Federer Marks 10 Years Since Rising To No. 1
The abiding memory is of Roger Federer dropping to his knees and raising his arms in celebration. It was 9:30 p.m. in Melbourne, on 30 January 2004, and he had just beaten his rival for No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, Juan Carlos Ferrero, in the Australian Open semi-finals. The victory proved to be enough for Federer to become the world’s premier player for the first time. Federer confessed, “I wanted to enjoy this moment. You only get to be No. 1 once.”
Three days later, after outclassing a resurgent Marat Safin for his second Grand Slam championship title, the ranking was official and his place in tennis history was assured. Remarkably, seven years earlier, as a 15 year old at the Swiss National Tennis Centre at Ecublens, Federer had written down his sporting goals: to break into the Top 10 and then become No. 1.
Federer soon carried the weight of expectation as a member of the ATP World Tour’s ‘New Balls Please’ campaign — launched in August 2000 — that also featured Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Jan-Michael Gambill, Tommy Haas, Nicolas Lapentti, Mariano Zabaleta and Ferrero. But his rise to the summit of men’s professional tennis was as a result of hard work and dedication. Between 2001 and 1 February 2004, he compiled a 192-60 match record (.733), which included 12 titles.
Once at World No. 1, Federer established a dictatorship and exerted a relentless hunger and consistency. In the first of his three stints at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, he held No. 1 continuously for a record 237 weeks until 16 August 2008. His supporters became legion, readily complimenting his fluidity, economy of movement and gracefulness, but also his manner and diplomacy that evoked memories of a player from the amateur era. He regained the No. 1 crown on two further occasions in 2010 and 2012, for a further 65 weeks, before closing out his 302nd week — 16 more weeks than Pete Sampras’ mark — on 4 November 2012. That year, Federer won his 17th Grand Slam title.
Federer won 421 matches and lost just 53 times (.888) as the world’s best. He went 50-18 in finals, which included 11 Grand Slam titles and 15 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies. In comparison to the two players who followed him to No. 1, Rafael Nadal — another all-time great who is about to start his 120th week at No. 1 – currently has a 161-26 match record (.861) and a 45-5 finals record. Novak Djokovic went 125-21 (.856) and 9-6 in championship matches in his 101 weeks at No. 1.
As we celebrate the anniversary of Federer first becoming World No. 1, his legacy is that he will forever be ranked among the greatest tennis players in the history of the sport. For ever since 2 February 2004, Federer has been the standard-bearer for a generation of players and, one decade on, remains a key protagonist in the age of superstar tennis. Federer completed 2013 in the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the 12th year in a row. Now at No. 8, Federer hunts down his rivals with his new coach, Stefan Edberg, another ATP World Tour aristocrat, in search of further joy (and silverware) from a sport he transcended long ago.