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Throwback: When Roger Federer won the 2018 Rotterdam Open to become the oldest World No. 1

Roger Federer at the 2018 Australian Open
Roger Federer at the 2018 Australian Open
Ewan West

In 2018, Roger Federer became the oldest player ever to be ranked ATP World No. 1 after winning the Rotterdam Open. The Swiss guaranteed he would secure the position after beating Robin Haase in the quarterfinals of the ATP 500 event.

The 40-year-old has spent a total of 310 weeks as World No. 1, the second most since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973. Only current top-ranked men's player Novak Djokovic - who has amassed 359 weeks to date - has occupied the top spot for longer.

The 20-time Major champion posted a remarkable record of 237 consecutive weeks as World No. 1 from 2 February 2004 to 17 August 2008.

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Federer started 2018 as World No. 2 after making a remarkable comeback from injury to win seven titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, in 2017. His great rival Rafael Nadal, who won the French Open and US Open titles the previous season, held the World No. 1 ranking with 995 more ATP points.

The Swiss defeated Marin Cilic in the final of the 2018 Australian Open on 28 January to defend his title. Nadal, a finalist at the Melbourne Major in 2017, was forced to retire in the fifth set of his quarterfinal clash with eventual runner-up Cilic.

Roger Federer after winning the 2018 Australian Open
Roger Federer after winning the 2018 Australian Open

This allowed Federer to close the gap on the Spaniard, who had been unable to defend his 2017 runner-up points, to just 155 points after the tournament. He accepted a wildcard to play at the 2018 Rotterdam Open, which was held from 12-18 February, with the ATP top spot in sight. The then 36-year-old needed to reach the last four of the event to overtake Nadal, who did not compete again until April due to injury.

The Rotterdam Open is an ATP 500 series tournament played on indoor hard courts at the Rotterdam Ahoy in the Netherlands. It was first held in 1972.

Roger Federer becomes oldest ATP World No. 1

The Swiss was the top seed in the 2018 Rotterdam Open men's singles event after receiving a wildcard entry. He started his campaign by routing Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-2 in the opening round.

Federer then saw off unseeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6(8), 7-5 after saving two set points in the first set of a tight second-round match. This put him one win away from returning to the peak of the ATP rankings for the first time since October 2012.

In the quarterfinals, the then 36-year-old faced a home favorite - the unseeded Dutchman Robin Haase. After losing the first set 4-6, he stormed back to defeat Haase - dropping just a single game in the second and third sets.

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The triumph ensured Federer succeeded in his quest to reclaim the World No. 1 ranking. When the updated ATP rankings were released the following week on 19 February 2018, he became the oldest man ever to hold the top spot at the age of 36 years and 195 days.

The great Swiss reflected on the feat in his press conference after reaching the last four.

"It’s a little bit surreal," said Federer. "The first time I got back to No. 1 was in 2004, a long, long time ago. It was more than five years since I was last No. 1. It was particularly nice today as I had to go and get it, win a match. Back in 2012, I won Wimbledon and a week later, when I was on holiday, I found out that I was No. 1."

After his win over Haase, Federer faced the task of capping off his historic achievement by winning the Rotterdam title. In the semifinals, he downed Italian lucky loser Andreas Seppi - who had eliminated Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev in the previous two rounds - 6-3, 7-6(3).

The top seed then fittingly earned a routine 6-2, 6-2 final victory against second-seeded and fifth-ranked Grigor Dimitrov to celebrate his return to the pinnacle of the men's rankings. The triumph was Federer's 97th ATP title and third Rotterdam crown after previously winning the event in 2005 and 2012.

The Swiss held the World No. 1 position for six weeks following the tournament until Nadal reclaimed it in April. He spent two more weeks in the top spot between May and June - extending his record as the oldest ever No. 1.

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Also Check Out: Rotterdam Open 2022 Schedule


Edited by Nihal Taraporvala

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