Come Monday, Roger Federer is going to be ranked number 1 in the world by the Association of Tennis Players. At the age of 36 years and some six months, he will be making history (yet again), as the oldest player to be ranked as World number 1. After a whopping 302 weeks (which, by the way, is the equivalent of almost 6 years) of having stayed in the position, Federer finds himself on the top again, after some six or so years, and while that is cause for celebration in itself, I believe that this is also a lesson in tenacity and sheer dedication.
2018 started off in a spectacular fashion for the Swiss tennis legend, as he clinched his 20th Grand Slam and his 6th Australian Open, by defeating Croat Marin Cilic in an exhilarating 5-set final. With his current victory in the ATP Rotterdam Open Quarter-final, Federer shows no sign of stopping. It isn’t news that Federer perhaps holds almost all records in men’s tennis; highest number of Grand Slams won (20), highest number of Grand Slam Finals reached (30), most number of weeks as world number 1 (302), most number of consecutive weeks as world number 1 (237), the highest hard court match win percentage (87.5%), and so on. I would very well write an article that merely lists the man’s records, but this isn’t just about his tennis achievements. Federer is known for the precision of his shots, his powerful aces, and pretty much complete mastery of the game. An instance of his fairness and reverence for the game could also been seen in the recent quarterfinal at Rotterdam, where he accurately called out his own serve against the Dutch Robin Haase as being ‘Out’. Federer is also known for his iconic “between-the-legs” shot, which famously took him to the Finals of the ’09 US Open. It is definitely his integrity, his passion, combined with his versatility, that makes him the greatest tennis player of all time.
Federer is also one-half of what is perhaps the world’s greatest rivalry (and yes, friendship) in tennis, the other being his contemporary Rafael Nadal. While Nadal leads with 23 wins against Federer’s 15, Federer has a greater number of Grass Court, and Indoor Hard Court wins. Equally significant, is their mutual respect, and their excellent friendship off the Court. Nadal has played exhibition matches for Federer’s charity events, and the two even competed on the same side, in the 2017 Laver Cup. A video of Nadal jumping into Federer’s arms, after the latter beat Australian Nick Kyrgios went viral and was only a testament to the pair’s excellent off-court relationship.
It is a combination of things that make Federer the greatest tennis player, and one of the greatest athletes of all time. Part of it is his near-perfect gameplay; but the rest has to be attributed to his jovial, almost gentlemanly behavior (both on the court and off it), his perseverance, and yes, maybe a little luck. I’ve had the pleasure, nay, privilege of having witnessed his game at its peak, and for that, I’m glad. As tennis legend Jimmy Connors once said, “…you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist…or you’re Roger Federer.”