No threat to Federer’s top rank


Melbourne : Roger Federer isn’t worried about the small chance that can put his number one position under threat from Spaniard Rafael Nadal.

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The Swiss superstar defused the immediate worry as he beat James Blake for a place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open. That success means that Federer has at least several months of grace, with Nadal defending big spring points in North America followed by four clay titles.

Federer has found his comfort zone after 209 consecutive weeks at the top of tennis, and the various scenarios on how he can be dethroned are of little interest.

The win over Blake eliminated the chance of Nadal taking over the top ranking even if he were to win the event on Sunday.

With the top pair motoring nicely into the final weekend of the Open, nothing much has changed for the rock-steady Federer.

He is also happy with the ATP ranking scheme.

“(It’s) very good. I don’t complain. I think it’s fair, seriously,” Federer said. “We used to have the rankings going as well as bonus points. I don’t know how it works, but if you beat one of the top 100 guys, you’d get an extra few bonus points.

“For me it was good, because I was a dangerous player when I was younger and beating the best. I could do that on any day,” he said.


Open setting new attendance marks

Melbourne: Fans keep pouring through the gates of the Australian Open, with the 500,000 mark surpassed well before the end of the fortnight.

Tennis Australia confirmed that crowds are growing for the ninth straight year, adding pressure to the case for a revitalization of the aging Melbourne Park complex, built two decades ago.

The 500,000th fan who arrived happened to be British, one of thousands of overseas visitors. The woman was rewarded with a gift pack, which included tickets to Saturday’s women’s final.

This year, 11 of the first 18 day and night sessions saw record crowds. The high point so far came Jan 17, when 62,885 fans attended combined day and night sessions.

Officials say they are braced for a new total attendance record as the final weekend approaches. Last year, 554,858 fans have attended the tournament so far.