In the last few years, men’s tennis has undergone a revolution of sorts. Quality and competition are two aspects that have literally gone through the roof. One of the main catalysts has been the consistent arrival of outstanding young talent. In this regard, Roger Federer is perhaps a front runner of sorts. His skill, athleticism and freakish fitness levels mark the beginning of a new era in tennis.
Last weekend, at London’s visually futuristic O2 arena, Federer delivered a timely reminder of his inimitable quality and composure.
This latest win marks the Swiss maestro’s second successive ATP world tour final’s triumph and a record sixth ATP tour final win in all. As is the case with many other sporting legends, records just cannot seem to stop tumbling for Roger Federer.
Many tennis analysts and critics, former and present players consider Federer to be the greatest tennis player of all time. Former world number one and eight time grand slam champion Andre Agassi was recently quoted as saying:
(Federer has) changed the game of tennis, he’s raised the standard. To me he’s the best of all time now – maybe Nadal has a chance in his career to prove differently, but right now I think Roger’s the all-time best.
Agassi made a fair comment. Amongst contemporary players, Nadal and Djokovic will most probably challenge Federer’s stake as the greatest player of all time. They are both young with significantly more time left in the game than Federer. Yet there is no doubt that “Fed Express,” as he is fondly known, fully deserves all the accolades and praise generously showered upon him.
In recent months, Federer’s ATP ranking has intermittently slipped below Nadal, Djokovic and even Andy Murray. Yet the massive fan following never dips. Mainly because Federer’s poise and grace on and off the court remains unparalleled. There arguably has never been a better one-handed backhand played in the game, and his exceptionally fluid and forceful forehand has been labeled by John McEnroe as the greatest shot in tennis.
Talking about records, Federer has written and re-written men’s tennis record books. He has the highest number of grand slam victories in men’s tennis history (16), the most grand slam finals ever played (23), most consecutive grand slam finals, semi-finals and quarter finals played (10, 23 and 30 respectively). And the highest number of successive match wins in grand slam history (27 on two separate occasions). He is also the only player in men’s tennis history to have won three slams in a year thrice.
Federer has appeared in all four grand slam finals in a calendar year on three separate occasions (06, 07 and 09). His streak of appearing in all four grand slam semi-finals in the same year on five different occasions is unheard of in tennis annals. He has won more successive ATP finals (24 between 2003 and 2005) than any other player in history.
He is also the only male player ever to reach the finals of each of the nine ATP Masters 1,000 tournaments (which are considered to be the most prestigious tennis events after the four grand slams and the ATP World tour finals). And after his sizzling victory at the O2 arena in London last Saturday, Federer has also overtaken Pete Sampras’s previous joint-record of most ATP World tour final victories.
The brilliant Swiss has stayed as world number one for an incredible 285 weeks in total; including a record 237 consecutive weeks as the top ranked player. His career prize money totaling 66 million USD is the highest in tennis history. To add to a stellar list of mind-boggling achievements, he also added the small matter of an Olympic gold medal to his burgeoning trophy-cabinet at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
No matter how you analyse and decipher these records. They make for an incredible reading and will stand the test of time. Yet, despite such an amazing career record that oozes ruthless class, 2011 was an average year compared to the dizzy “Roger-arian” standards. For the first time in many years “FedEx” failed to win a single grand slam title. There was also a significant power shift in men’s tennis towards the new world number one Novak Djokovic. The 24-year-old Serbian motored along to three Grand Slam wins. In the process playing a level of tennis many believe has been scarcely attained in tennis history.
Federer has not won a grand slam event since his Australian open victory over Andy Murray in 2010. As a result, murmurs regarding a perpetual decline have been scaling a feverish pitch. Since that win, he has been beaten regularly in the semifinals and finals of grand slam events at the hands of his old nemeses Nadal and Djokovic. Yet more alarmingly, he also lost out in the quarters and the semis to lower ranked players such as Tsonga, Berdych and Robin Soderling.
In this context, Federer’s win at the season ending World Tour Finals carries great significance. Especially the straight sets ‘group-match’ demolition of Rafael Nadal which was reminiscent of the great man in his pomp. 2012 will be another immensely competitive year in men’s tennis. However, what remains to be seen is whether Federer can lay down another successful challenge for grand slam victory number 17.
Irrespective, from the legion of his ardent fans you will only hear one chant: “Come on, Roger!”
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.