Monday July 16th, 2012

Roger Federer eclipsed Pete Sampras as the most weeks at No. 1, now 287 and counting. (Zumapress)

The day has finally arrived.

With the new ATP rankings that were released today, Roger Federer has passed Pete Sampras to become the outright record-holder for the number of weeks spent at No. 1 with 287 weeks and counting.

Federer first took hold of the No. 1 ranking in February 2004 and held that spot for a record 237 consecutive weeks -- smashing the previous men's record of 160 consecutive weeks held by Jimmy Connors and the all-time record of 186 weeks held by Steffi Graf  --  before a muscly kid from Mallorca ended his run in August of 2008. He regained the No. 1 ranking after his epic victory over Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009 and held it for 48 weeks, leaving him a mere one week shy of tying Sampras' record of 286 weeks (darn that rascally Rafa).

But with questions swirling about his resiliency, consistency -- and let's face it: his age -- combined with the sudden rise of Novak Djokovic, Sampras' record was looking pretty safe. But after his crushing loss to Djokovic at last year's U.S. Open, Federer embarked  on a steady climb back, finishing 2011 undefeated with a 17-0 record and continued his form when the calendar clicked over, making the semifinals of both the Australian Open and French Open, going on another 17-0 streak in the spring, before topping it all off with his seventh Wimbledon title, 17th major title, first major since 2010, and return to the No. 1 ranking. That he was able to attain this record in just three stints at No. 1 speaks to his consistency and dominance. It took Sampras 11 periods at No. 1 to set the previous record.

With all the top men out of action until the Olympics, he's assured to keep adding to the tally. But let's not assume his reign will end there. While he's only 75 points ahead of No. 2 Novak Djokovic (and a whopping 2, 170 ahead of Rafael Nadal), Federer has a good chance to widen the gap at the Olympics, where the point distribution will be as follows: gold: 750, silver: 450, bronze: 340, fourth place: 270, quarters: 135, third round, 70, second round: 35, first round: 5.

Djokovic would have to make the quarterfinals to have a chance to catch Federer, and if they both make it that far, Roger just needs to match Djokovic's result to stay ahead. Not that Roger cares about that. He's going for singles gold, one of the few accolades (along with a Davis Cup title) that has eluded him, and he's the favorite going into the tournament. Given his otherworldly display eight days ago on Centre Court, it's hard to bet against him.

Here's a video the ATP put together to commemorate Roger's 17 major titles. It's a fitting day to re-live them all. Because you don't hold on to that top ranking for 287 weeks unless you win titles. A lot of titles. The most in men's tennis history.

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