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Roger Federer Begins Quest For ATP World Number 1 Ranking @ABN•AMRO • Rotterdam • Plays Ruben Bemelmans

Roger Federer (R) speaks during a press conference on the first day of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 12 February 2018. EPA-EFE/KOEN SUYK



By Ricky Dimon


Roger Federer’s bid to become the oldest world No. 1 in the history of the ATP World Tour at the end of this week will begin on Wednesday night at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Federer and Ruben Bemelmans will kick off the Day 3 evening session with their first-ever head-to-head meeting.


The Swiss maintained his point total in the ATP rankings by successfully defending his title at the Australian Open last month. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, lost in the quarterfinals (or, more accurately, retired in the fifth set against Marin Cilic) having previously finished runner-up to Federer in 2017. Thus the gap dwindled to just 155 points, which means the 36-year-old needs only a semifinal performance (180 points) at this 500-point indoor tournament to regain the top spot next Monday.


Federer has not been No. 1 since November of 2012. If the 20-time Grand Slam champion accomplishes the feat, he will surpass Andre Agassi (33 years old) as the oldest-ever top-ranked player on the ATP World Tour.


“After the Australian Open was over, I thought I’d love to play Rotterdam and give it a go,” Federer reflected. “I played at the Australian Open not thinking about the rankings, but I knew I had the flexibility in February over my calendar.


“Our team is very excited, that I‘m here and that I will give it a go. You have to do it, not because it’s the right thing to do, but you have to be here with all your heart and really go for it. (I’ll) try my very best. Having the option of getting to No. 1 is highly motivating and very exciting to say the least.”


This week’s top seed is 23-6 lifetime in eight previous Rotterdam appearances. He captured the title in 2005 (beat current coach Ivan Ljubicic in the the final) and again in his next appearance in 2012 following a six-year absence. Federer last played the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in 2013, losing to Julien Benneteau in the quarters.


“The tournament is special for me,” he assured. “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.”


Bemelmans, meanwhile, earned his place in this showdown thanks to a successful qualification run that saw him defeat Denis Istomin and Tim Van Rijthoven in straight sets. The 116th-ranked Belgian is a respectable 3-3 at the ATP level this year with a second-round Australian Open performance as a qualifier, an impressive Davis Cup win over Marton Fucsovics, and a second-round finish last week in Montpellier.


Of course, nothing suggests Bemelmans is capable of producing the kind of tennis that will trouble a red-hot (and soon-to-be world No. 1?) Federer.

Pick: Federer in 2


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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