Nadal joins Federer, Connors with historic feat

Despite being out of action because of injury, Rafael Nadal has achieved a unique piece of history only ever achieved by Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors.

Nadal isn't playing at Indian Wells or the Miami Open after aggravating the leg injury that forced him out of the Australian Open in January.

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The World No.2 suffered his latest setback during a training session, but despite being idle as his rivals battle it out in California, the Spaniard has managed to set an impressive record for his longevity.

On Monday, Nadal became the third player in tennis history to spend at least 500 weeks ranked inside the world's top three players.

Nadal, Federer and Connors. Image: Getty

Current World No.1 Federer leads the list with a total of 662 weeks, while the great Jimmy Connors spent 595 weeks ranked inside the top three.

Ivan Lendl fell agonisingly short at 499 weeks, while Novak Djokovic, currently ranked 13th, has spent 494 weeks inside the top three.

Federer must reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells to stay atop the ATP summit ahead of Nadal.

The Swiss maestro powered into the fourth round on Monday, and said he isn't focused on retaining the top spot.

"You're only really as good as your last match," Federer said. "Now we're in Indian Wells and that's my focus and not what I have achieved in the past."

Federer barely raised a sweat as he advanced on Monday, the evergreen 36-year-old blitzing Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-1.

It took less than an hour for Federer to see off the world No. 28 on Stadium 1, with Jeremy Chardy standing in the way of a place in the quarterfinals.

Federer continued: "I wasn't playing that good in my first [opening] round. So when you play that way and you feel that way, you can't right away think, 'Oh, who would I be playing in the semis or in the finals'?

"I think that would be a major mistake by myself. There is still plenty of good enough players around me to cause an upset.

"So I'm on a good run right now, and I try to maintain that, and you only maintain that if you respect every opponent."

Federer, who won 17 successive points during the match against his Serbian opponent, added: "I was playing aggressive and feeling like he was not loving my slice, and then also mixing in with drop shots eventually.

"I think really I was able to mix up my game nicely, make it difficult for him there. At the same time, have fun with my game, play variation, but for the most part try to stay on the offensive, as well. I think it was a good match."

with agencies