• Chris Wilkinson

Federer can return to world No. 1

Chris Wilkinson March 20, 2012

Roger Federer is just incredible. We already know he is one of the all-time great players, but he is considered to be in the autumn of his career yet he continues to defy his age and keeps breaking records.

Looking back over his results, he has only lost two matches since the US Open and has won six titles in that time. His win on Sunday made him the first man to win the same Masters title four times. He has won 39 of his last 41 matches - that's nearly Novak Djokovic-esque! If he can continue playing the way he is at the moment, he will return to No. 1, no doubt.

Djokovic is going to drop points this year and Rafael Nadal is not looking as strong as he has done in recent years - I didn't think I'd say this again, but Federer has a really good shot at getting back to the top.

He is back to his best, as good as the virtually unbeatable form he showed back in 2005. He is winning big matches and big tournaments. I think this in part is due to a change in his approach. Once upon a time he would have focused all his efforts on the grand slams, but he is starting to value Masters events again. He may not be able to turn it on as easily anymore, so he needs a run of matches to build up his confidence - he would never have played back-to-back tournaments in Rotterdam and Dubai in the past.

We haven't really seen any major changes to his game, but perhaps he is thriving from no longer being the favourite. The key thing for him will be to keep this momentum going. He will struggle to win the French Open - Nadal and Djokovic will be the favourites for that, but Federer will have his sights firmly set on a seventh Wimbledon title.

Federer may not be able to turn it on as easily anymore, so he needs a run of matches to build up his confidence

It will be interesting to see how many clay court event he plays - I suspect he might skip a few and save something extra for the grass season. And then of course there is the added incentive of London 2012. Federer has never won Olympic singles gold and realistically London will be his last chance to add one of the only honours missing from his incredible CV.

Federer has admitted he didn't expect to win in Indian Wells after revealing he had been suffering from flu earlier in the week. He had some good wins over Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal, but he probably would have been expecting to meet Djokovic in the final.

John Isner was a surprise finalist at Indian Wells, but he has proved he has the game to beat the big guns. His game has come on no end and he has been rewarded by breaking into the top ten for the first time. His massive serve means he will always be a threat to even the top players - as he has proved with wins over both Federer and Djokovic this season.

Rafael Nadal will be pleased with his performance at Indian Wells © PA Photos
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His movement and ground strokes have improved, and he is obviously growing in confidence but I think he will struggle to maintain that level for an extended period of time. To break into the top five you have to perform week in week out, and I just don't think Isner has that consistency to overtake the likes of David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

It was Nadal's first tournament since the Australian Open and he will be pretty pleased to reach the semi-finals. He obviously wants to do as well as he can in Miami, but he will already have one eye on the clay - that is his bread and butter.

As for Djokovic, it was always inevitable that he would drop points; it is just a question of how many. Sometimes as a player you just have to put your hands up and admit that you were well beaten - and that was certainly the case against Isner. If someone is serving as well as he did and hitting the lines they are hard to beat - a bit like Richard Krajicek in his prime.

I think the aurora of invincibility that Djokovic built up last year has faded slightly, but he is still the best player in the world - he may have only won one title this year but that was the Australian Open. The problem for him is he set the bar so high last year, he is always going to struggle to live up to that.

Andy Murray will obviously be disappointed to lose in the opening stages for a second consecutive year, but there is no need to press the panic button. His defeat to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez was obviously not a good result, but I don't think he will be too concerned. He didn't serve that well and didn't take his chances, but it was not like his defeat to Donald Young last year where he completely lost it - he got stroppy and his attitude was poor. The important thing is he shakes it off quickly and bounces back in Miami.

It was great to see Victoria Azarenka winning the women's title in Indian Wells. Women's tennis has been waiting for someone like her to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Over the past few years we have had so many grand slam winners and Caroline Wozniacki has been the world No. 1 but has never won a major, so it is great that we now have a player that thoroughly deserves the No. 1 ranking and is thriving with it.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.