Once a champion, always a champion. Many had written off Pete Sampras as a
serial winner, but after a 20-month drought he picked up the 30th 'Big Title'
of his career at the 2002 US Open, in what was to be the American's final bow as a professional.
In Roger Federer's case, a six-month injury layoff in 2016 that saw him drop to No. 17 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, has only increased
his appetite for the sport's greatest prizes. Off to a 13-1 start this year, with Australian Open and BNP Paribas Open silverware already in his trophy cabinet, at 35 years of age he remains
a leading power.
In winning his 25th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, Federer lifted his 49th 'Big Title'
to extend his lead over celebrated rivals Novak Djokovic (47) and Rafael
Nadal (42) in a golden age for the sport. Federer has now reached an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in 15 of the past 16 years - from
his first at the 2002 Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Agassi) to the Indian
Wells desert on Sunday. Incredibly, 49 of Federer's 90 tour-level titles have come at Grand Slam championships, ATP Finals and Masters 1000s, and only Jimmy Connors (109) and Ivan Lendl (94) have won more career crowns.
When Ivan Ljubicic came on board to coach Federer late last year, the Croatian, a former
World No. 3 who had watched hundreds of Federer's matches in the past, asked
his charge: "Why do you net so many backhands?" In identifying areas for improvement,
Federer has been given a second lease of life, an Indian Summer, built on taking
time away from his opponents by stepping inside the baseline and rolling over his
Federer has made it an attacking stroke and no longer a defensive shot that
keeps him in a point. In January, Federer won his 18th Grand Slam championship
at the Australian Open (d. Nadal) - his first major crown since July 2012 at
Wimbledon (d. Murray). Today, he sits at No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Rankings - a rise of 11 places in two months. His personal goal to be among the Top 8 prior to the start of
Wimbledon is shattered already.
The remarkable consistency of Roger Federer, winning 49 'Big Titles' in 207 events played
at this level (4.22 average), can be compared to second-placed Djokovic, the
all-time ATP World Tour Masters 1000 leader (30), who has by the far the best
conversion rate of any player, past or present, winning one 'Big Title' for every
3.3 events played. Nadal, who lost to Federer in the Indian Wells fourth round,
is third overall with 42 'Big Titles' from 153 events (average 3.6).
Today, Federer will travel to the East Coast in search of his third Indian Wells-Miami title double, aiming to add to his 2005 and 2006 crowns in Key Biscayne.
Current and Former Champions' Big Titles Won (Records Since 1990)
* Becker's four other Grand Slam titles came before 1990.