Roger Federer 9
Roger Federer. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

London: The congratulations landing in Roger Federer’s inbox since last Saturday included a Twitter message from Jimmy Connors — the great from the Seventies and Eighties who is the only other player to have lifted 100 or more Tour-level titles.

“Welcome to the ‘Triple Digit’ tournament victory club @rogerfederer,” said Connors, now 66. “I’ve been a bit lonely — glad to have the company!”

Federer achieved his landmark in Saturday’s final of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, where he beat the rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4.

Admittedly, Connors’ 100th title had come in the rather more exalted surroundings of Louis Armstrong Stadium in New York, where he beat Ivan Lendl in four sets to claim the 1983 US Open. But the Dubai final was still a joy to watch. While never threatening to spoil the party, Tsitsipas still contributed some of his own handsome stroke play to Federer’s magnificent win.

That was No. 100 in a sequence that began when Federer beat Julien Boutter in the 2001 Milan -Indoor. The Daily Telegraph spoke to three men who were on the losing side at crucial moments in the Federer story: Boutter himself, as well as Mark Philippoussis and Tommy Haas.

In 2003, Philippoussis was the runner-up for Federer’s first Wimbledon title — which was also his maiden grand slam. Six years later, Federer completed the career grand slam by lifting the French Open for the only time in his career. In the fourth round, he trailed Haas by two sets, but managed to lift himself at the crucial moment.

This sort of competitive nous has been a significant part of the Federer story for the past two decades, even if it tends to get forgotten alongside all the dreamy shot-making. So could he go on and overhaul American Connors’ world-leading tally of 109 titles?

Federer himself was reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of oing so on Saturday night. “If I reach milestones along the way it’s wonderful, but I’m really not here to shatter all the records,” he said.

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019