Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth
LONDON (AP) -- Roger Federer has reclaimed his spot at the top of the tennis world, securing the year-end No. 1 ranking for the fifth time.
The record 15-time Grand Slam champion is closing in on Pete Sampras' all-time mark of six.
"It means a lot to have returned to No. 1 and to finish the year again at No. 1," Federer said Wednesday after accepting a trophy on court at the ATP World Tour Finals. "It was an incredible year for me both on the court and off the court and to be able to break the all-time Grand Slam record and finish the year on top is amazing."
Federer earned the top year-end ranking after winning his opening two matches at the season-ending tour finals at the O2 Arena. Rafael Nadal, who ended Federer's five-year run as the end-of-season No. 1 last year, had a mathematical chance of overtaking Federer for the top spot but lost his opening match.
Federer struggled in the 2008 season, but reached all four Grand Slams finals yet again in 2009 and won two titles. The first championship came at the French Open, making the Swiss player only the sixth man to complete a career Grand Slam.
At the All England Club, he reclaimed the Wimbledon title by defeating Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set and surpassing Sampras with his 15th major title.
"After having a rough 2008, coming back this year and being able to dominate and play at the top when the depth in tennis is so, so great at the moment, I think it's a wonderful achievement," Federer said after beating Andy Murray on Tuesday. "It's a wonderful feeling."
Up next for Federer, who got married and had twin daughters this year, is trying to match Sampras with a sixth year-end No. 1 ranking. He's tied with Jimmy Connors with five apiece.
But this year's achievement was also special because Federer became only the second player to reclaim the distinction after losing it. Ivan Lendl, who was No. 1 from 1985-87, did it in 1989.
At the ATP World Tour Finals, Federer has twice rallied after losing the first set, first beating Fernando Verdasco on Sunday and Murray on Tuesday. He will face Juan Martin del Potro today to guarantee a spot in the semifinals of the season-ending tournament.
Del Potro, who is 1-1 in the round-robin tournament, beat Federer in five sets in the U.S. Open final.
"It could be a make-or-break match for us to get through," Federer said. "If that's the case, I'll give it all I have and try to beat him this time. Last time we played, it was a fantastic match in New York."