Most of my readers know that I’m an unapologetic fan of Roger Federer. I wouldn’t say I “idolize” him, because frankly I don’t idolize anyone. But I very much respect him, and think he is the greatest tennis player I’ve ever watched. I thought that before today, and think that after today.
He just, a few hours ago, finished off Andy Murray in the 2012 Wimbledon Finals for his 17th career Major championship and 7th Wimbledon championship tying him with Pete Sampras. What made this victory so impressive was one thing: people had written him off for dead for the last two years. In his personal life, he had twin girls and started a family. On the court, he had to deal with two worthy champions in Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic – each in their primes. He lost his #1 world ranking. He hadn’t won a Major in over two years, since 2010. He turned 30, and is now almost 31. Which makes him somewhat of a tennis dinosaur.
With that as context, you have to tip your cap to him. Roger Federer has broken most, if not all, the records in tennis over the last decade. When you get to his age, in tennis, it is usually time for a ceremonial tour. Pete Sampras won his last major at 31, and never played another competitive match after that. With Roger Federer, one gets the sense he’s not close to done barring a fluke injury. He’s kept himself in great shape, and looks no different today than he did 5 years ago. He’s made at least the Quarterfinals in each of the last 33 Majors, over 8 years, making the Semifinals in 32 of them, while winning more than half. Will he be as dominant as he was in 2005-2007? I doubt it. Can we safely bury the assertion that he’s “done” and doesn’t have any chance to win MORE Majors? Yes, we can. The guy is #1 in the world again.
There is one part of me that thinks this run and this era in tennis is unfortunate. We’re seeing three players really take the game to new heights in Federer, Djokovic and Nadal. On clay, Nadal is the favorite. On hard courts, Djokovic is the favorite. On grass, it is still Roger. The reason I feel it is unfortunate is because none of these men are American. Though the big matches are televised in America, and U.S. tennis fans get their fill in a few months with the U.S. Open, Roger’s success doesn’t get chronicled the way it should. The obvious (on field/court ONLY) comparison is to Tiger Woods. Tiger is sitting on 14 Majors in golf. Can you imagine when/if he gets to the same number Roger has? The hysteria would be mind-boggling.
Yet, many Americans can’t appreciate what Roger Federer is doing. The hype machine for him is practically nonexistent. Websites like ESPN have him as their major feature for MAYBE a half a day, with about 2 articles. That’s a shame. And I would say the same thing about Nadal or Djokovic, that it is a shame they aren’t as celebrated as they should be. Tennis, for better and for worse, is a global sport. Which, in America, hurts those who aren’t American. I just don’t believe the average person in the States really has much appreciation for “some guy from Switzerland.”
When all is said and done, Roger is now – and will be – the GOAT. The Greatest Of All Time. Today cemented that. I don’t think he’s “done” either, as there are no signs he’s going to pack it in. Watching him play is equal parts science and art really like no other in history. Science in that there is a definitive game plan each time he steps onto the court and you can see tactically what he’s trying to do. Art in that his ability to improvise is unmatched.
It really is something to behold.
During Roger’s victory speech, he said that the one wish he has for his slayed opponent, Andy Murray, was that he could win a Major. I concur with that.
My wish for Roger is that more Americans tune in during the next two years or so while he’s still playing at an unheard-of and never-before-seen level. It is really unlike anything we’ve seen before.