While Roger Federer takes aim at a 101st career title at the Miami Masters, his over-30 top rivals all seem to be mired again in crisis.
The Swiss will move back to fourth in the world on Monday, no matter the outcome of his Masters 1000 final with John Isner at the weekend.
Meanwhile, No. 1 Novak Djokovic has lost disappointingly early over the past month while admitting to undefined “pressure,” No. 2 Rafael Nadal is off court rehabbing another right knee injury and Andy Murray appears to be out for the count after two hip surgeries in barely a year.
All seems on point, though, inside the charmed Federer tennis bubble.
“I wish them the best, but it’s part of the game,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. ” We have so many highlights.
“But there is no substitute for us. If we are not feeling well, we can’t play”
“The good thing about the ATP Tour is you can always come back, because the tour goes from January to November, and you have 15-plus years on the tour.
“Regardless of their injuries, they will come back, and I hope when they do come back they will be very strong like the last few times.”
Federer, who has barely been injured over a career spanning nearly two decades (save a minor knee operation and some back pain issues) had special words for the luckless Murray, who briefly touched the top ranking in late 2016.
“With Andy and the uncertainty about his hip, I just really wish him the very best. “Rafa is already practising on the clay.
So that was just disappointing that the (semi-final) match didn’t happen in Indian Wells.”
Federer added: “It’s definitely a better Tour with them, but there is also exciting stories when they’re not around fortunately for the Tour, unfortunately for them.”
Federer said he expects all to right itself over time, adding “it hopefully will be incredibly exciting.”
The Swiss said that at this stage of his career, he is not concentrating on a return to the No. 1 ranking, which he has held for longer than any man.
His major goal now: “Winning tournaments, because World No. 1 is going to be very difficult.
“For that I need almost three slams at this level, right now, in the same calendar year. That’s just going to be very difficult. I think it’s not reasonable to think that way at 37.
“One of my favorite moments in my life last year in Rotterdam when I was able to get back to World No. 1 at 36, having won the Australian and Wimbledon in the same year, and winning.
“No. 1 is so far away, and Novak just won three slams.I think it would be a bit of a joke if I said that was my goal.”
On the other side of the net in Sundays final will be John Isner who moved into position to repeat thee fifth title of his career as the holder ended the run of Canadian qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime’s 7-6(3), 7-6(4) in the semi-finals of the Miami Masters.
Isner holds multiple trophies at Atlanta, Auckland, Winston-Salem and Newport, with 12 of his 15 honours coming in the US and the other two in English-speaking New Zealand.
Auger-Aliassime, 18, has played himself into the Top 30 as he reached a Masters semi-final for the first time.
“I think I did the best that I could. I probably did the best of all the players that played him this week. I just couldn’t serve from my part,” the teenager said.
“It’s a chance you can’t miss, serving two times for the set, and just – I don’t know. It’s just terrible.”
Isner’s win was his 10th in a row at the event he won a year ago.
“For sure (it was) nerves. It’s like I caught a virus or something. I don’t know. I couldn’t put a second serve anymore,” Auger-Aliassime said. “That’s just very tough to swallow.”
Auger-Aliassime was the first qualifier to reach the Miami semi-finals since Guillermo Canas in 2007.
Isner piled on 21 more aces to add to his tournament total of 98, claiming victory in just under two hours.