Federer to Rotterdam for a shot at No. 1

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Roger Federer must be feeling really good physically, after winning his 20th Grand Slam title just 10 days ago at the Australian Open.

He is headed to Rotterdam next week to play in the ATP Tour 500 event there.

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“The tournament is special for me. I remember playing for the first time in 1999 as it was one of the first events where I got the chance to play at the highest level. It feels good to join in the celebrations of the 45th edition,” Federer said on his website.

There had been negotiations with the 500 event in Dubai, which takes place the following week. Federer, who has a training base there, played that event every year from 2011 through 2015, and returned last year after winning in Melbourne.

That turned out not to be his best move; he lost to No. 116 Evgeny Donskoy. But he quickly righted the ship by winning both Indian Wells and Miami a few weeks later.

Federer played Rotterdam early in his career, from 1999 through 2005 before the Dubai money kicked in, and he was reluctant to play back-to-back weeks.

He returned to the Netherlands in 2012 and won it, beating Juan Martin del Potro in the final. Federer was back in 2013 to defend his title, but lost to Julien Benneteau in the quarterfinals. And this is his first trip since then.

The trip to Rotterdam all but assures Federer won’t play Dubai, with the two major events in the U.S. coming up so soon afterwards.

The fascinating thing about this addition to Federer’s schedule (beyond what bank Rotterdam may have robbed in the process) is that the No. 1 ranking is in play earlier than anticipated.

The race for No. 1 is on

Federer is just 155 points behind Rafael Nadal in the race for top spot.

If he reaches the Rotterdam semis, and banks the 180 points that go with that, he would overtake the No. 1 ranking for the first time since Oct. 29, 2012.

A little extra cushion on that is that Nadal, who next plans to play the ATP Tour 500 event in Acapulco at the end of the month, is defending 300 finalist’s points there.

The oldest man to hold the No. 1 ranking remains Andre Agassi, who was 33 years old when he did it in 2003. Federer turns 37 in August.

Leave it to Federer to add a little intrigue out of nowhere.

(**SABR = Sneak Attack by Roger)

Right here, we’re calling for the draw gods to have the Australian Open champion draw Canadian teenager Félix Auger-Aliassime in the first round. Call it the May-December, August 8 Special, as the two share that birthday.

Auger-Aliassime, who is playing a Challenger event in Budapest this week, was given a wild card and will make his ATP Tour main draw debut there.

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