Roger Federer has reclaimed the world No 1 position twice in his career after being toppled from his perch and said today that he was prepared to keep making the sacrifices he would need to return to the head of the rankings for a third time. Federer's latest reign at the top ends with today's updated list, but the 31-year-old Swiss is planning on playing a full schedule again next year, which would enable him to rise again.
"I obviously gave it everything I had," Federer said. "I've played so much tennis the last one and a half, two years, and I'm happy I got back to world No 1. It's obviously a time where to become No 1 you need to win at least one Slam, or at least five to 10 titles, so we're not talking about just a quick jump to No 1 and then you lose it again.
"This is a full-on process. That obviously takes a lot of sacrifice. For the time being I'm willing to do all of that. I'm putting my schedule into place for next year and there are no extraordinary changes. It's really going to depend on how well you play at the big tournaments and if you're going to win against your main rivals in the semis and finals."
Federer first became world No 1 in February 2004 and held on to the position until Rafael Nadal overtook him in August 2008. He reclaimed top spot after winning his sixth Wimbledon title in 2009 before Nadal swapped places with him again 10 months later.
Having fallen as low as No 4 towards the end of last year, Federer replaced Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings with his seventh Wimbledon victory this summer. His latest reign, which will be ended by Djokovic today, takes the number of weeks he has spent at the top to a record 302. Pete Sampras is second on the all-time list with 286 weeks, followed by Ivan Lendl with 270. Djokovic, meanwhile, is certain to finish as the year-end No 1 for the second time in a row, whatever happens over the next eight days.
In a year when each member of the Fab Four has won a Grand Slam title, Federer was asked whether he felt this week's year-ending tournament would decide who is "the real No 1", but he insisted: "We know who the real No 1 is. It's going to be Novak. I don't think there should be any debate around about that. You don't get to No 1 by chance. The rankings are something that shows how you have played over a 365-day period. It might all change again in two months at the Australian Open, but right now it's clear."
Federer has won the year-end finals a record six times. The fact that he maintains his form and fitness to the end of each year is a tribute to his training programme and his powers of recovery through a season that lasts more than 10 months.
"Overall I think I've managed my schedule pretty well so that the back-end of a season does not feel like a back-end," he said. "It feels more like a priority, being fresh mentally and physically. It's also how you look at it. Instead of a dive over the finish line, it's part of an ongoing season. Maybe the [fact that it has been played] indoors [in recent years] has helped."
Federer said his victory here last year had given him the confidence to go on and win Wimbledon this summer and reclaim the world No 1 ranking. "I think the stretch I had from Basle, Paris and London last year really helped me in a great way because I had a couple of tough losses through Wimbledon to the US Open [in 2011]," he said.