What's at Stake for Roger Federer in Rotterdam? Only the No. 1 ranking

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Roger Federer can reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal in Rotterdam. (AP)

By the time this season’s over, you might have trouble remembering what happened back in February. It’s the only month, other than December, that doesn’t include a Grand Slam, an ATP Masters 1000 or a WTA Premier Mandatory tournament. What February does include is a lot of tennis. With no top-level-tournaments scooping everyone up and putting them in one place, each week brings multiple events to our TV screens.

That’s true again this week, which will feature three ATP events and one on the WTA side. But two of them may end up being memorable, after all: The women’s draw in Doha is loaded, and the men’s draw in Rotterdam received a notable 11th-hour entry last week—Roger Federer.


ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament (ATP)

Rotterdam, Netherlands
$2,282,572; 500 ranking points
Indoor hard court
Draw is here

Two weeks after winning the Australian Open, Federer has taken a wild card into a 500-level event. Is he departing from the gotta-get-my-rest philosophy that worked so well for him in 2017? Or is this a special one-time exception, motivated by the opportunity he has to take over the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal?

If Federer can win three matches and reach the semifinals, he’ll be No. 1 for the first time since 2012, and he’ll pass Andre Agassi as the oldest No. 1 in ATP history, at 36. Achieving that lofty status will require Federer to beat Ruben Bemelmans in the first round, either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Karen Khachanov in the second round and, if the draw goes according to plan, Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Wawrinka or Khachanov have the games to get in Federer’s way, and last year Federer did go out early at his only tournament in February, to Evgeny Donskoy in Dubai. But he should have more motivation this time around.

Also here: Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, David Goffin, Tomas Berdych

First-round match to watch: Lucas Pouille vs. Andrey Rublev

Roger Federer makes his return in Rotterdam—coverage begins Monday on Tennis Channel and Tennis Channel Plus


Qatar Total Open (WTA)

Doha, Qatar
$2,666,000; Premier 5
Hard court
Draw is here

I mentioned that February lacks memorable events; but it does have at least one very lucrative one on the WTA side. Doha is offering $2.67 million in prize money in 2018 (up from $776,000 last year) for its 56-player draw (up from 28 last year). And it has the talent to show for it. From Caroline Wozniacki at No. 1 to Petra Kvitova at No. 16, virtually all of the tour’s elite, except for Venus and Serena Williams, who just played Fed Cup, have made the trip.

Looking back at the last few seasons, it’s anybody’s guess who might end up with the $458,000 winner’s check. In 2015 and 2016, Lucie Safarova and Carla Suarez Navarro surprised the field; but in 2017 Karolina Pliskova made good on her No. 2 seed and won the title.

What we do know is that, starting in the third round, there are a lot of potentially interesting match-ups, including Wozniacki vs. Maria Sharapova, Pliskova vs. Madison Keys, Kvitova vs. Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber vs. Johanna Konta, and Caroline Garcia vs. Kiki Mladenovic.

Tennis Channel previews a loaded tournament in Doha:


New York Open (ATP)

New York, United States
$668,460; 250 ranking points
Indoor hard court
Draw is here

In a development that’s both hopeful and bittersweet, the long-running Memphis Open has been replaced by the New York Open this year. While the courts at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island will be black instead of Memphis blue, the field is largely unchanged—i.e., this is a highly U.S.-centric tournament. Ten of the 28 players in the draw are from the States, including the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, Sam Querrey and John Isner, and defending champion Ryan Harrison.

But it’s a non-American who may be of most interest to fans worldwide: Kei Nishikori will return to the main tour for the first time since shutting his 2017 season in August, due to a wrist injury. Nishikori was a four-time champion in Memphis, and he’s coming off a Challenger title in Dallas last week. He’ll face native New Yorker Noah Rubin in his opener.

First-round match to watch: Francis Tiafoe vs. Petr Korda’s son, Sebastian

Tennis Channel presents: Unstrung, on the New York Open


Argentina Open (ATP)

Buenos Aires
$648,180; 250 ranking points
Red clay
Draw is here

The Golden Swing moves from Quito to Buenos Aires this week, and picks up a top player along the way. Can you guess who it is? That’s right, it’s iron man Dominic Thiem. The Austrian has good memories in Argentina. Two years ago there, he upset Rafael Nadal on his way to the title.

Also here: Two recent surprise Grand Slam semifinalists, Pablo Carreño Busta and Kyle Edmund

First-round match to watch: Pablo Cuevas vs. Gael Monfils

This Week on Tennis Channel Plus 2/12

ATP Buenos Aires (Feb. 14-18)

-Watch Tennis Channel Plus live coverage of Dominic Thiem and Argentina Open beginning Monday February 12 at 12 p.m. ET.

-Can’t make it to Buenos Aires? Watch every match from the Argentina Open on-demand with Tennis Channel Plus.

ATP Rotterdam (Feb. 13-14)

-Don’t miss extended ATP Rotterdam Court 1 coverage live on Tennis Channel Plus Tuesday February 13 at 6 a.m. ET.

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