Roger Federer: Will He Be the Last Attacking Player to Reach No. 1?

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Roger Federer: Will He Be the Last Attacking Player to Reach No. 1?
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Roger Federer gets ready to hit the court in Basel, Switzerland, at a spot in the rankings he's more familiar with than anyone: No. 1. His aggressive playing style has led him to 17 Grand Slam singles titles, as well as 300 weeks—and counting—on top.

Federer, of course, is a special player, who is more concerned with finishing points outright, perhaps, than his younger peers—Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

But the game appears to have headed in favor of those three, and the era of an attacking player reaching No. 1 could be over.

The current top 10 features powerful baseliners such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro, who have all made Grand Slam finals in the past. Del Potro, however, is the only one who has won a major (2009 U.S. Open), when he beat Nadal and Federer in the semifinals and finals, respectively.

It's not outside the realm of possibility for Tsonga or Berdych to join del Potro as a Grand Slam winner, especially with the condition of Nadal in question due to injury. But winning a major and getting to No. 1 are two different tasks completely and don't necessarily go hand in hand.

And those three are playing in the same era of what is arguably considered the best "Big 4" the men's game has ever seen. By the time Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal slow down, a whole generation will have missed an opportunity to spend time leading the rankings.

Perhaps the main factor that has affected the ascent of the attacking player is the speed of the game or, rather, lack thereof. Across the board, the main playing surfaces have all been slowed down—even the grass, where baseliners whose strength lies in defense regularly contest finals.

A lot has been made of the prospects of big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, who's shot up the rankings the past two seasons. However, in a recent result, Raonic fell to Kei Nishikori, a player who's in that Murray-Djokovic mode.

With the way the game has progressed, perhaps Nishikori should be viewed as a future No. 1, as it appears Federer might be the last standard-bearer for the aggressive-minded.

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