Roger Federer: The Timeless Champion

ATPWorldTour.com pays tribute to Federer on his return to No. 1

Roger Federer today begins his 303rd week at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings at the age of 36, more than 14 years after rising to top spot.

Tellingly, 10 years ago, during his run of 237 straight weeks at No. 1, Federer outlined his intention to “play through the generations like [Andre] Agassi and [Jimmy] Connors.” A commendable goal, but in reality when Federer underwent knee surgery in February 2016, few could have predicted that arguably the sport’s greatest stylist would today have broken myriad of ATP Rankings records and (once again) re-write the history books.

His return to the summit of men’s professional tennis for the first time since 4 November 2012, a record gap of five years and 106 days, began at No. 17 in the ATP Rankings just 13 months ago under the guidance of Severin Luthi, his coach since 2008, and former World No. 3 Ivan Ljubicic. Federer acknowledged a few years ago that to continue to play the sport deep into his 30s, he needed to be smarter with his playing schedule and further develop his incredible work ethic. His team helped to maintain his mental focus in order to prolong his career, and his confidence has soared.

Today, in his 21st season as a professional, with 97 tour-level trophies, Federer has eclipsed Agassi – aged 33 in September 2003 - to become the oldest player to ascend to top spot. In doing so, he has provided inspiration to all those, regardless of their age, who strive to attain a goal. Since Federer first rose to No. 1 a record 14 years and 17 days ago, he has redefined what it means to be a great sportsman, let alone a top-level tennis player.

After capturing his 20th Grand Slam championship last month at the Australian Open, Federer provided a glimpse of why he keeps playing tennis. “At the end it's seeing that my parents [Robert and Lynette] are incredibly proud and happy that I'm still doing it,” said Federer. “They enjoy coming to tournaments. That makes me happy and play better.

“Then, of course, my wife [Mirka] who makes it all possible. Without her support, I wouldn't be playing tennis any more - for many years. We had a very open conversation years ago, if she was happy to do this or not. I'm happy that she's super supportive, and she's willing to take on a massive workload with the kids… This life wouldn't work if she said, ‘No’.”

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So what next? With nine titles from his past 10 finals, Federer has won 97 trophies overall and 1,144 matches. Could Connors’ ATP World Tour-era leading tallies of 1,256 match wins and 109 titles be under threat? Having already made an indelible mark on the sport, free of back and knee pain, Federer may soon consider that those long-standing records are worth chasing.

OLDEST WORLD NO. 1

Player Birthdate Most Recent Date At No. 1 Age
Roger Federer (SUI) 8 August 1981 19 February 2018 36
Andre Agassi (USA) 29 April 1970 7 September 2003 33
Rafael Nadal (ESP) 3 June 1986 18 February 2018 31
Jimmy Connors (USA) 2 September 1952 3 July 1983 30
Ivan Lendl (CZE/USA) 7 March 1960 12 August 1990 30

FIRST AND LAST DAY AT NO. 1

Player Debut At No. 1 Most Recent Date At No. 1 Time In Between
Roger Federer (SUI) 2 February 2004 19 February 2018 14 years, 17 days
Rafael Nadal (ESP) 18 August 2008 18 February 2018 9 years, 184 days
Jimmy Connors (USA) 29 July 1974 3 July 1983 8 years, 339 days
Andre Agassi (USA) 10 April 1995 7 September 2003 8 years, 150 days
Pete Sampras (CZE/USA) 12 April 1993 19 November 2000 7 years, 221 days

LONGEST GAP BETWEEN STINTS AT NO. 1

Player Lost No. 1 Regained No. 1 Time In Between
Roger Federer (SUI) 4 November 2012 19 February 2018 5 years, 106 days
Andre Agassi (USA) 12 February 1996 5 July 1999 3 years, 142 days
Jimmy Connors (USA) 9 July 1979 13 September 1982 3 years, 65 days
Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6 July 2014 21 August 2017 3 years, 45 days
Andre Agassi (USA) 11 September 2000 28 April 2003 2 years, 228 days

Statistical assistance from Joshua Rey