Roger Federer admits that fellow renaissance man Rafael Nadal is in a strong position to finish 2017 as world number one. The Mallorcan recently marked his second Grand Slam final appearance by crushing Stan Wawrinka and winning a record 10th French Open singles title.
Such an impressive victory on the red dust of Roland Garros saw former world number four Nadal leapfrog his opponent and the free-falling Novak Djokovic into second place in the ATP rankings. He now boasts a 2,870-point lead over nearest challenger Federer in the Race to London standings and could supplant Andy Murray for top spot overall with an unlikely first triumph at Wimbledon since 2010.
Either the player occupying first or second place in the Race to London immediately after the French Open has finished the year as world number one in 12 consecutive years dating back to 2004.
Federer, 35, who will return to action on grass at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart on Wednesday (14 June) after missing the entire clay-court season to help prolong his career, clearly believes Nadal is the favourite providing he can steer clear of the injuries that have dogged him in recent times.
"It's been a good start to the season and obviously Rafa is in a great position right now to finish world number one," he told ATPWorldTour.com. "He knows that for him it's got to be all about staying injury free. For me it's about getting back to winning ways where I left off in Miami and then I'm sure that a lot of the guys are going to start playing their best now in the second half of the season.
"Like Murray, Djokovic, [Kei] Nishikori, [Milos] Raonic, [Alexander] Zverev, [Nick] Kyrgios, Stan [Wawrinka]. You name it, I think we're all going to be playing our best tennis starting now. I think it's going to be a really epic finish to the end of the season. It's quite exciting actually for the ATP Tour."
Both Nadal and Federer have enjoyed unexpected revivals in 2017, taking advantage of the intermittent poor form of both Murray and Djokovic to return to prominence after respective injury woes.
The Swiss admits he was surprised to beat his old rival and win the Australian Open for the fifth time in January, a momentous victory that ended his five-year wait for an 18th Grand Slam title.
He appeared even more taken aback to follow that up by completing the sunshine double in Indian Wells and Miami, tournaments that included two more wins over Nadal. However, he was understandably less shocked by the Spaniard's "absolutely gigantic" achievement in Paris.