Friday, June 4, 2010

Musings on Roger Federer

Something strange happened the other day in Paris: the semifinals of the French Open were played without Roger Federer.  For those that don't follow tennis the fact the French Open was going on is probably news.  However, for those that have followed Tennis at all during the past six years that piece of news should come as a shock.  For you see, before the French Open Roger Federer had played in every semifinal in each of the last 23 grand slam events.  That streak is far and away the longest such record in men's tennis history.

Perhaps the record seems unremarkable.  However, bear in mind that before Federer's streak Ivan Lendll held the record with ten consecutive grand slam semi final appearances, and before Lendll the record was six.  You might also note that among active players, the current streak is now one; a record shared by the four men who played in the semi finals of this year's French Open.

That type of sustained excellence is simply unparalleled.  During those 23 trips to the semi finals Federer won 14 titles and played in 20 grand slam finals.  Stop for a moment and consider that: Roger Federer has played in 20 of the last 23 grand slam finals.  That consistency and dominance of the sport over six years and 23 tournaments is what sets the man apart as the best tennis player ever.

People may quibble about his title as best player ever.  People say he could never solve Rafael Nadal, he isn't even the best player in his day.  That sentiment ignores the fact that Federer has been Nadal's opponent in the finals of all Nadal's grand slam titles except one while Nadal has been Federer's opponent in less than half the grand slam finals Federer has played in.

Federer has won 16 grand slam titles (a record).  He has won five straight Wimbledon titles (a record) and five straight U.S. Open crowns (also a record).  He holds the record for most consecutive grand slam finals (10)--the next best is 8 (held by Roger Federer).  His name is on a list of six men in the history of the sport to win on every surface--a list that does not include Bjorne Borg, John McCenroe, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendll, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.  He has won 80% of all the matches he has ever played; he has a gold medal; and he has netted 55 million dollars in prize money (most ever).

All of Federer's staggering marks and records are encapsulated by his streak of 23 consecutive grand slam semifinals; a streak that may well stand the test of time even after any of his other records fall.

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