Roger Federer: Appreciating A Genius
Appreciating A Genius
by James Buddell|
He is the prince of players worldwide, a global ambassador for the sport and is widely considered to be the greatest player of all time.
Pete Sampras earned the tennis world’s respect by virtue of a nerveless and competitive streak that reaped him 14 Grand Slam championship titles in 12 seasons, but Roger Federer’s all-round game has taken the sport to new levels.
In the summer of 2003, after capturing his first major title at The Championships, Federer admitted, “I’m so happy just to have won one. But will I win 15? I don’t know. The strength of the game is against it. In any case, I have to wait two more years to find out how good I am.”
Federer had tasted his first success on the major stage and never looked back. Since then the meticulous perfectionist has left nothing to chance: nothing in his behaviour, his lifestyle or his schedule has been allowed to compromise his pursuit of excellence.
Blessed with a game of aesthetic beauty, an immaculate on-court disposition and discipline that only the all-time great champions possess, Federer has shown tremendous consistency throughout his record-breaking, graceful and stylish career.
Federer is one of only six men to have completed the career Grand Slam, while he has rewritten tennis history by advancing to 21 straight Grand Slam championship semi-finals (or better), seven straight title-matches at The Championships and 20 major finals overall.
Over the course of the six trophy-laden years it took to break Sampras’ all-time Grand Slam championship title-winning record, a mark few believed would ever be broken, Federer’s charming and modest persona, coupled with a fluency in four languages, has made him accessible to a global audience.
He has transcended tennis to become one of the most recognisable sportsmen on the planet.
Towards the end of the Sampras’ career he was written off when he didn’t win a title for 22 months. Sampras silenced his critics at the age of 31 by lifting the 2002 US Open title in what proved to be his final tournament as a professional.
Federer too, has silenced his own doubters, who witnessed him breaking down in tears during the Australian Open trophy presentation ceremony in January. At the time his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, was the ‘king’ after a scintillating 2008 season, and the popular refrain was ‘How can he be the greatest ever when he may not be the greatest of his generation?’
Federer was clearly at a crossroads: he had lost his aura of invincibility, taken losses to a variety of opponents and was enduring the longest title-drought of his career. But he spent time away from the circuit where he worked on his fitness and strokes and returned close to his majestic best.
Federer won his first title in seven months by beating Nadal at the Mutua Madrileña Madrid Open in May, which represented his 15th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy. His confidence was lifted again by the impetus of his first Roland Garros title that completed a career Grand Slam last month and he arrived at The Championships refreshed, relaxed and hungry for more glory.
On Sunday, under the gaze of a triumvirate of former champions – Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Sampras – Federer became statistically the greatest champion of them all, in a win that sealed his return to No. 1 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings. It was his 16th final out of 17 Grand Slam championships.
At 27 years of age Federer is competing with new-found confidence, which spells trouble for his rivals. Back at the top of the sport, the Swiss shows no sign of letting up on his desire to set records that will likely stand the test of time.