From a racket-smashing enfant terrible to a universally respected sporting icon, Roger Federer has come a long way.
Eighteen years after winning his first ATP Tour title in Milan by beating French journeyman Julien Boutter, the Swiss on Saturday became just the second man after American Jimmy Connors to win 100 career singles crowns.
But, despite the “special, magical” achievement, the 37-year-old is not obsessed with passing Connors’ all-time record of 109 in the men’s game.
After reaching the landmark with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Dubai Championships final, his eighth trophy at the Gulf event, he admitted it was a question often posed to him.
Federer said post-match: “A lot of people always ask me about, ‘Are you going to go for 109?’. To answer (that) is not easy.
“Winning five matches in six days or five matches in five days, it takes a different type of fitness. You can play a great tournament, (but) play a brutal semi-final, you get unlucky sometimes with the schedule, whatever it may be.
“That’s why you have to be fit on many fronts, mentally, physically, you have to be able to beat different types of players, beat them all on successive days.”
However, Federer, who avenged his fourth-round Australian Open defeat by Tsitsipas, took time to reflect on his feat, calling it “a deep satisfaction”.
He added: “A lot of people always emphasise all the (Grand) Slams, but I play on the ATP Tour. This is where I’ve won so many of them. Been around for so long.
“I don’t rest between Slams all the time, like people think I might be. This number proves why this was a very exciting week for me.
“I didn’t come here expecting I was going to win, to be quite honest. I hadn’t played since Australia.
“I’m just happy on all fronts how my game has progressed, how well I played in the final, winning the eighth Dubai title, the 100th.
“So many magical things going on. I’m very, very happy right now.”
Connors, who set his mark during his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, took to Twitter to congratulate Federer. He tweeted: “Welcome to the ‘Triple Digit’ tournament victory club. I’ve been a bit lonely – glad to have the company.”
The Rafael Nadal Academy also tweeted: “We still remember your words when you came to the inauguration of the academy in 2017 and you were injured.
“You said, ‘Rafa, You’ve done it a million times, so I can be inspired by the way you made it look so easy when you came back. You came back to the world’s top 10, top five, even world No. 1. That’s something that I’m going to be thinking about when I come back to the Tour in January’.
“Today, you have won your 100??! Amazing! Congratulations.”
Retired tennis player James Blake jokingly tweeted after his daughter compared his 10 singles title wins: “Thanks Roger, for making me look bad in front of my kids”, while Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman tweeted his “huge congrats to my mate”.
The sport’s all-time mark of 167 career titles is held by women’s great Martina Navratilova.