What Else Can Be Said About Roger Federer

By Jane Voigt

He is adored and adoring. He is the greatest tennis player of all time. He is generous, kind and a sportsman. He is Roger Federer. 

He’ll step on Arthur Ashe Stadium this evening in the last of the quarterfinal matches of this U. S. Open. It will be his 39th quarterfinal at a major in his 60th consecutive slam appearance. He has four children — two sets of twins. A couple of the junior competitors in New York this fortnight could be his children. Federer turned 33 in August.

Roger Federer connects with his famous forehand, during his match against Roberto Bautista Agut on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Thursday night.

Federer is a gifted athlete, recognized early for his potential at tennis. As calm, cool, and collected as he is on court now, he was a monster as a junior. He had a temper. It was only tamed upon the death of his first coach, Peter Carter of Australia, who died in a car accident a week before Federer’s 21st birthday. He was 10 when first introduced to Carter. 

In a tribute to Carter in January at The Australian Open, Federer credited him, saying he, “molded him as a man and player and remains the most influential coach of his storied career,” Tennis Australia reported. “Work ethic was very important for Australians, so I think I profited a lot from that and early on he was a very important man just overall for my character.”

Federer’s character is the cornerstone of his popularity, financial success and, perhaps, his greatness as a 17-times Grand Slam champion. He has worked hard at something that seemed to come easily but, more accurately  was crafted over years of practice, failure and success. Only to see him play in person can one comprehend the praise we have read over and over: “he floats,” “he dances,” “he is so smooth.” And, to this day, he continues to dance the night tennis fantastic when he will face Frenchman Gael Monfils for a spot in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals. 

Federer is funny, too. In a press conference at Rogers Cup, he was questioned once about a practice session a reporter had witnessed in Miami. He was having fun with his friend, Lukas Dlouhy, on Stadium Court. Unable to formulate the question quickly enough, although on the right track, Federer jumped in and interjected, “Yes … I like tennis,” with a broad smile. The room exploded in laughter. And, by the way, once on court the fun goes by the wayside. Winning is serious business for Federer. 

There would be no way for him to have survived a career, which began in 1998, without love for the game and insisting on having fun along the way. That holds true for every touring pro with any longevity. But his records, established on every court surface available around the world, will lead his legacy. 

Here are a few of those records, as provided by the ATP.

  • 17 Grand Slam singles championships
  • Most consecutive Grand Slam semifinals – 23
  • Straight years of winning at least one major from 2003-2010
  • Won 3 slam titles each of these years: 2004, 2006, 2007
  • Reached all four major finals in 2006, 2007, 2009 
  • Record 302 weeks at No. 1
  • Competed in four Olympic games
  • Six-times Barclay’s ATP World Tour champion
  • Won these tournaments at least 5 times: U.S. Open, World Tour Finals, Wimbledon, Basel, Cincinnati, Dubai, and Halle
  • Won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award 2004-09, 2011, 2013
  • Won 10 or more titles each year 2004-2006
  • 14 Grass-court titles, the most in the Open Era (since 1968)
  • Was 22 when he first rose to No. 1
  • Played in the longest fifth set in a Grand Slam final against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, 2009. Total games – 30.

Whether Federer is the ‘Greatest of All Time,’ is a matter of criteria. Taking the years 2003-2007, he deserves the crown. But when comparisons widen to include decades of tennis and tennis players, the superlative becomes harder to access. His record against Rafael Nadal is lopsided. Head-to-head, Rafa leads 23-10. Nadal has won Davis Cup for Spain. Roger has not done the same for Switzerland. Nadal has won a Gold Medal in singles at the Olympics while Roger has a Silver Medal. However, he and Stan Wawrinka won Olympic Gold in doubles.  

Federer has been a tad late to social media. He jumped in the Twitter scene within the last year and now has over 2 million followers. He loves it, tweets silly stuff and selfies like the rest of us. According to rafaelnadalnews.com, though, the Spaniard surpassed 5 million Twitter followers in late April. What if that stat was included in the discussion about the greatest of all time? #OOF

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