|Federer was surprised by Nadal's loss to Djokovic at the Madrid Masters [EPA]
Former tennis world number one Roger Federer is still focused on that elusive top spot, despite being in the shadow of Rafael Nadal for much of the past 12 months.
Rejecting the notion of a power shift in men's tennis, the Swiss legend is confident he can beat Pete Sampras's record for time spent as world number one.
Currently the balance of power seems tipped towards Serbian Novak Djokovic who is on a 32-match winning streak.
Djokovic passed Federer for the world number two ranking in March and is threatening Nadal for top billing at this week's Rome Masters after beating the Spaniard in straight sets in Sunday's Madrid Open final.
"It's still important for me to get back to being world number one," Federer told reporters in Italy ahead of his match against France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Rome Masters.
"I mentioned after Wimbledon it was a goal of mine. It's still very real and possible. I think I can do it if I win one of those Grand Slams."
Federer, the current world number three, has a record 16 Grand Slam titles to his name and has spent a total of 285 weeks as world number one, as compared to American great Sampras who spent a total of 286 weeks.
"It's definitely an interesting time right now that Novak hasn't lost all season long,'' Federer said.
"It makes it a new, different situation, but for me it doesn't change a whole lot.
If Djokovic wins his seventh consecutive title of 2011 at the Foro Italico and Nadal fails to reach the semi-finals, Djokovic will become the first player other than Nadal or Federer to hold the top ranking since February 2004.
"Right now these guys are playing better than me and better than other players,'' Federer said.
"I feel like everybody can play on all the surfaces these days and that makes it extremely hard to win all these big tournaments."
"I feel like everybody can play on all the surfaces these days and that makes it extremely hard to win all these big tournaments.''
"It's not as if I'm losing in the first or second rounds.
"It doesn't feel more different apart from having three more questions to answer at a press conference, but they deserve their press and it's all good stories."
While the 29-year-old did not watch Djokovic's straight sets defeat of Nadal in the Madrid final on Sunday, he felt the Serb would have it tougher in Rome and Paris.
"It was surprising to see Rafa lose on clay but it was just one tournament," he said.
"It was a quick clay court so he (Djokovic) had a better chance of beating Rafa."
In other news, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro has a left thigh injury that could rule him out of the French Open.
The 22-year-old Del Potro, who won at Flushing Meadow in 2009, has a muscle tear and faces a struggle to be fit in time for the French Open when the tournament starts May 22.