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Federer returning to top of ATP rankings at 36

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) Roger Federer added another highlight to his age-defying career resurgence Friday, returning to the top of the world rankings for the first time in more than five years and becoming the oldest player to reach the top spot.

“What an amazing run its been and a journey it’s been for me … to clinch world No. 1,” Federer said.

Beating leading Dutch player Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinal at the ABN AMRO World Tournament means the 36-year-old Federer becomes the oldest player – male or female – to top the world rankings, surpassing Andre Agassi, who held the record at age 33.

“Getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old is an absolute dream come true,” Federer said. “I can’t believe it.”

Federer will leapfrog 31-year-old Rafael Nadal to No. 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Also a record will be the five-years-plus which have elapsed since Federer was last No. 1, and the 14 years since he first reached the top spot.

On Monday, he will extend his record of 302 weeks at No 1 since the rankings began in 1973. Pete Sampras is a distant second with 286 weeks at the top. Novak Djokovic is the closest currently active player, with 223 weeks at No. 1.

“Reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport,” Federer said.

“Sometimes at the beginning you get there just because you play so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back and you wrest it back from somebody else who deserved to be there, and when you’re older you feel like you have to put maybe double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career.”

Federer, the 2005 and 2012 ABN AMRO champion, plays either Andreas Seppi or Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday.

Federer won the Australian Open in January for his 20th Grand Slam title and edged closer to the top of the rankings. He had not originally planned to play in Rotterdam but accepted a wild card when it became clear he might be able to take back the top spot.

Haase made clear he was going to make Federer fight, and broke him in the ninth game and fired an ace to take the set 6-4.

But Federer stepped up a gear and blew Haase away in the second set, reeling off 11 straight points to race to 3-0 in taking the set 6-1.

Federer then broke Haase twice early in the third for 3-0, and swept to the victory.

Earlier, Grigor Dimitrov beat Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals, where he will meet 2017 finalist David Goffin, who progressed when his quarterfinal opponent Tomas Berdych pulled out sick.

Djokovic lines up Dimitrov at Queen’s Club

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic’s first appearance at Queen’s Club in eight years was successful when he put away Australian qualifier John Millman 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

Djokovic, entered as a wild card, will play second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Also, Milos Raonic, runner-up to Roger Federer last week in Stuttgart, won his opener when Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri retired hurt while trailing 6-1, 3-1.

Djokovic’s comeback from right elbow surgery in January has been gathering pace after reaching the Rome semifinals and French Open quarterfinals. He leads Dimitrov 6-1 in career matchups.

Dimitrov, the 2014 Queen’s champion, struggled past Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3. Dimitrov saved six of eight break points.

Svitolina’s top ambitions survive grass-court struggle

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Elena Svitolina, who came within two wins of becoming world No. 1 in January, maintained her ambitious momentum to reach the top by surviving a tricky start to her Wimbledon build-up on Tuesday.

The second-seeded Svitolina stumbled within sight of a two-set victory, and briefly faltered again in the last set before beating Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Svitolina showed glimpses of the tenacious movement and consistently ferocious drives which have earned her the best win-loss record on the WTA tour since the beginning of last year, but also revealed glimpses of insecurity on the lush, low-bouncing surface.

Despite carving a lead of a set and 3-1, her gradually increasing attempts to win points in the forecourt were of variable quality, while Vekic, a former runner-up here, began to contain and counterattack more effectively.

Svitolina nearly let slip another lead of 3-1, in the last set, needing to save two break points on her next service game – one with a fine serve, and the other with a net attack finished off at the third attempt.

Eventually, the Ukrainian’s determination to adapt tactically to a surface on which she has yet to progress beyond any quarterfinal paid timely dividends, and she accelerated toward the finishing line at a canter.

“I was just trying to play well and to dominate, but she played a couple of great points to break back – which is always nice to have,” said Svitolina, apparently meaning she was pleased to gain extra practice on such a technique-testing surface.

“It was difficult for me because she hit the ball very flat and the first match on grass is always a challenge.”

She next faces Alize Cornet of France, who notably beat Serena Williams at 2014 Wimbledon, and who outlasted former top-10 player Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, by 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.