Can we agree Roger is the GOAT?Tim Strawn
Having just taken out Marin Cilic in the final of the 2018 Australian Open, Roger Federer laid claim to his 20th major title. Beginning in 2003 with his first title at Wimbledon, Federer has stood the test of time and defied all the odds at age 36. In 2017 he was 35 when he showed up at Melbourne after he had been out for six months with a knee surgery and back problems. As the 17th seed no one really knew what to expect but his fans were hopeful. They were giddy and amazed by the comeback and thankful to have witnessed his return to prominence when he took out Nadal in a thrilling 5 set match. Federer was down a break at 3-1 in the 5th set, only to close the door on Nadal by reeling off 5 straight games to win the match. Truly one of the great comebacks ever in men’s tennis.
Those who doubted him would soon learn to never do it again. In the past 12 months he’s won three Grand Slam titles. His recent victory down under saw him cruising through the tournaments first 6 rounds without dropping a set. When it was all over, he would hoist the trophy having only dropped two sets in the entire tournament and those were to Cilic in the final. Cilic looked lost in the first set going down 0-4 before he finally woke up and won a couple of games. He raised his level in the second set, claiming it in a tie-break and back and forth they went through sets 3 & 4. Federer took the 3rd while Cilic took the 4th to send it into a deciding 5th set. In the 5th it appeared there would be no stopping Federer as he easily cruised to a 6-1 win to cinch the match and his 20th major title.
The Swiss has now won his last three major since turning 35. Reminiscent of the great Ken Rosewall, who also won Grand Slam trophies after his 35th birthday, Federer is giving many on the tour cause for hope. If Roger can do it at 36 then maybe I can hang around for longer and have success on the tour at an older age too. Federer was asked after securing his 20th major just how long he could realistically go on playing at this level. “No idea,” he said. “Honest, I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve won three slams now in 12 months. I can’t believe it myself. I just got to keep a good schedule, stay hungry, then maybe good things can happen. “I don’t think age is an issue, per se,” he added. “It’s just a number. But I need to be very careful in my planning, really decide beforehand what are my goals, what are my priorities. I think that’s what’s going to dictate how successful I will be.” It’s easy for those of us who have followed tennis for decades to marvel at Federer’s longevity. In comparison to Rosewall’s accomplishments after 35 we would all be remiss if we didn’t recognize that the speed of the game has changed dramatically and times are much different than they were in 1974 when Rosewall won his last major at age 39. The toll the game takes on players todays is unbelievable, making it even more amazing to see what Federer is actually capable of doing. Federer now joins Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson as the only men to win the Australian Open 6 times.
At this juncture, Roger Federer now has Eight Wimbledon’s, one French Open, 5 U.S. Open’s and 6 Australian Open’s to his credit. This could easily bring us all back to the conversation of who’s the greatest of all time. Actually, Federer was never out of that conversation but his light had faded prior to his 2017 resurgence where he found his form by winning two majors and seemingly solving his problems against long time nemesis Rafa Nadal. Still, Nadal holds a 23-15 overall edge in their head-to-head rivalry and a 9-3 record in majors. That sounds pretty impressive until you start to look at Federer’s career accomplishments . Keep in mind that until 2016, his perfect record of staying healthy and injury free was nothing short of spectacular. That is something that has plagued Nadal and undoubtedly will be something the Spaniard will be dealing with since he’s past the age of 30 and still competing. In 2017 after Federer’s improbable title in Melbourne he went on to beat Nadal the next three times he played him, giving him the confidence he needed to sit out the European clay court season and prepare for Wimbledon. Clearly Federer was on a mission with a solid game plan. Take care of myself physically, rest when needed and play a smart schedule. The payoff came after his break from the French Open where he captured his 8th Wimbledon title and second major of 2017.
So now what? Are we going to see a repeat of 2017? Nadal is expected to b e out for 3 weeks with his current injury and once he returns anything can happen. The odds favor Federer at this point to re-take the lead with the upcoming hard court tournaments such as Miami but then there’s the European clay court season that Federer most likely will skip again. That will leave the door open for Nadal, especially with the large amount of points the French Open has to offer where Nadal owns the clay courts of Roland Garros. It could easily be a see saw year for the number one ranking but more importantly, it be another banner year for men’s tennis with Federer and Nadal leading the way, with young players like Zverev, Dimitrov & Thiem close on their heels. Let’s not forget too that Novak, Kei, Milos and Andy will be returning at some point so things could get very interesting.
Roger Federer, the greatest of all time. What do you think?