A great deal of attention has been paid to exactly how Roger Federer has retaken the top spot in the ATP rankings after many thought his career was pretty much over by mid-point of 2011. Aside from the fact that Federer has simply played the best tennis he has in years, he's also been fortunate that his chief opponents just haven't been up to their usual excellent standards of the past few years. However, there was a more tactical plan that has been involved. Federer, the great tennis mastermind that he is, enacted a plan in 2011 that took months to finally come to fruition with the No. 1 ranking. Now that plan, as wildly successful as it has been, might cause him to ultimately burn himself out before the end of the season and lose his top spot.
Look At His Last Four ATP Seasons At This Point In The ATP Schedule
* Currently Federer's record in 2012 (prior to the start of the Cincinnati Masters) is 51-7.
* In 2011, at this same point in the year his record was 38-10 (he ended 64-12).
* In 2010, it was 31-10 (ended 65-13).
* In 2009, it was 37-7 (ended 61-12).
Why The Large Disparity Between 2012 and The Years Prior?
Federer knew that he needed to make up a great deal of ATP points in order to catch up to his rivals and eventually achieve his goal of reaching the world No. 1 ranking. He knew he needed to win at least one Grand Slam and probably hoped that Djokvovic and Nadal would beat each other up enough so that neither dominated too heavily and would cancel each other out in acquiring points. All of that would help him sneak up in the rankings as time went by.
Federer started making a concerted effort after the U.S. Open towards the end of 2011 by winning 17 straight matches and three titles. His main rivals helped him out by taking things a bit easier and seemed to almost start their vacations a bit earlier than they should have (as evidenced by the poor showing of Nadal and Djokovic at the World ATP Tour Finals).
When 2012 started, Federer played the same number of tournaments (eight) as he had in 2011 prior to the start of Roland Garros. The strategy at the beginning of 2012 wasn't to play more tournaments; rather, it was to play the ones that he felt he could win. That strategy worked to perfection as he went on to win titles at Rotterdam, Dubai, and Indian Wells. As far as early season success, 2012 was an epic year for Federer. The points he picked up with all those early titles while Djokovic and Nadal seemed to cruise was a major reason why Federer got so close to them in points by the time the clay court season started. Winning Wimbledon was the ultimate icing on the cake. It was fitting that this tournament, Federer's favorite and the place where he has been most dominant, was where he finally regained that No. 1 ranking.
What Does All This Mean For Federer's Career?
If Federer makes at least the semi-finals at Cincinnati and the U.S. Open (a very safe bet), AND he plays a similar schedule to what he did in 2011 after the U.S. Open, his record could end up being somewhere around 82-9 . That's an astronomical number of matches for anyone to play in one calendar year, let alone a guy that just turned 31. In Djokovic's amazing 2011 season, his record was 70-6 (with three Grand Slams). Nadal's breakout year in 2010 produced a 70-10 record (with three Grand Slams as well). Both players cut back on their tournament schedule after the U.S. Open in those dominant years. Will Federer do the same?
The problem is that the final portion of the ATP schedule has always been traditionally the most successful for Federer. If he cuts back on this part of his schedule, he will lose ATP points for the following season that will allow his opponents to begin catching back up to him. If he doesn't cut back, he risks running his body down in a way that he has really yet to experience. What Federer ultimately decides to do will speak a lot to his goals. If he wants to maintain his No. 1 ranking, he will play as much as he can for as long as he can. If he rests himself, then he believes that he will be able to maintain this extremely high level of play he's regained here in 2012 through 2013 as well.
Julie is a featured tennis contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong tennis fan, she has been a bit disappointed that the 2012 ATP season never evolved into the Nadal-Djokovic year-long battle she expected.
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