Roger Federer is one week shy of tying Pete Sampras's record for being No. 1 in the world for the most weeks. He is currently ranked No. 3 and still very much a factor at the top of the men's game at the age of 30.
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have passed by Federer, at least for now, but you can never count the Swiss Maestro out. One of the three players has been at the top at all times for almost eight years now.
While it would likely be a difficult task, Federer does have it in him to regain the No. 1 ranking. Here are seven reasons that he could make it come to fruition.
Throughout his career, Federer has been extremely healthy and one of the more fit players on tour. He has played every Grand Slam event since the 1999 US Open.
Nadal and Djokovic, while fit, have both had some injury issues throughout their careers. They also play more tournaments than Federer, causing more wear and tear on the body.
Playing style also has a lot to do with Nadal and Djokovic getting hurt more. Federer glides around the court, while Nadal and Djokovic (Nadal especially) have to grind it out on every point.
Since Djokovic won so many more matches in 2011 than he did in the past, he ended up playing more than he was accustomed to. This could cause some problems for him in the near future.
Federer has won just one title so far in 2011, while Nadal and Djokovic have combined to win 12. That gives him a great chance to make up some ground in 2012.
Federer has had an abysmal season based on his standards, while Djokovic is having one of the best seasons in tennis history. Nadal's results are a little below expectation, mostly because he can't beat the Serb this year.
Djokovic is going to have a lot of points to defend next season. If he comes back down to human level, he will struggle mightily to do so.
Federer, on the other hand, will have a lot of chances to gain points. A few more titles or deeper runs at tournaments can help him climb the rankings in a hurry.
Federer has a chance to gain some points by winning the US Open as well. In 2010, he lost in the semifinals; Nadal won and Djokovic was the runner up.
He had a very comprehensive performance in Round 16, losing just three games against Juan Monaco. A tough test given by Marin Cilic the round before should be good for him as well.
This tournament is a very important one in Federer's career. He has not won a major since January of 2010 and is looking to continue some incredible streaks with a win in New York.
Federer is one of the greatest of all time, if not the greatest, as he has the most Grand Slam titles ever with 16. He has accomplished just about everything you can on the tennis court, but still has a strong desire to keep playing.
His goal of winning the Olympic gold in singles in 2012 could help him regain the No. 1 ranking. That's the one thing he does not currently have on his resume and should drive him to keep playing at a high level.
Many players do not have the same focus at the age of 30 that they did earlier in their careers. That can not be said of the Swiss Maestro, who wants to play for years to come.
Djokovic has looked almost unbeatable throughout the 2011 season; a better serve game has given him all kinds of confidence. After remaining under the shadows of Nadal and Federer for so long, he has dominated them and everyone else this season.
It's going to be a very difficult task for him to repeat in 2012, not only because of the standard of his play, but also because of his opponents figuring out ways to stay with him.
If the Serb becomes complacent at all, he could face some hardships next season. That's all good for Federer, who is hungry to get back to the top of the game again.
Nadal has been unable to defeat Djokovic this season; the Serb has really gotten under his skin. It's the first time in his career that he has consistently been unable to defeat an opponent.
After losing in the Wimbledon Finals to Djokovic, Nadal has not looked like the same dominant player that we are accustomed to seeing. It's really starting to affect the rest of his game.
We all know how important the mental aspect of tennis can be. Nadal's confidence has been shaken this season and his problem with Djokovic could cause him to slip in the rankings.
Sure, Federer is past his prime and is old by tennis standards. But he is one of the all-time greats for a reason and nothing is out of his reach.
He's had stretches of play this season where it looked like it was the old Federer—his last two matches at the French Open and his win against Monaco come to mind.
He has not consistently put his best play together in 2011, but you know he can still do it. He will not be satisfied with his results this year and that will motivate him to come back strong.