Roger Federer became world no. 1 for the first time on this day 19 years ago! The future of men's tennis was bright in the early 2000s. Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer were challenging the "old school" masters Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and battled for the ATP throne.
Safin claimed the US Open crown at 20, and Hewitt became the youngest world no. 1 in history at the same age, leaving Roger Federer to burst onto the scene and make a name for himself. The super-talented Swiss made slower progress.
However, he was steady as a rock, improving his game and ranking position by each month and chasing notable titles. Roger won his first Masters 1000 title in Hamburg 2002 and entered the top-10 the next day, never leaving that group between October 2002 and November 2016!
Federer made a breakthrough season in 2003 after winning seven titles, including his first Major at Wimbledon and the Masters Cup. Thus, the Swiss headed into 2004 ranked 2nd behind Andy Roddick. The gap between the two youngsters was small, and they were already battling for the top spot at the Australian Open.
Marat Safin spoiled the American's plans and allowed Roger to claim the ATP throne following the semi-final victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Swiss won his first Australian Open title after beating Safin in the final, achieving two significant honors within a day.
Roger Federer became world no. 1 following the 2004 Australian Open title.
On February 2, 2004, Federer became the dominant figure on the Tour for the following four and a half years before Rafael Nadal passed him in 2008.
With those 1000 ATP points from Melbourne, Roger established a healthy lead over Juan Carlos Ferrero and Andy Roddick despite not playing that well at the Masters 1000 level. Roger played 95 matches in 2003 and reduced the number to 80 in 2004.
He lifted 11 titles (including three Masters 1000 events) from 17 tournaments and raised the bar too high for any of his followers. Roger was mighty relieved after gaining that world no. 1 spot as the 23rd player since 1973. He transformed himself into a machine that always performed at its best and carefully picked his schedule to stay miles ahead of all the opponents.
The Swiss was the player to beat for 237 consecutive weeks before Nadal dethroned him in August 2008. Over 14 years after becoming the world's best player, Federer stood on the throne in 2018 at 36, fighting against Nadal as a decade ago and securing the ranking age records that will take some beating.
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