London : At 36, most sportsmen are thinking of retiring, but not Roger Federer, who is re-firing and will today assume the exalted position of being the No.1 men’s tennis player.
For the fourth time since he turned professional in 1998, the Swiss master will become the oldest man to achieve that top ATP ranking after thrashing Grigor Dimitrov [Baby Fed] 6-2 6-2 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Sunday. That is Federer’s second title of 2018, after claiming the Australian Open earlier.
The G.O.A.T [greatest of all time] has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and 97 singles titles and famously held the No.1 spot in the ATP rankings for a total of 302 weeks, including a stretch of 237 consecutive weeks between February 2004 and August 2008.
Federer is also the player with “the longest period between stints at No. 1. He is the oldest player to attain top spot and the longest duration between first and last days at the summit of men’s professional tennis.
After the quarterfinal victory in Rotterdam, he was presented with a special award.
“I think reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport. So sometimes at the beginning you just all of a sudden get there just because you’re playing so well.
“Later you sometimes try to fight it back and you wrestle it back from somebody else who deserved to be there. And when you’re older, you know you feel like you have to put maybe sometimes double the work in.
“So this one maybe means the most to me [of any achievement] throughout my career, getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old. [It] is an absolute dream come true, I can’t believe it,” Federer added.
It is a dramatic return to the top for the Swiss player as he was ranked No.17 just 13 months ago.
How Federer has reinvented himself
The great automobile entrepreneur, Henry Ford, said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
And that is simply how Federer has reasserted himself at the pinnacle of men’s tennis.
Former tennis champion, Mats Wilander, told L’ Equipe that, “what’s most impressive about Federer is what we don’t see.
“His biggest talent is not his serve or forehand. It’s his love to learn and that passion for the game: he switches his racquet. He changes the technique of his backhand.”
Federer used to be dominated by former No.1, Rafael Nadal but after the reinvention of his forehand, he beat the Spaniard four consecutive times last year.
Wilander continues: “He changes tactics, doesn’t play the way he did 14 years ago. He wants to learn every time he enters the court. We speak about his grace, the way he moves on the court.
“But it’s this internal strength, this emotional, fragile and invisible part that puts him in ahead of everyone.”
The Swiss also embraced new technology by changing his racquet.
He made the decision in 2014 to discard the 90”square racquet head in favour of the new 98” square model – and it has paid off in his sliced and backhand shots, for which he is able to generate more power and spin.
But maybe the greatest catalyst is having children.
Immediately after winning the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament on Sunday, Federer said courtside he would be flying to Switzerland immediately so that he would be home in time to see his children in the morning.
With that grounding, there are no secrets to why he is still soaring when his age mates are retiring!