The latest instalment of Roger Federer’s “fairytale” return to the top of the men’s game – victory in the BNP Paribas Open – has left him reassessing his goals.
The 35-year-old’s career was in question last year after a knee injury saw him miss the second half of the season, but he produced a stunning comeback win in January when he claimed an 18th grand slam title with victory at the Australian Open.
And arguably the game’s greatest player followed that up in Indian Wells, beating countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4 7-5 in Sunday’s final.
It sees him move up to six in the world, putting him well ahead of schedule having targeted a return to the top eight by Wimbledon in July.
“I am the champion here and it is a beautiful feeling,” Federer told Sky Sports. “It is maybe not as surprising as Australia but still unbelievably surprising for me that I was able to back it up here in America.
“I played well all week and I couldn’t be more happy. I have totally exceeded my expectations, my goal was to be top eight by Wimbledon. I have time now and I can go and sit back! From that stand point it is an unbelievable start to the year.
“It could have been so different, if I had lost in the first round in Australia I would have been 35th in the world so it is a dream start.”
With Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic out of this week’s Miami Open due to elbow injuries, a strong performance could see Federer close the gap on them further, with both the top two defending a huge amount of ranking points in the next few months.
The Swiss has not topped the rankings since 2012, but a return to the summit is not infeasible given his form and Murray and Djokovic’s struggles this year.
However, he is reluctant to set such a target and wants to enjoy his fifth win at Indian Wells and 25th Masters 1000 title.
“I understand the talk of world number one, especially with Novak and Andy not playing in Miami,” he added. “So I will try and back it up there with a good tournament.
“Then we will reassess my goals but I am not chasing rankings, I want to win tournaments. I am happy I have won this one so I want to enjoy it.”
The victory was thoroughly deserved as he played electric tennis throughout the tournament and carried that on against Wawrinka, who was in tears at the end of the match.
Wawrinka, a three-time grand slam champion but winner of only one Masters 1000 title, did become the first man of the week to break Federer’s serve, stopping a run of 42 consecutive holds, but was outplayed by his compatriot.
He said in his post-match press conference: “To lose a final is never easy. He’s the best player ever, he makes you uncomfortable on court.
“I’ve beat him only a few times. I need to check in with myself to see what I need to do to play better against him.”