The cardboard-looking concoction with the word “oldest” on it crafted to mark the occasion probably won’t make Roger Federer’s jet back to Switzerland.
But whether he’s first, last, oldest, youngest, tallest, best-coiffed or Swissest, the 36-year-old will once again be the No. 1 ranked player on the ATP Tour when the new rankings are released on Monday.
Federer took a last-minute wild card into the ATP 500 Rotterdam event, and needed to win three matches and reach the semifinals to grab that top spot again.
He did it Friday night, against a very under-the-weather-looking Robin Haase.
The 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory guaranteed the numbers will add up. And Federer will return to the top spot for the first time since early November, 2012.
A number of No. 1 records
Federer is back at the top of the game – at least for moment – for the first time in five years and 106 days.
That shatters the ATP record for longest gap, held by Andre Agassi since 1999.
The gap of 14 years and 17 days since the first time Federer became No. 1 is also a record, unlikely to ever be touched (although never say never).
And he is now by far the oldest man ever on the ATP Tour to be No. 1, surpassing Agassi’s “oldest” record by more than three years.
Nike was already prepared. Federer’s sponsors are pretty good at having all this stuff ready – just in case.
— Nike (@Nike) February 16, 2018
The three phases of No. 1
The Rotterdam event, with tournament director Richard Krajicek out on court, had a ceremony all prepared
But Haase looked like he might spoil the show early on.
Surely Federer had some nerves. But Haase, who is playing good tennis right now and also is the highest-ranked male player in the host country, didn’t show up to hand the crown to his Swiss friend. And it was the one place this matchup wasn’t going to have the crowd overwhelmingly in Federer’s favor.
Federer later acknowledged that he knew Haase had not been feeling well all week. And by the end, the Dutchman wasn’t even sitting down on a changeover which, most tennis players will concur, usually means your back is killing you.
Haase also, at one point, appeared to vomit in a nearby garbage can grabbed for the occasion.
Had he not played at all, that would have been … well, a little anticlimactic and awkward.
Haase, who is friendly with Federer, also stayed for the entire ceremony. It wasn’t his first rodeo with Swiss players and occasions.
“Ironically, (Haase) has to go through another ceremony with another Swiss guy. Six months ago in Basel it was Marco (Chiudinelli) he took on court doing the round of honours, and how you have to watch this,” Federer said. “I’m sorry you have to do all these things.”
Federer tribute at the ready
The tribute began with Krajicek’s rambling speech about Federer’s fabulousness, and a video testimonial to the same fabulousness.
“Thank you for being the great guy that you are – he really is an unbelievable guy. And thanks for being an amazing ambassador for the sport we all love,” Kracijek said.
(Lest anyone think Federer has a healthy ego, well … it’s probably difficult not to develop one when nearly everyone you meet, every single day, is telling you how fabulous you are).
Apparently I'm the oldest tennis player with a #1️⃣ ranking. Somebody might have mentioned that to me already but I had a hard time hearing 👴🏻
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 16, 2018
Federer was emotional, but calm. He pointed out the three different phases of being No. 1, when you’re Roger Federer. They are phases not too many mortals can even contemplate and, indeed, as recently as six months ago Federer likely was not contemplating that it could happen again.
“Reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport. Sometimes in the beginning you just all of a sudden get there, just because you’re playing so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back, you wrestle it back from somebody else who deserved to be there,” Federer said.
“And when you’re older, you feel you have to put in maybe sometimes double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career. Getting to No. 1 and enjoying it at 36, almost 37 years old is an absolutely dream come true. and I can’t believe it.”
Going for title No. 97
Meanwhile, the tournament is not over.
Federer is in the semifinals, and will meet lucky loser Andreas Seppi. He is 13-1 against the Italian, the only loss coming at the 2015 Australian Open.
He should be all right, unless he “parties like a rock star” Friday night. He’ll also get the benefit of another night match, under the roof as well (!!!!).
If Federer wins that, he would face the winner of a match between David Goffin of Belgium (6-1, with the Belgian winning the last one, in the semifinals of the ATP Tour Finals in London last November) and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria (6-0).
And on Monday, the milestone will be official.
(All screenshots from TennisTV.com)