(Written by Emre Saridogan):
Federer On The Brink of Reclaiming Number One Spot
Roger Federer has spent so much time justifying his methods of self-preservation, how he plays a reduced number of tournaments compared to the rest of the tour to keep his body healthy, something which is so important at this stage of his career.
It is because of this that the Swiss’ decision to accept a wildcard at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam this week came as such a shock to tennis fans. However, this decision carries particular importance, as it means that just 3 match wins there could see Federer return to world number one for the first time since October 2012. His rival Rafael Nadal has chosen not to play this week and will not play for another 2 weeks in order to rest his injured knee.
Many will question this decision, and dismiss it as a bid for material glory and something done for the sake of sentimentality. Does reclaiming the number one spot really matter when Federer holds the undisputed record for the longest time spent as world number one? On the other hand, the top spot is within touching distance and will one extra tournament in an already greatly reduced schedule really make such a difference? It is difficult to say, as many experts cite Federer’s long periods of rest and recovery as one of the major reasons for his increased success.
All this is however elementary, and what really matters is that the man from Switzerland must reach the semi-finals this week to reach number one. This will not be easy, and there are several potential banana skins on the way to the last four. His first match will be unlikely to challenge the great man, and as tricky as Ruben Bemelmans is, Federer is simply a different class. In Round 2, either up and coming star Karen Khachanov or old rival Philipp Köhlschreiber awaits, both of whom could cause problems. Khachanov had a good week last week, reaching the quarter finals in Montpellier, most notably overcoming a resurgent David Ferrer in 3 tight sets. Köhlschreiber may never have beaten Federer in 12 attempts, but their last meeting on an indoor hard court in Basel in 2015 resulted in a tight 3 set encounter, with Federer prevailing 6-4 4-6 6-4. In the quarter finals, he potentially faces Stan Wawrinka, who has slowly been playing himself back into form after 6 months out due to injury. Wawrinka holds a 3-2 record in 2018. Not particularly impressive, but Stan is fighting and will most certainly not go down easily.
The verdict? I believe that the Swiss maestro will pass the potential tests with flying colours and will most likely go on to win the title. Although Wawrinka has beaten Federer 3 times, all of those happened on outdoor clay, and Wawrinka’s defeat to eventual champion Mirza Basic in Sofia last week was less than impressive. Federer is likely to become the oldest number one in history at 36, smashing Andre Agassi’s record of 33 set in 2003. He opens his campaign on Tuesday. Don’t miss it.