around Wimbledon or the north American hardcourt swing. The Swiss had his 38th match win of 2019 in the semifinals of the grasscourt major.

Of course, the presumption here is that the Swiss won't suffer any drastic drop in form or major injuries next year.

#3 Most singles titles

Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors

This record has been in the safe custody of Jimmy Connors for three decades, since the American won the last of his 109 singles titles at Tel Aviv in 1989.

This year, in Dubai, Federer emulated the American by becoming the only other player to win a century of singles titles, after beating young Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Dubai final. The 38-year-old also won in Miami, Halle and Basel to close 2019 with 103 singles titles.

Federer won seven titles from eight finals in 2017, four from seven in 2018, and four from six this year. Assuming the trend to continue next year, Federer would get his chance to equal or get past Connors' record of most singles titles some time during the latter half of the year.

The catch, of course, is that Federer would have to win more than 75% of his finals if he hopes to reach Connors' mark in 2020 itself. If he isn't as good as converting his finals appearances into titles, he'll likely have to wait until 2021 to get there.

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Edited by Musab Abid
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