Federer is level with Connors

The Australian Open champion yesterday moved into joint third place for the number of weeks spent ranked as the world's top tennis player.

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MELBOURNE // Roger Federer, the Australian Open champion, yesterday moved into joint-third place for the number of weeks spent ranked as the world's top tennis player. Federer, who beat Britain's Andy Murray in straight sets in Sunday's final, began his 268th week on top of the ATP rankings - moving level with Jimmy Connors. Pete Sampras leads the all-time list with 286 weeks at the top, followed by Ivan Lendl with 270.

Novak Djokovic took over as world No 2, with Murray third, while the injured Rafael Nadal dropped to fourth. It marks the first time that Spaniard has dropped out of the world's top three since June 2005. Nadal has been cleared of a recurrence of the knee tendinitis that sidelined him for nine weeks last year. A small muscle tear sustained in Melbourne, where he lost in the quarter-finals to Murray, will keep him out for the next month. But the former world No 1 said he was not concerned by the drop in his ranking.

"It is not important for me, the ranking issue and losing a few spots - that's normal when you are not able to compete," Nadal said yesterday. There was also movement on the women's side, with Li Na becoming the first Chinese player to get into the top 10 when she reached No 10 following her run to the Australian Open semi-finals. Justine Henin, who was unranked and playing on a wild-card entry at her first major in two years, still needs to play another tournament before she gets an official ranking.

"My goal this year was top 10, but it's only January, and it's come quickly," said Henin, who quit in May 2008 while holding the No 1 ranking. Serena Williams, who beat Henin in Saturday's Australian Open final, has extended her stretch at No 1 to 15 weeks. * AP