REMAINING injury-free rather than chasing the top ranking is Roger Federer’s focus as he eyes a triumphant finale to his dream season at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Federer admits reaching world No.1 is the “ultimate achievement” in tennis but the champion Swiss, who turns 37 next year, has very different priorities these days.
The 19-times major winner is already guaranteed to end 2017 as the oldest world No.2 in history and will finish tantalisingly short of Rafael Nadal if he ices his extraordinary renaissance in London with a tour-topping eighth title of the year.
Federer has lost just four of his 56 matches this season (against Nadal’s 67-10), sweeping to Australian Open and Wimbledon glory and also picking up Masters trophies in Indian Wells, Miami and Shanghai.
Just one more match win would potentially have been enough to usurp Nadal from top spot.
“Regrets? I don’t have any,” Federer said of his semi-final at the O2 Arena against David Goffin on Saturday.
“But maybe losing to Tommy Haas and (Evgeny) Donskoy ended up haunting me. I had match points in both matches. It’s not like I didn’t try.
“Of these matches, if I miss out because of that for world No.1, then maybe I was unlucky.
“But I also did win matches in Miami, saving match points against (Tomas) Berdych, other matches throughout the season that it could have gone either way as well.
“In Australia, (against Kei) Nishikori. You name it. Things could have turned very quickly much earlier.
“So I’m just happy I’m playing a great season. I’m so happy that I was able to reach this level of play and still being able to play also at the end of the year.
“I have no regrets because I totally over-exceeded my expectations. Just happy I’m injury-free and healthy right now, enjoying myself still.”
Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev were the only two other players to beat Federer in 2017, while Australia’s Nick Kyrgios got close in an epic Miami Masters semi-final three-setter [7-6 (9) 6-7 (9) 7-6 (5)].
If the Swiss legend sustains his supreme level in 2018, a return to world No.1 would appear inevitable anyway.
But that’s not Federer’s motivation.
“At this age, it just can’t be because I think I’ll make mistakes if I start chasing it,” he said.
“I’m not sure how much the body allows me to chase goals like this.
“Maybe if I start thinking about it too often and too much, I think I’m maybe also not playing the way I’m supposed to be playing, maybe I tense up, maybe I’m nervous, maybe that’s not good for my back. Who knows what it is.
“The year played out the way it did, and Rafa was better. He deserves to be there. I’m really happy for him because he had a rough season as well in ‘16. It’s great for him.
“Then in Australia, I just hope to be fit again, to walk out on Rod Laver Arena and hopefully defend my title.
“But (it’s) still very far away at this point.”