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Federer weighs up bid to reclaim No.1 spot

By Paul Newman

Twelve months ago, Roger Federer said after winning the Australian Open that his team would "party like rock stars". The 36-year-old Swiss was looking slightly worse for wear yesterday morning after successfully defending his title the previous evening, but put his appearance down simply to weariness.

"Honestly, I'm just tired," Federer said, having celebrated only briefly following his victory over Marin Cilic. After winning his 20th Grand Slam title, Federer did not leave Melbourne Park until 3am because of his post-match commitments, before joining friends and family in a bar.

"I only had a few hours' sleep," he said. "It was a nice relaxing evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, being together, away from the spotlight for a change, just with friends and family.

"I think we were all a little bit tired, but the celebration continues once I get back to Switzerland. I've got more friends and family there. I'm excited that I've got nothing going on in the next couple of weeks. It's all quiet so I can just really take time to celebrate No.20. It's super special."

Nevertheless, it might not be long before Federer is back. Victory, combined with Rafael Nadal's quarter-final exit, has left the World No.2 just 155 points behind his great rival and he admitted he is considering entering next month's Dubai Open.

Given he is likely to skip the clay-court season once again in order to focus on his Wimbledon preparations, his best chance of reclaiming the No.1 position could come next month.

The Swiss has maximum points to defend in Indian Wells and Miami in March, which means that Dubai might be his only opportunity to increase his rankings points tally before the start of the grass-court season.

Nadal is due to play in next month's Acapulco tournament the same week as Dubai. The World No.1 will be defending 300 points as runner-up, while Federer would have only 45 points to defend in Dubai. Nadal would have to out-perform Federer that week to retain his position.

Nadal is recovering from the hip injury which forced him to retire during his quarter-final last week. If he does not reappear until Indian Wells, Federer will automatically overtake him.

Federer, who last topped the world rankings six years ago, has not entered Dubai yet, but would be almost certain to receive a wild card if he requested one.

The Swiss has a warm-weather base in Dubai and admitted he had been in talks with the tournament about playing there.

"I also have to decide about the clay-court season, so all these things are inter-linked," Federer said. "It's possible I'll play (in Dubai) but it's also possible that I don't play anything. It depends on how the next week or so goes. Then I'll make a decision."

Federer failed to say during his emotional on-court victory speech that he looked forward to returning next year, which prompted some speculation that this might be his final season.

"I couldn't really remember what I was saying," Federer said yesterday. "All I wanted to say was a big thank you. There are a lot of people to thank in a moment like this. But of course I hope to come back next year."

Federer had said before the tournament that there was no way a 36-year-old should be considered the favourite to win the title. He admitted yesterday that before it began he had been unsure about whether he would be able to win the title again.

"Like last year, I just felt that something was going to come in my way, that one guy would catch fire and I would not be able to stop him," Federer said.

"Next year I might actually believe I can win it - but then I probably won't win it, so it's better to stay really relaxed. I think it's served me well, that I stay more relaxed throughout."

Having won his 20th Grand Slam singles title, Federer is four ahead of Nadal, his closest male rival, but four adrift of Margaret Court's all-time record.

Did he think it might be possible to match Court's tally?

"I don't think so," Federer said. "I didn't think 20 was ever possible. It's not something I'm looking at. Those numbers are surreal. They're amazing. I'd be very happy if it stays at 20.

"It's very special. Maybe this one is going to take longer to sink in but this is how it feels."

Belfast Telegraph

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