After successfully defending his Australian Open title last month, the 20-time grand slam winner regained the No. 1 ranking for the fourth time in his long career when he beat Dutchman Robin Haase, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, the Netherlands on Friday.
"What an amazing run it's been and a journey it has been for me," Federer said in a court-side televised interview, as he got a standing ovation from a sellout crowd at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam. "To clinch No. 1 now this following Monday here in Rotterdam, it really means a lot to me."
"Reaching No. 1 is one, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport," Federer said, who first rose to the No. 1 ranking 14 years ago. "When you are older, you feel like you have to put double the work in, so this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career , and doing it right here, at 36, and almost 37 years old, is an absolute dream come true. I can't believe it."
His achievement was lauded on court by tournament director Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon winner, who told Federer: "You never cease to amaze us, you are just incredible."
The 36-year-old Swiss had last held the No. 1 spot on Nov. 4, 2012. His five year, 106-day wait to regain the top spot is the longest between stints at No.1 in the men's game. Federer has held the No. 1 ranking for a record 302 weeks, including 237 straight weeks.
Federer's 20 slams have made him the sport's wealthiest player, with an annual income of $64 million according to FORBES from prize money and endorsement deals with some of the world's biggest companies. Earlier on Friday, German car maker Mercedes-Benz announced it had extended its ten-year deal with the Swiss, saying Federer "has set the standard in men's tennis."
His win over Haase means he will knock his long-time nemesis and friend, Rafael Nadal of Spain, off the top spot on Monday. Federer, who turns 37 in August, will also become the oldest No. 1 since Andre Agassi held the No. 1 ranking on Sept. 7, 2003 , when he was 33 years of age.
Federer's ascendancy means the men's No. 1 ranking has changed hands twice in seven months. Nadal had knocked Andy Murray off the No. 1 ranking in August.
Against Haase, the nerves seemed to have got to Federer at the start, as he managed to land just 42% of his first serves in and subsequently ended up dropping the first set 6-4. But he struck early on in the second set, cutting down on his errors and attacking more. Haase's fate was sealed in the opening game of the final set when Federer flicked a backhand passing on break point. With Haase increasingly struggling to move, Federer kept playing aggressive, attacking tennis and took the match as his opponent double-faulted on the first match point.
Federer, a two-time winner in Rotterdam, will play the winner of the match between Italy's Andreas Seppi and Russia's Danil Medvedev in the semifinals.