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With Sampras in sight, Feds digs at Nadal’s ‘drive’


 

Originally published on: 05/03/10 18:33

Barring one of the most spectacular downturns in fortune in sporting history, the record books are set for another rewrite this year as Roger Federer closes in on Pete Sampras’ record time spent as world No.1.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is into his 270th week at the top of the pack, drawing him level with Ivan Lendl in second place in the all-time ranks after his latest 33-week streak, which began after he clinched the 2009 Wimbledon title.

Now the Swiss has his eyes set on overtaking Sampras’ mark of 286 weeks, which he could draw level with should he remain in top spot until the rankings are released after Roland Garros on June 7.

Federer revealed this week that, despite speculation that he may chase a calendar slam after winning the Australian Open, retaining the world No.1 ranking is his main priority this year.

“I’ll try, that’s for sure,” Federer said about the prospect of winning all four Grand Slams in 2010. “But it’s not even No.1 on my to-do list. I’ll just try to defend my No.1 position.”

And the 28-year-old believes that he has more drive than Rafael Nadal, the man who deposed him from top spot in 2008 before injuries and poor results saw him briefly slide to No.4 in the world ranks just a week ago.

Speaking to reporters as he toured Ethiopia to visit a school supported by his charity, Federer admitted that he still regards Nadal as his biggest threat on the Tour, but questioned his ambition to reign at the top of the men’s game.

“The first moment when I became No.1 in the world was six years ago now and it was a magical moment in my career,” Federer said. “It was pretty special and I always wanted to get back there.

“Some people have that drive more than others who’ve been No.1. Rafa doesn’t seem like he cares as much for No.1, or he doesn’t show it.”

Federer does empathise with the Spaniard, who after a solid start to the year was forced to retire midway through his quarter-final match with Andy Murray in Melbourne, relinquishing the defence of a second Grand Slam title through injury.

“What he’s going through is very similar to what I went through last year,” Federer said. “Just because you don’t win a major they start picking on you. I’m convinced he will come back shortly.”

Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko are the players most likely to stand in his way, Federer believes, adding that he thought Murray had “got Nadal’s number a little bit” after his impressive performance up until the Spaniard’s retirement.

“Davydenko has made his point and it will be interesting to see how long he can last because he’s playing a lot of matches and he’s not used to maybe winning that much,” Federer said after losing twice to the Russian, before setting the record straight in Melbourne. “Players want to beat him even more now.”

The Swiss will be hard pressed to top his achievements in 2009, both on and off the court.

“Every season is different or special,” he said. “Last year was the most emotional, the most special. Losing in Australia, coming back, winning Paris, Wimbledon, getting married, going through pregnancy, having the babies.”

But asked whether this season was going to be his best yet, Federer smiled. “Well, it’s certainly on the right track.”

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