Roger Federer has spent more than half his life as a professional tennis player on the ATP tour. In August this year, he will turn 36. After more than a year without a title, he won the Australian Open in January. Defying age, injuries and general sense, he then went on win his 19-year-old career’s 25th Masters title – his 5th at Indian Wells alone. He became the oldest man ever to win a Masters title on tour, beating Andre Agassi’s age of 33, just a month after becoming the oldest man in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title. He also holds the unique distinction of being (jokingly) called an “A**hole” by his opponent on the mic during the post-tournament presentation ceremony – this last week in Indian Wells, when Wawrinka couldn’t hold it in anymore in an emotional speech.
Federer has made plenty of changes to his game after returning from a 6-month layoff – not least being the hiring of former World no. 3 Ivan Ljubicic as coach, who immediately took it upon himself to convert the Federer backhand from a defensive stringer into an attacking weapon. He fine-tuned the Edberg brainchild SABR (Sneaky Attack By Roger), which was originally only to return a serve, into a more practical and regular backhand – where Federer rolls it over to take it early, flattening it out and affording his opponent lesser time to react. These important changes have manifested themselves best in the two matches against Rafael Nadal, both on hard courts, where Federer’s backhand has nullified Nadal’s heavy top-spinning forehand for the first time in years.
Federer also stands an outside chance of – believe it or not – reclaiming the no. 1 position in the men’s ranking later in the year, if he continues his form. Needless to mention, he will be the oldest to hold the rank if he does that, again beating Agassi’s age of 33 when he held it in 2003 for a brief period.
Since the ATP rankings operate on a 52-week rolling system, Federer’s 2016 season – in which he missed the clay season as well as every tournament after Wimbledon – means that he has thousands of points to gain. Most importantly, he is already back to no. 6 in the rankings, after starting the year at 17, and was once in danger of falling out of the top 30 if he had lost to Tomas Berdych in the fourth round of the Australian Open. With Miami coming up (which he missed last year), as well as the clay-court trio of Masters at Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, Federer is in prime position to slash down the gap between himself and the top two – Murray and Djokovic, who will be missing Miami with shoulder injuries. Hence, 16 years after he shocked the world as a sprightly 19-year-old teenager on center court against Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, Federer finds himself in the unusual position of starting a major tournament as the favourite this week. He is in the position to win the ‘Sunshine double’ – consecutive Indian Wells and Miami Masters – for the third time in his career after 2005 and 2006. Process that. He was at his peak then, losing just 9 matches in those two years. He lost 7 last year alone.
Here are some astounding numbers from the 18-time Grand Slam champion, who looks faster, more aggressive and better right now than he has ever been. Every tournament makes him the prime attraction, keenly aware of the fact that this “phase” could well be a miracle, with everyone hoping to milk every second of his professional existence:
90 – number of ATP Singles titles won by Federer, which makes him 3rd on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl
86 – Federer’s winning percentage in Slams alone
12 – maximum titles he has won in a year (2006)
65 – number of consecutive Grand Slam singles appearances made by Federer between 1999 and the 2016 French Open, before he pulled out.
40 – number of matches Federer won against Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt at their peak, losing just 12 (and only 3 to Roddick).
49 – number of matches Federer has won against the combined trio of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. However, he has lost 57 against them, and 23 each to Nadal and Djokovic, with most of them coming after he turned 30. They are the only 3 players to have won more than 10 matches against Federer.
17 – my age, when Federer won his first Grand Slam, Wimbledon 2003. I turn 31 next month. Federer was 17 when he made his tour debut.
15 – maximum number of months Federer has gone without a title (between Cincinnati 2015 and Aussie Open 2017) in his pro career.
28 – number of Grand Slam finals reached by Federer. He reached 10 in a row between 2005 and 2007.
49 – number of “major” tournaments won by Federer: this includes Slams (18), Masters (25) and World Tour Finals (6).
47 – number of ATP finals lost by Federer, 10 of them being Slam finals
8 – number of years since Federer broke the all-time Slam record of Pete Sampras (14). It was at Wimbledon 2009, after he defeated Roddick in a 5-set final to win his 15th Slam title. After that, he only won the 2010 Australian Open, Wimbledon 2012 and now Australian Open 2017.
4 – number of times he has won the Laureas Sports Person of the Year award (2005-2008)
4 – number of years it has been since Federer held the no. 1 ranking
1093 – number of singles matches won by Roger Federer in his career. He is second only to Connors, who won 1256 and retired at age 40. Nadal is on 820 and Djokovic is on 763. Federer has won 81.63% of his matches.
451 – number of matches won by Switzerland’s second-most successful player, Stan Wawrinka, who is no. 3 in the world.
314 – number of matches won by Federer in Slams alone. So far.
302 – number of weeks spent by Federer at no. 1
105 – the streak of points Federer once had without an unforced error. It came against John Isner.
674 – number of weeks Federer was ranked CONSECUTIVELY in the top 8 before falling out after missing the French Open in 2016. That’s 14 years and 2 weeks – which makes for almost literally half my life on the planet.