Winning a third round match against Robin Haase in the Rotterdam ATP 500 tournament has returned Roger Federer to Number One in tennis. He already holds the record for the most number of weeks at #1 but has not been back there since 2012. Being at the top of the sport is itself an extreme accomplishment since the ranking system in tennis certainly does not reward mediocrity but he is also now, at 36, the oldest player in history to achieve that position. Federer has taken the lead from long-time rival Raphael Nadal who also played with fantastic results in 2016 to end the year in that coveted position.
Is this a significant achievement?
Roger must have felt doing it was worthwhile as he requested a wildcard entry to the Rotterdam tournament shortly after winning the Australian Open for the second year in a row. The opportunity was apparently too great to pass up as the point spread was small and Rafa was not due to compete until later in the month at Acapulco. In fact he also had a second opportunity if things didn’t go well by playing in Dubai where he was originally scheduled.
It is an amazing achievement in a sport where durability and consistency are both required just to be able to maintain a ranking position high enough for a chance to become number one! Some pundits continue to point out that Murray and Djokovic have not been there to contend for the titles but that is a spurious argument. They have not been abducted by aliens so the reasons are self-explanatory, they have not been able to compete. But in addition, that should have made it all the more possible for any one of the other top players to make a run to challenge Roger and Rafa but Cilic is currently number 3 and he is about 4,800 points behind the two leaders.
For fans — be they Federer fans, Rafa fans or just sports fans in general — this sets the bar high for a potentially fantastic 2017 tennis season. At the very least there is the possibility of Roger and Rafa playing tag at #1 for a while until a big meeting in the finals of one of the early ATP 1000 tournaments (Indian Wells or Miami) and again at a Grand Slam event. No matter how cynical you might be it is hard to not want to see another installment of that great rivalry played at a top level event. Since they will definitely be ranked 1 and 2 for the foreseeable future it is certain they cannot meet in any tournament unless it is in a finals match!