19 year ago, an 18-year-old Roger Federer had completed a breakthrough season that propelled him from just outside the Top 300 into the Top 70 following 13 ATP wins and the Challenger title in Brest in his last event of the season.
The promising youngster had entered the Top 130 in February and he needed another seven months to make the next big step and crack the Top 100 for the first time after beating world number 16 Cedric Pioline in Tashkent. He had to enter Basel with a wild card after dropping out from the Top 100 again but he was back inside the elite group safely after reaching the quarters in his hometown, entering the Top 100 for the second time on October 11 and staying there ever since to earn another ultimate ranking record.
19 years later, Roger Federer is a 20-time Grand Slam champion and the winner of 99 ATP titles, widely considered as the greatest player of all time after everything he has achieved in the last 20 years on the Tour. Roger secured the place in the Top 30 in 2000 and the best was yet to come, moving closer to the place in the Top 10 in the next 17 months and achieving that goal in May 2002 after the maiden Masters 1000 title in Hamburg.
The rest is pretty much history and Federer became the leader of the pack at the beginning of 2004, dominating in the next four and a half years and forging the way towards the tennis immortals. Years were passing by and Roger never left the Top 20 since April 2001, not to mention the Top 100 where he accumulated more than 19 years in that group, passing Jimmy Connors and becoming the first player since the start of the ATP ranking in 1973 with 1000 consecutive weeks in the Top 100! The American was able to stay in the Top 100 for 17 years before dropping out in 1990 when he played just three matches after struggling with a deteriorated left wrist.
Among the other active players, Feliciano Lopez is second with 857 consecutive weeks in the Top 100 but he is probably going to retire at some point in 2019, leaving Rafael Nadal as the ultimate chaser of Federer's record after 816 weeks he has spent in the Top 100 without leaving that group.
Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco, Richard Gasquet and Novak Djokovic have all been on more than 700 weeks and it should be interesting to follow them in the next couple of years (Berdych has struggled with injuries a lot in 2018) and to see if anybody is capable of reaching this huge ranking milestone set by the 37-year-old Swiss who is still among the players to beat on the Tour, finishing inside the Top 3 for the 14th time and hoping for more of the same in the season in front of us. Active players with the most consecutive weeks in the Top 1000:
1000 - Roger Federer
857 - Feliciano Lopez
816 - Rafael Nadal
775 - Tomas Berdych
770 - Fernando Verdasco
712 - Richard Gasquet
701 - Novak Djokovic