The first question Roger Federer was asked when he arrived in the press room last week at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was almost inevitably about his quest for his 100th title.
His pursuit of 100 trophies has been one of the biggest storylines for the past year, with the attention placed on it ramping up exponentially since he won his 99th title in Basel last October. That pressure was finally lifted on Saturday, when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas to claim the championship for the eighth time, fittingly extending his own record for the number of victories in Dubai.
Now, the topic will likely switch to whether he can catch Jimmy Connors' all-time mark of 109 titles.
Federer, the No. 2 seed in Dubai this week, has tried to downplay it as much as he could. After all, the Swiss has rarely liked to talk about winning a title before the first ball has been struck, and even less so once this particular milestone was on the line.
"I think that's got to be the mindset, that you try your best every match, every week, anyway," Federer said in Dubai this week. "Things fall into place or they don't. It's not because of lack of effort. We've been talking about 99 titles ever since Basel, every tournament I've played. There's nothing new."
It seems Federer has been chasing one record or another at every other tournament he's played for the best part of a decade now. Here's a look at what he has said in the past about his milestones and achievements.
"Yeah, I mean, that's fantastic. When I heard that today, that was for me something very special because, yeah, tying your idols—isn't that great? You know, I think it's every little boy's dream. I made it come true today in a memorable final for me, and I still got something left, I think, in my career. So hopefully I can beat those records. That will be even better." – Federer, on winning his sixth Grand Slam men's singles title at the 2005 US Open, trying him with his idols Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker.
"It's always fantastic to be able to break records or match them, especially when it comes to Bjorn Borg I'm always very excited, because I think he was one of the most wonderful players we ever had in the game. It's a very ironic story, actually, that I beat Sampras' record when he was going for five [consecutive Wimbledon titles in 2001]. At the US Open two months later, [Borg] called me up and thanked me for breaking Sampras' streak, keeping his [streak of five Wimbledon titles] alive, and now I'm going for Borg's record. It's ironic, but I've heard he's happy if I would tie it up. We're still very far away from that. Have to stay concentrated. … I try not to give myself, like I want to break this or that record. If that's going to happen, great." – Speaking ahead of Wimbledon 2007, on the possibility of tying Borg's record of five consecutive titles.
"Just getting to an incredible milestone, that all the hard work I've put in has paid off. I never give up. Show up, tired, injured, doesn't matter how I felt mentally so many times over the years. It's gotten to this incredible number of 300. It's a great reward for me. I feel a great sense of satisfaction because of that incredible number and because of all the effort I've put into it. I know how much work it has been. It's not easy to stay at the top for so long and handle all the obligations that go with just playing tennis. It's not how I envisaged the whole career really, having to do so much press, promotion work, you name it. It came sort of out of the blue for me, quite honestly. I think I've handled it really, really well. That's also one of the reasons I've been able to play for so long and so successfully, I think." – Federer, after beating Stan Wawrinka to win the 2012 Shanghai Rolex Masters and secure the world No. 1 ranking for a record 300th week.
"In that moment when I did break a record or when I tied it, that was what was magical about it, not really like having it. I mean, I can walk around screaming, 'I have 17 Grand Slams; I have the record here or there.' It was the moment when I passed something. When you can play for history and you do it, that's what is so really cool, is that you can then be compared to other greats or you've passed another great, even though it doesn't mean you're better than him. But it's just like, that moment, you've gone into the unknown where nobody else has ever been before. – Federer, on why records mean so much to him, at the 2014 US Open.
"I guess it would be nice to reach 100, just because it's a good number. But then again, I'm not picking the easy ones to win, to be honest. I'm not going to play smaller tournaments just to chase that, as you can see. I'm even now taking a 10-week break. … But for those kind of numbers, I need to stick around for a while and play very, very well at the high level. It's going to be difficult, so we'll see what happens. One hundred would be a great number, of course." – Federer, on the possibility of chasing 100 career titles after beating Rafael Nadal for his 91st title in Miami in 2017.