Numbers could never capture the beauty of Roger Federer whose exhibition of surreal shots often brings a lump to the throat.
And yet, it’s the numbers that have defined his career.
The only man to have won 20 Grand Slams and the oldest man to achieve the world number one ranking, Federer now stands on the cusp of winning his 100th career title.
His fans are waiting with bated breath as Federer begins his campaign at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday against a player – Philipp Kohlschreiber – who has never beaten him in 13 previous meetings.
“We’ve been talking about 99 titles ever since Basel, every tournament I’ve played. There’s nothing new,” said Federer, the seven-time Dubai champion.
“Of course, coming to Dubai where I’ve enjoyed a lot of success sort of makes you believe maybe it could happen here.
“Then again, draw is tough. Haven’t played in a few weeks so you reset everything, get ready for your first round, hope everything is going to click again here in Dubai.”
The Australian Open fourth-round defeat to the Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas has failed to rattle the 37-year-old Swiss.
“I still felt like I played okay. It wasn’t like a horrible tournament for me,” he said.
“I played great at the Hopman Cup. I played good actually all matches. I just messed up on some big, big points. I’m not going to change my game because I missed out on some opportunities.”
The most admired athlete in the world says he can live with the fact that either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal could go on to break his record of 20 Grand Slams.
“This question’s been there since a long time. This is not new. Maybe there’s more talk about it now,” he said.
“My records will be broken anyway. You guys and other people will remind the players to try to go shatter every record anyway.
“They (Nadal and Djokovic) have been doing amazing things for many years now. That’s why they’re in the position. I wish them the best to achieve all they want to do. I’m still playing, so I hope I still also have something left in the tank.”
And Djokovic’s stunning return to Grand Slam-winning form following a two-year major drought hasn’t surprised Federer.
“You expect greatness from somebody like Novak if he’s feeling 100 per cent again,” Federer said.
“Obviously this time last year he wasn’t 100 per cent. I think it was only a matter of time till he could find his best form again.
“Then the question is, ‘is it good enough to win big tournaments?’ Apparently it was. I think Wimbledon was a big win, especially that semis against Rafa really gave him the belief again he’s back. He hasn’t looked back since. He’s been supreme really at the Grand Slam level.”
Federer then revealed the secret to his success in Dubai.
“Look, it gives me confidence that I know I can play well here in Dubai on this court in these conditions,” he said.
“But I must say the conditions play much, much slower than the previous years here. It’s been actually quite a big change.
“But I’m excited to be here. I do believe this surface also lends itself very well for me to play well here. Hope I can show it tomorrow.”