At the Net: Federer envisions return to the top

Despite the recent domination by Novak Djokovic on the ATP World Tour, Roger Federer still believes he can make a return trip to No. 1.

The former top-ranked Federer rests at No. 3 in the world despite having not won a major tournament in two years. His last Grand Slam title came in Australia in 2010 and since then he's managed to reach only one final in the last eight majors. That resulted in a loss to his long-time rival Rafael Nadal at last year's French Open.

Federer thinks he can get back on top. But I'm not so sure.

Sure, he closed out his 2011 campaign in fine fashion, including a big title at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, and he's fresh off a championship (the 71st of his brilliant career) in Rotterdam just two weeks ago, but with the way Djokovic has been playing, the fact that Nadal is still ahead of him in the rankings, and the feeling that Murray still seems to have his best tennis in front of him, I think the return to No. 1 is unlikely.

In all fairness to Fed, he is still probably (arguably) the best player to ever wield a tennis racket. He's won a men's record 16 Slams, including a career Grand Slam, and was a near-record 285 weeks at No. 1 (surpassed only by Pete Sampras), including a record 237 weeks in succession. He's also the only male player to have reached the championship match at each Grand Slam event at least five times.

That's pretty darn good.

Federer's reign actually ended in June 2010, which left him only one week shy of Sampras' record stay of 286 weeks.

"It would be great having that record, but my life is very much OK without it, too," Federer said. "Pete is a good friend and was an amazing champion for our game. I don't need to break every record he has. I came so close and I could have chased it if I had wanted to. I didn't choose to.

"I'm a believer that if I do things the right way it will come back. I just have to keep working hard and, hopefully, I'll get back to it and break the record," the Swiss icon added.

This week, Federer is part of the sexy field in Dubai, which also features Djokovic, Murray and former U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro, who stunned Federer in the 2009 U.S. Open final and was last week's titlist in Marseille.

In all, there are no less than seven top-10 performers in Dubai.

That would qualify as a tough draw.

FYI: Federer is a four-time champion in Dubai, where he does a lot of his training.

"I feel like if I play really well from here till the U.S. Open, obviously there's a shot," the 30-year-old Federer said in reference to reaching No. 1 again.

"But the focus right now is to try and play well day-by-day, make sure I get through a tough stretch here between Dubai and Miami. World No. 1 will probably be decided for the majority of players between the French Open and U.S. Open period, where there are so many highlights."

And speaking of highlights, Federer is also the all-time leader in prize money (for tennis) with over $68 million earned.

That's good work if you can get it.