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Federer: Don't Count Me Out For No. 1

Rome, Italy

Federer© AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer has finished as the year-end No.1 five times in his career.

As Novak Djokovic seems poised to overtake Rafael Nadal as World No. 1, Roger Federer has set his sights on challenging for top spot later this year.

“It is important for me to get to back to being No. 1,” Federer said Tuesday. “I said this at Wimbledon and it is still very real and very possible. I still have the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in my pocket and I do not have any Grand Slams yet. If I maybe got one of those, things will change drastically all over the place.”

The 16-time major champion currently trails Nadal by a sizable margin, 3570 points, but with three Grand Slams and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events still remaining, Federer has time to make ground and challenge for the coveted year-end No. 1 South African Airways ATP ranking, which he has captured five times. The Swiss was last ranked No.1 at Roland Garros in 2010, and has held the position for 285 weeks, one shy of Pete Sampras’ all-time record.

Djokovic has dominated this season, riding a 32-match win streak and 34 overall, en route to six titles. The Serbian has defeated Federer and Nadal three times in 2011 and will rise to No. 1 this week if he wins the Rome title and Nadal falls before the semi-finals. The Spaniard has had a strong season himself, winning his seventh straight title in Monte-Carlo and reaching the finals at Indian Wells and Miami. “Right now it’s these guys are playing better than me and better than the other players and that is a fact,” said Federer.

“Novak is winning all the big tournaments with Rafa this year and that makes it difficult to get to the big tournaments but I am in that position and I am close to winning tournaments as well, so I am struggling myself.” 

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Being ranked at No. 3 has provided opportunities for Nadal and Federer to be drawn in the same half. They’ve met in the semi-finals twice this year, with Nadal taking both meetings, most recently 5-7, 6-1, 6-3 at the Mutua Madrid Open.

Like Madrid, Federer landed in Nadal’s half of the draw this week at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome. A two-time finalist, Federer opens his title quest with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated Marcos Baghdatis Monday night. “I have not played that much against him. I think we played maybe three times or four times,” recalled Federer.

“He is probably best on grass or hard courts – indoors etc. But I still think on clay he remains as dangerous because he has that wonderful serve with that the first punch with his forehand and I have to say that he has really good physical ability to run around the court.”

Though it’s a difficult opening match for the Swiss, he’s ready for the challenge against the Frenchman. “I am going to try and prepare myself as well as I can and I am really looking forward to this match. I think it is good to be a great first round and I would like to play against him.”

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