Roger Federer smashed his way into tennis history books on Friday, beating Dutch Robin Haase to reach the semi-finals of the Rotterdam Open.
More significant, he earned the needed points to topple Rafael Nadal as the tennis world number one, becoming the oldest man, at 36, to reach tennis zenith.
Haase almost stopped Federer from attaining the historic goal, taking the first set 6-4, but the Swiss ace, rallied back ruthlessly to take the next two sets, 6-1, 6-1.
Federer on Monday will officially become number one when the ATP-Emirate ranking is announced.
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) February 16, 2018
The last time Federer reached the pinnacle of tennisdom was in 2012. He was number one from 2004.
Andre Agassi used to be oldest number one at 33 in 2003. He was the first to congratulate Federer on Friday.
“Roger Federer continues to raise the bar in our sport. Congratulations on yet another remarkable achievement!!” Agassi said on Twitter
Ascending to the top spot at the age of 36 is yet another record to Federer’s vast collection
Fresh from winning his 20th grand slam title in Melbourne this month, Federer took a wildcard into the ABN AMRO World Tennis event with his eyes fixed on a return to number one for the first time since November 2012.
Needing to reach the last four to overtake great rival Rafael Nadal, Federer showed some early nerves in his quarter-final clash in the port city’s Ahoy Arena, dropping serve in the ninth game on his way to conceding the first set.
But as he usually does, he moved through the gears to punish a physically struggling Haase.
A demoralized Haase double-faulted on match point and after an initially restrained celebration Federer sat on his chair and looked close to tears as his feat sank in — as did some of the Swiss fans leading the rapturous applause.
“Reaching number one is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport,” Federer said on court after being handed a huge No.1 shaped plaque by Dutch former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, the tournament director.
“Sometimes at the beginning you just kind of get there because you played so well, but later you have to fight for it and have to wrest it back from someone who deserves to be there. When you are older you maybe have to put double the work in. This maybe means the most to me in my career.”
Federer, whose glittering career has re-ignited since taking six months off in 2016, has won three of the last five grand slams having gone five years without one.
Federer also set another record with the more than five-year gap between his previous and most recent stints as world number one being the longest since ATP rankings began in 1973.
Incredibly Federer first reached number one in 2004, as a 22-year-old, and having now returned there 14 years later playing some of the best tennis of his career, he looks capable of another lengthy stretch on the throne.
He already holds the record of 302 weeks ranked number one.