Roger Federer
The 37-year-old Swiss Roger Federer has 99 triumphs to his name. Image Credit: AP

London: It could be a quizmaster’s delight to find out which is the earliest known century in cricket. According to the record books, the most definite claim stands in the name of John Minshull, who scored 107 for Duke of Dorset’s XI against Wrotham at Sevenoaks Vine way back on August 31, 1769. The fact may be open to debate due to other subsequent claims.

A cricketer would perhaps be the best choice to convey actual sentiments of reaching the magical three-figure mark in his sport. Or rather, could it be a certain Roger Federer as he zeroes in on his century of tournament wins when he starts his campaign at the year-ending Nitto ATP Finals against Japan’s Kei Nishikori at The O2 Arena on Sunday.

The 37-year-old Swiss has 99 triumphs to his name, including an all-time record of 20 Grand Slams. With this final competition of the season, the man who has been showing indifferent form against lower-ranked players during recent months, is keen to prove that he has to mend certain things while securing his ATP title no. 100.

I think this week, it will be about winning another World Tour Finals rather than targeting my 100th title.

- Roger Federer, Tennis player

The Swiss master was his usual matter-of-fact self during the pre-tournament ritual with media at The O2. “To start off, I don’t think it matters much about really where I win my 100th title as long as it happens at one point. Once that happens, I would be personally excited,” Federer admitted.

“I think this week, it will be about winning another World Tour Finals rather than targeting my 100th title. I love playing this event, I always have and I remember the first time when I qualified for this event way back in 2002 and that was a nice surprise to be among the best eight players,” he recalled.

With a current world ranking of No. 3, Federer was pleased with the run he’s had during a curtailed 2018 season when he could boast of his 20th career Grand Slam in Melbourne in January.

“I would say I’ve had a good season so far. If I were to have known last year that this is going to be the season, I would have taken it. And if I would have known that this would be the season after my return from injury, then too I would have taken it. And if I would have known that this is the season four or five years ago, then also I would have taken it. I am very happy with the way this season has gone. May be, Wimbledon and the US Open didn’t exactly go the way I was hoping to, and those will remain as the two disappointments this year,” Federer reflected.

“But that said, I won a bunch of other tournaments after that great start at the Australian Open, followed by the Laver Cup and the Hopman Cup and more recently my home tournament in Basel [where he won a record ninth time]. It has been a really solid season. I am hoping for one more lap next year but before that, I hope I don’t have to go on vacation soon after three straight losses here,” he joked.

Since his debut in 2002 at the annual year-ender, Federer has won this tournament six times — his last triumph coming seven years ago in 2011. “I think it gets more difficult to sustain the form. Dominating the field is not something that comes very easy. I think at this point it is only Novak [Djokovic] who is in a position to dominate,” he admitted.

“But I think I have played well and I feel like I’ve done enough during the course of time without winning world tour finals anymore. There is no Rafa and no Juan Martin [del Potro]. But we have to move on with what we have. First up is Kei [Nishikori] and I’ve got to be ready for him on Sunday,” Federer added.

Talking about Federer’s brush with three figures, the tennis ace exhibited his cricket skills at this year’s Wimbledon.

In the third set, Federer overhit a backhand and when his opponent courteously returned the ball, the eight-time Wimbledon champion elected to display his cricket skills, with a punched forward defence, sending social media into a frenzy.

Tendulkar was the first to react. “As always, great hand-eye coordination. @rogerfederer, let’s exchange notes on cricket and tennis after you win your 9th @Wimbledon title,” said the Indian who has 100 international centuries to his name.

“Why wait? I’m ready to take notes!” Federer responded.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) too got involved with a tweet: “When greatness recognises greatness.”