This week, Roger Federer celebrates his unprecedented 300th week as the world's No. 1 men's tennis player. 2012 has been a great success for the 31-year-old Swiss, and with a few months left he intends to finish it out as strong as ever.
Despite another Grand Slam title to his name and a silver medal at the Olympics, Federer’s hunger has not been sated. In a press conference at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, Federer expressed his resolve to finish out the year at No. 1, stating, “I would love to finish No. 1 as well for the end of the year. For that it's going to take a great stretch again, winning Basel, Paris and London I assume to give myself a chance…I’ll give it everything I can.”
Any other player who believed he could win three tournaments to secure the top spot would seem overly optimistic. But Federer has proved time and time again that when he sets a goal for himself he is fully capable; his 2012 results speak for themselves. So far this year Federer has accrued six titles—the most of any male singles player (Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal each have five).
While Federer seems confident (and rightly so), closing the year as No. 1 is far easier said than done.
The Swiss leads, according to the South African Airways ATP Rankings, with 12,165 points to Djokovic’s 11,970. But Fed trails Djokovic according to the Race to London standings at 9,255 to the Serb’s 11,410. As Federer himself mentioned, he will have to defend titles at three tournaments in order to overtake Djokovic—no easy feat. At the Swiss Indoors, which takes place in Federer’s hometown of Basel, he has been crowned champion a record five times and reached the finals eight times.
This year Fed could face trouble from Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Murray or Stanislas Wawrinka, who nearly upset him in the quarters of the Shanghai Rolex Masters. The BNP Paribas Open is the ninth and final Masters 1000 of the season, and the points will be crucial to Federer’s No. 1 status. The Big Three have swept the Masters 1000s this year—Federer and Djokovic have three titles, Nadal has two.
If all goes well for Federer, his season will culminate at the ATP World Tour finals, where he will most likely battle Djokovic for the last title of the year.
While Federer fans will be tallying up ATP points at each tournament, the Swiss has taken a more relaxed stance toward the season's end. Perhaps to preemptively dispel the constant "going downhill" rumors that circulate every time the 17-time Grand Slam champion does not perform at peak, Federer stressed that the 2012 goal was simply to get back to world No. 1.
"Right now it's to manage my schedule, hopefully be in good shape for Basel, then kind of go from there. Just to repeat, the goal was to become world No. 1 this year, which happened, not the end of the year. But if that happens, that's a bonus." (via Shanghai Rolex Masters)
Though Federer seems fairly unconcerned about ending the year at No. 1, fans are well aware that he is one of the hungriest and most motivated players on tour. At 31 most players are burned out and considering retirement, but Fed is still fiercely battling with the younger generation—and winning.
Federer accomplished the primary goal he set for himself when many people did not think even that was possible. Any time the Swiss falters, he faces an onslaught of doubt and retirement speculation (he did not help his case with three consecutive double-faults in his latest match against Andy Murray).
With the world No.1 ranking reclaimed in 2012, Federer is not as desperate to finish the year at No. 1 as, say, Pete Sampras was. Sampras’ record of six consecutive years finished ranked No. 1 stands firm and does not seem to be in danger.
With Basel coming up in five days, all eyes will be on Federer to see if he can make his desire to round off the year at No. 1 a reality.