STOCKHOLM // Roger Federer says that when it comes to rankings, it is No 1 or nothing.
In July, Federer dropped out of the top two for the first time since November 2003. His appearance in last week's Shanghai Masters final, which he lost convincingly to Andy Murray, put him back at No 2.
But the 16-time grand slam winner said yesterday that the jump from three to two made no difference to him.
"It's not that important to be two, three or four," Federer said. "For me it's either No 1 in the world or everything else.
"After being No 1 for so long and having been there it's obviously the best feeling to be there," he added.
"When you're not ranked No 1 in the world you obviously try to get back there."
Federer will today make his first appearance at the Stockholm Open for 10 years against the American Taylor Dent.
"I like to play tennis and I like to play tournaments, and I haven't been here in 10 years," Federer said.
"I was supposed to come here two years ago but I had a really bad back."
After being No 1 for so long, some people may have questioned whether Federer still has the hunger to counter Rafael Nadal's current dominance.
But the Swiss player said he still has the drive to play and to win.
"I practice, I play matches and there's always people cheering me on supporting me, wanting an autograph, wanting a picture," Federer said. "That does keep me going. If you put me on the small court with no spectators, this is where I'll struggle with my motivation."
The other players in the top four have often threatened Federer's dominance in recent times.
The top-ranked Nadal has won 14 of their 23 matches, while Murray has beaten him in eight of their 13 matches, although Federer leads Novak Djokovic 11-6 in head to heads.
"Maybe in the past I had winning records against everybody," Federer said.
"I remember at one stage I beat 24 top 10 players in a row.
"Every time I was in a final, I won 24 finals in a row, so obviously you cannot keep up those kinds of streaks but I was so successful that I suppose I'm being compared to back then which is very hard to do."
Despite a comparative loss of form, Federer said that he has been happy with his level of play this year, particularly since Wimbledon.
"I definitely lost some matches that I could have avoided this year," Federer said.
"You have to fight back and try to make it not happen so often, and that's what I'm doing and I hope I'm going to be able to turn this thing around."
* Associated Press