The G.O.A.T – A Fan’s Take
People who are aware of tennis and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour, for some time now, have been discussing about associating the abbreviation G.O.A.T with one person. Most people already know about what I’m talking about but, for those who are wondering about what G.O.A.T is all about – “Greatest of All Time”. Simple enough! But who is this person who many people are wondering if is the G.O.A.T? For me, the answer is as simple enough as the abbreviation itself – Roger Federer is the G.O.A.T.
I know there are many tennis fans and experts out there who want to contradict me outright, and trash me left, right and center for answering this question with no second thoughts. But, being one among the countless die-hard fans of Roger Federer, this is just a fan’s take on this man’s genius at wielding a racquet.
Roger Federer – RF
Roger Federer needs no introduction for many people across the world, so much so that his initials ‘RF’ in themselves are a trademark. Referred to by many sobriquets like “The Great One”, “Swiss Maestro”, “The FedExpress” and “Genius”, Roger Federer is considered to be the ‘greatest person to have ever held a racquet’ by many sports pundits. Most people going through this article are already ready to argue against this but, let us withhold our arguments until the end of this article, shall we?
Or, in fact, I’ll myself ask the question as to why Federer has to be considered the Greatest of All Time, in short, G.O.A.T. Before I answer this question, we need to talk about a few former players who could easily fit the bill and own the G.O.A.T tag.
Rod Laver and Pete Sampras
If probably there is any player who can be deemed as the Greatest of All Time in the sport of tennis, it’s got to be the famous Aussie, Rod Laver. World Number One for a straight seven years, two years (1962 and 1969) where he won the Grandslam (winning all the four major singles title in the same year) and an unprecedented 200 career titles. But, most of these achievements came before the Open Era was introduced.
After Rod Laver retired in 1979, the professional tennis circuit had to wait until the nineties to see a true great and it was to come in the form of Pete Sampras. Sampras won 14 Major Singles titles in his 14-year professional career, the highest by any player until the year 2009, was the World Number One for 6 consecutive years and a record 286 weeks. His major titles include 7 Wimbledons, a record yet to be equaled or broken.
Despite these two great players, with such esteemed performances and records, Roger Federer is still considered to be the greatest player to have played this awesome sport. If we have to go by one statistic – 16 Major Singles titles, that is enough to confirm this man’s greatness in the sport. But, this alone does not make him great!
The Change Of Guard
Roger Federer turned a professional in the year 1998. He was only 17 then. But the world was not going to notice him until he turned 21, and this opportuned moment came to him when he played the great Pete Sampras, the then defending and the 7-time Wimbledon Champion at the Centre Court in the year 2001.
Federer took Sampras out in a thrilling five-set encounter to end Pete Sampras’ reign at the Wimbledon, and then everybody knew there was a true great in the making. But this joy for Federer was short-lived as he lost in the immediate next round, which was the quarter-finals.
Federer had to wait until the year 2003 to win his first Major, which coincidentally was at the Wimbledon, a title, which he won for 5 years straight until he was beaten by Nadal in the year 2008, in the greatest final that was ever played.
It was during this period that Federer began amassing all the singles Majors, except for one – The French Open, which he eventually won in the year 2009 to complete a Career Slam. During this process, Federer remained the World Number 1 for a record consecutive 237 weeks.
In the last 8 years after Roger Federer won his first ever Major, he has not missed a single Grandslam event to date and has been part of 29 consecutive Major Quarter-finals, 23 consecutive Semi-Finals and 23 Major Finals appearances. He is the only player to have reached 7 consecutive Wimbledon finals, and also has won the US open five years straight from 2004-2008.
While all these were his achievements, it was the way he achieved them was what mesmerized so many and even amazes people to date. It’s taken Federer only six years after he won his first Major to break Pete Sampras’ record of the overall titles. Most of these titles he managed without even breaking a sweat, and there were finals which he wrapped up in less than an hour and a half. I remember people complaining to buy tickets if Federer was playing the final as he was not on court for a long-time.
Rafael Nadal – The Nemesis, The Rival, The Fan
Despite all his achievements, there was always one glitch in Roger’s armor, his long-time nemesis Nadal. If it was not for ‘Rafa’, as fans call him, Roger could have won another 2, if not 3 French Open titles. At a time, when Federer should have been considered great, everybody was apprehensive in doing so because Roger did not manage to win the coveted clay court championship despite reaching the finals 3 straight years, only to lose to Nadal.
The Nadal-Federer rivalry is considered to be the greatest the sport has ever seen and the 2008 Wimbledon final is a testimony to that, and this remains to be the best display of tennis that one has ever seen Despite Roger ending up on the losing side, the manner in which he lost is what left many people awe struck. Though Nadal has tormented Federer throughout his career, they remain best buddies off-court and Rafael Nadal himself acknowledges Federer as the greatest that has ever played the sport.
But the year 2009, when everybody was expecting Roger Federer to just set and decline, after his loss to Nadal, yet again in the 2009 Australian Open, he rose like a phoenix to take the French Open (every tennis fan just wanted Roger Federer to win that year) that year, equaling Pete Sampras’ record of 14 titles which he followed up with a win at the Wimbledon to break that record.
A Fan’s Take
I was a big fan of Pete Sampras and I though I would stop watching tennis after he retires. I did see the match at Wimbledon where Federer beat Sampras but never took much out of it as far as Federer was concerned. But during the period where the Number One ranking was up for grabs and guys like Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Juan-Carlos Ferrero were finding it hard to keep their ranking even for 12 or 13 weeks, there comes Roger Federer – who makes the sport look so easy, who makes everybody say that the single-handed backhand is the best shot in tennis, who does not run around the court but, just floats. Watching a Nadal or Djokovic makes me feel, “tennis is not such a grueling sport guys, if you play it like Roger”. You neither need to strap your ankles or knees nor you have to take more than the usual time in between points.
People do say, that Roger Federer is a spent force now and he can’t be the player he was a couple of years ago. But as long as you have players like Roger Federer, you would want to hold a racquet yourself and step on to the court, as you know that playing tennis is not that tough. This is what makes Roger Federer the G.O.A.T.
P.S. The US Open 2011 is taking place at Flushing Meadows, New York and American fans can get to watch “The Great Man” in action for the next two weeks.