Sampras salutes Federer for spending 287 weeks at the top

Pete Sampras plays Michael Chang in an exhibition match during the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford University Taube Family Tennis Stadium on July 11, 2012 in Stanford, California.

PARIS - Former champion Pete Sampras saluted Roger Federer for Monday surpassing his mark of 286 weeks at the top of the men's rankings.

Swiss Federer, already the holder of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, reached the landmark of an unprecedented 287th week as world number one having already pulled level with Sampras on reclaiming top spot after a two-year absence following his seventh Wimbledon title a week ago.

'Great effort. The hardest thing to do in sports is the ability to stay on top.

Roger has been able to do so by great play and durability,' Sampras said on www.atpworldtour.com.

Federer, 31, is guaranteed to keep the number one spot through the London Olympics, extending the mark still further.

The ATP also lauded Federer.

'Congratulations Roger on your new all-time record for most weeks as no.1,' the organisation said in a special tribute on its website homepage. '287 and counting...'

With the Olympics and US Open fast approaching, Federer shows no sign of his passion for the game waning despite being the second oldest man after Andre Agassi to hold the top ranking.

'I'm so happy I'm at the age I am right now, because I had such a great run and I know there's still more possible,' Federer said after Wimbledon.

'To enjoy it right now, it's very different than when I was 20 or 25. I'm at a much more stable place in my life. I wouldn't want anything to change. So this is very, very special right now.' Federer holds a 75-point lead over world number two Novak Djokovic.

He now has a tour-best five titles in 2012, including his 20th Masters crown in Madrid in the run-up to the French Open.

Despite equalling Sampras' record of seven Wimbledon titles, Federer believes it wasn't just his victory at the All England Club over Andy Murray in the final that enabled him to return to the top.

He believes it was due to a series of highs and lows, notably a heartbreaking loss to Djokovic in the US Open semi-finals last September where he had been two sets to love ahead with match points.

'I think it was a time where I just had to believe that things were going to turn around for me,' said Federer.

Federer first took the world number one spot in February 2004 and held it until August 2008.

He reclaimed it in July 2009 before being deposed by Rafael Nadal after the 2010 French Open.

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