Roger Federer Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Roger Federer is eagerly looking forward to making his bid for a remarkable eighth title when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships kick off next month.

He lifted the trophy for the first time as far back as 2003, going on to win it again in three of the next four years. He then went on another winning streak, claiming the silverware three times in four years between 2012 and 2015.

“We could not have imagined when he won his first title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships that he would still be competing here 17 years later,” said Colm McLoughlin, executive vice-chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Not only is he still playing but he is as competitive as ever, and it will be fascinating to see if he can win here yet again.”

Now 37, Federer continued to amaze last season as he hit more career milestones during yet another stunning year. The 2018 season began with him claiming the Australian Open title, which was followed by three more crowns to leave him just one short of the magic 100 career singles titles. But it is his return to the No. 1 ranking, something that he achieved no less than three times during 2018, which gave him the most satisfaction.

“I must tell you I’m very proud that at 37 I’m still so competitive and so happy playing tennis,” Federer said. “It’s been a historic season in some ways. Got back to world No. 1. For me, that was a huge moment in my life, to be honest, in my career, because I never thought I would get there again.

“I think reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the, ultimate achievement in our sport. So sometimes at the beginning you just all of a sudden get there just because you’re playing so well. Later you sometimes try to fight and wrestle it back from somebody else who deserved to be there. And when you’re older, you know you feel like you have to put maybe sometimes double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me (of any achievement) throughout my career. It is an absolute dream come true.”

It used to be that anyone approaching 30 was considered getting close to retirement, but improvements in training methods along with injury treatment and prevention has led to several players continuing to play far longer than their predecessors. And, although he is cautious about his future, Federer has not yet put a date on when he will eventually put away his racquets. He has relished playing through the generations and facing the challenge that the new faces represent.

“Of course it was very exciting playing my generation of players like Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and (Juan Carlos) Ferrero and all these guys,” Federer said. “So for me, you go through transitions. And this one is a very enjoyable one because I still have some of my age guys on the tour, which is great to see.

“But then also the Rafa and Novak generation, Andy Murray and Delpo and then the new ones coming through such as Dimitrov, Nishikori and Raonic and then now the super young guys like Borna, Zverev and so forth. So I think it’s nice to go through all of these different players and I think it’s helped me stay motivated for what’s to come. Also playing the next generation of players that’s coming up, it’s just a different feel. You have to switch your mind around a little bit and appreciate that the young generation is knocking on the door and they are really excited to play against you.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins with the WTA event which takes place between February 17-23, and is followed by the ATP event between February 25 and March 2.