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The ‘Big Five’ reunited – Federer and Nadal back amongst world's best

  • ontennis
  • 30 March 2017
  • 11:03

This is, of course, regarding the ATP rankings – with Nadal set to return to the world’s top five alongside his friendly foe, Roger Federer.

The veteran duo – alas, they are both in their 30s – are currently enjoying a run into the latter stages in Miami, and could yet meet in the final.

But before talk switches to a potential third meeting of 2017 between the two, we can at least celebrate their return to the top five – though who occupies fourth and fifth is yet to be decided.

It has only been seven months since Nadal and Federer trailed Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka in the rankings, but there was plenty of evidence to suggest that this stellar quintet was never going to be seen at the top of the ATP tree again.

Following the publication of those standings on August 29 last year, Federer dropped to seventh a week later before ending the year down at 16.

A knee injury had forced the Swiss to miss every tournament after Wimbledon in June, meaning a 2017 rise up the rankings was no guarantee as question marks surrounded the 35-year-old’s ability to recover from a six-month absence.

It went rather well though, if you recall. Federer became an Australian Open champion once more. The 17-time Grand Slam champion made it 18 against all odds, and against his oldest adversary in the final.

And Federer confirmed that this wasn’t just a brief flirtation with vintage Roger when he took home the Indian Wells trophy earlier this month – beating Nadal and Wawrinka en route to a fifth title in California.

All of a sudden, talk of Federer regaining the world number one spot has become a reality, while injuries to Murray and Djokovic mean more ground can be made up in the weeks to come.

Of course, what we all want is a straight shoot-out between the world’s best players, and for injury to have no say in the rankings, but for now the absence of the world’s top two allows those giving chase to build up some steam.

For Nadal, Miami offers the perfect opportunity to clinch a first title since Barcelona last year, and a first hardcourt trophy since Doha in 2014.

It would be a statement of intent should Nadal win in Miami with the clay season around the corner. The French Open has evaded him since 2014, and he’ll want to regain his crown.

And while it’s a testimony to Federer and Nadal that they have recovered to feature in the top five once more, it’s an alarming reminder to the next generation that the old guard don’t give up easy.

Milos Raonic was seemingly climbing the rankings - having briefly occupied third - but the now fifth-placed Canadian will drop out alongside Kei Nishikori. And then you have the likes of Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, whose stocks continue to rise, though they are still some way off catching the seasoned pros.

In Federer and Nadal the young crop have a pair of legends to look up to, for inspiration as well as in the standings. Their longevity is a gift for one and all. Long may it continue.

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