Roger Federer will be the headline name in Rotterdam as the Swiss aims to become the oldest world No 1 and leapfrog his great rival Rafael Nadal at the summit of men’s tennis.
The 36-year-old claimed his 20th Grand Slam title victory with a successful defence of his Australian Open title last month, which culminated with a gripping five-set win over Marin Cilic.
Nadal, who suffered a quarter-final defeat to Cilic in Melbourne, is not scheduled to play until the end of February in Acapulco and Federer will top the standings – for the first time since 2012 – if he progresses to the semi-finals at the 500 tournament, run by Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, live on Sky Sports.
Federer’s route to world No 1
R1: Ruben Bemelmans
R2: Philipp Kohlschreiber or Karen Khachanov
QF: Robin Haase, Thiemo de Bakker, Tallon Griekspoor or Stan Wawrinka.
Federer, who described the event as “special” after confirming his appearance last week, is a two-time winner in the Netherlands and will open his campaign against qualifier Ruben Bemelmans on Wednesday.
“The tournament is special for me,” Federer said. “I remember playing for the first time in 1999 as it was one of the first events where I got the chance to play at the highest level.
“It feels good to join in the celebrations of the 45th edition.”
Did you know…
Roger Federer will overtake Andre Agassi (33) as the oldest world No 1 if he reaches the last four in Switzerland
The prospect of an all-Swiss showdown with Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-final could prove decisive in Federer’s quest to reclaim the world No 1 ranking but the three-time Grand Slam champion has struggled for form and confidence since his return from a knee injury and suffered a semi-final defeat to the unheralded Mirza Basic at the Sofia Open on Saturday.
Should Federer secure a semi-final berth then a last four meeting with third seed Alexander Zverev is expected before a potential tournament finale with ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov.
The Bulgarian world No 4 – in the bottom half of the draw which also includes David Goffin and Lucas Pouille – will open his charge in Rotterdam against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita before a second-round meeting against either last year’s Paris Masters finalist Filip Krajinovic or Canadian wildcard Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“I always want to do more,” said Dimitrov of his new goals for 2018. “I always expect more from myself, but that can also be dangerous.
“Regardless of how high your position in the ATP rankings, you never lose your respect for the game. You must remember the process, what works and not take anything for granted.
“I’ve learned that over the years, you’re going to have ups and downs, but it’s important to maintain a certain level. You can see the younger players, younger than me, are hungry!
“The dot on your back becomes a little bigger, but that’s what I play tennis for: to compete, for the love of the game, to prove I can do better and sustain it on a daily basis. It really means something to me.”
One to Watch
From the opening round encounters, the contest between Open Sud de France champion Pouille and Andrey Rublev should entertain the Dutch crowds.
The pair have never previously met in tournament play but are both talented players, who have aspirations of success on the Grand Slam stage.
Pouille is a five-time winner on tour while Rublev enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2017 to finish the season inside the world’s top 40 at the age of 20, including finishing runner-up at the inaugural NextGen ATP Finals in Milan.
Surprise in Store
While Wawrinka is the most likely player to halt Federer’s bid to claim the top ranking this week, the 32-year-old is still recovering from his six-month lay-off last season and has only won three matches all year so will need to rediscover his best form if he wants to enjoy a deep run this time around.
The fifth seed should prove too strong and experienced for wildcard Tallon Griekspoor, playing on home soil, but could fall to the dangerous Robin Haase in the second round.
Another player who will be wary of a potential early departure is David Goffin, after the world No 7 was drawn against the talented Benoit Paire.
The 28-year-old Frenchman holds a 3-2 winning record against the diminutive Belgian, who ended 2017 in strong fashion with a runner-up finish at The O2 and an appearance in the Davis Cup final, where he was unable to prevent a France victory.
Live ATP Tennis
February 12, 2018, 11:30am
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