Roger Federer surprised the tennis world by choosing to play in Rotterdam this week. Ralph Ellis looks at the reasons behind his decision...
"The plan is work now and then a down time while everybody else – and especially Nadal – are grinding their knees into the dust of the red clay. Perfect to arrive in fresh shape for the grass court season."
It has a bustling but industrial and rather grimy port. There is a nice zoo, to be fair, and an art gallery with attractions from Rembrandt to Salvador Dali. But let's face it, Rotterdam hardly makes the top 20 of European tourist destinations.
You wouldn't go there unless for a purpose. Which tells you everything about why Roger Federer has chosen to play in this week's ATP tournament in the Dutch city.
Two weeks after waltzing off with his 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open we didn't think we'd see the Swiss maestro again in a hurry. Time at home with his family seemed to beckon.
But Federer has worked out that by reaching the semi-finals in Rotterdam he can knock Rafa Nadal off his perch and return to number one in the world rankings for the first time since 2012, and he's asked for - and not surprisingly been given - a late wild card.
Predictably he is now the [2.12] favourite to not just reach the semi-finals but to win the tournament, with the biggest threat coming from Alexander Zverev [4.5].
For a man who claims not to be bothered about records, it's a clear indication that the 36-year-old knows exactly what bits of his sport's history books are up for rewriting, and which boxes he still has to tick.
He's been talking about whether he could make it to 2020 to have another crack at the Olympics, the one significant prize he's never collected. Tick.
Meanwhile assuming he does achieve his goal this week, he will be the oldest number one since the ATP introduced a ranking system, eclipsing Andre Agassi. Tick.
Then there's the next real target of a ninth Wimbledon title and playing more tennis now then skipping the clay court season as he did last year is clearly an option. Tick.
"I would like to play everything," he has said in an interview in today's Guardian when asked about Roland Garros. "But it is impossible".
"I want to regain number one, then my priority is to defend the sunshine double of Indian Wells and Miami." (Tick and Tick).
So the plan is work now and then a down time while everybody else - and especially Nadal - are grinding their knees into the dust of the red clay in Monte Carlo, Rome and Paris. Perfect to arrive in fresh shape for the grass court season so no wonder he has been installed as [3.05] favourite for Wimbledon.
When Federer chooses to play these days, he gives it everything. He turned up in Holland on Sunday night, even though he doesn't start until tomorrow morning against Belgian Ruben Bemelmans -he's [1.04] in the Match Odds for that one.
Not only he did he arrive early, he went straight to the practice courts with his coach Ivan Lubjicic and fitness coordinator Pierre Paganini to start work.
Maybe he remembers that in his only tournament in February last year, in Dubai, he went out early. There's certainly no danger of him picking up his appearance money and throwing this one away, he's in Rotterdam for business. After all, why else would you go there?