How Roger Federer's love for the game has helped him create yet another world record
At age 36, Roger Federer is now the oldest tennis player to be ranked No.1 in the ATP Rankings. He has also broken the record for the biggest gap between stints at No.1(14 Years, 2004-2018).
Just weeks after defending his Australian Open title and winning his 20th Grand Slam title, Federer again saw himself just 155 points away from the top spot. Even though he usually denies chasing the no.1 ranking, this was just too close for him to ignore.
As a result, he decided to take the wild card entry in the ABN AMRO Tennis Tournament. This tournament comes under the ATP 500 category meaning that the winner would add 500 points to their total ranking points. Federer only needed 155, which meant a semifinal run would have guaranteed him the same and now, he has done just that.
He defeated Dutch star Robin Haase to reach the semifinals. Regardless of whether he wins or loses his next match tomorrow, he is guaranteed to be ranked No.1 when the rankings are updated on Monday.
It is hard to believe that he achieved this feat again after five years and 14 years have passed since he reached the No.1 ranking for the first time in 2004. This just shows his longevity and his incredible ability to face adversity.
There have been many changes that have happened since 2004 in tennis. The court surface has become slower, the racket technology has improved resulting in lighter but more powerful strings, there have been players with varied playing style in recent years. But among all the variables, there is one constant and that is the way Federer has dominated the sport and how he has been able to make it look so effortless.
Even when Federer is on the defensive, chasing down balls during baseline rallies, it still seems that he isn't putting much physical effort into it. It is his playing style that allows him to do this with such ridiculous ease. The way he moves on court is described as 'Poetry in motion' by tennis pundits. Easy on the eye, one can never get tired of watching Federer play.
But it was never an easy path for Federer through these years. He had to evolve his tennis skills to keep up with the changing patterns of the game. When he first burst onto the scene, It was more of a 'first strike' style of tennis. This meant more serve and volley points and shorter rallies. Federer was comfortable with that style of play too.
Then, came the likes of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and it was really difficult to play aggressively at all times due to the slowness of the surface as well as the incredible defence of these guys. But Federer was still able to beat them on every surface except clay where Nadal was simply unbeatable.
In his peak years(2005-2006), Federer was mostly using a slice to return the serve on his backhand side. Then, he was happy to rally and eventually create an opening and seal the point. In his later years, when he naturally got a bit slower, he started to add new skills to his game.
He started using drop shots, fake drop shots, aggressive backhand returns, quick runs to the net to finish the point early and his own new shot(returning serve on the half volley from just outside the service line) which he himself called the SABR(Sneak Attack By Roger). His overall game became more aggressive.
This just proves that when he realized that Djokovic and Nadal were beating him from the baseline, he added new shots to his game to improve himself even more in order to stay competitive with them.
His return to the top spot is a result of his patience, his undiminished passion and his ever-increasing love for the game. Even in the years when he was not winning the Slams, he was still happy playing well and never lost belief that a Grand Slam victory was still a possibility.
Now that he has finally reclaimed the no.1 ranking again, the burning question might be as to how long he can maintain this position. With the upcoming tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami where he would be defending around 2000 points, will he try and play in Dubai to extend his lead prior to those tournaments? Will he play the clay season to gain more points and have a serious shot at finishing the year as World No.1?
Well, we'll have to wait and see what he does. One thing is for sure though, we'll be witnessing sheer brilliance wherever he plays.