A week ago (a day after Dinara Safina crashed and burned, to be exact), Roger Federer not only cemented as a part of tennis history, he declared himself as the epitome of tennis history itself. He’s simply the greatest player ever. No doubt, no argument, no denying it, no nothing: he’s the best that ever was.
Hold on, hold on, you may say, what about Rod Laver? He won two Grand Slams (winning all four Majors in one year), and Federer’s never done it even once. What about that? Well, let’s take a closer look. In the 60’s when Laver completed his historic feats (’62 & ’69), all the Slams were played on grass, except for the French, which was played on clay as it is now. It’s not like now, when you also have to adapt to different kinds of hard courts used at the Australian and the U.S. Opens. And no one can deny that the depth of competion has grown exponentially since Laver’s salad days. Laver was a true great, but even he falls short of the -est suffix that can only be bestowed upon Federer.
Roger’s only other real rival in history is Pete Sampras, and they now both share the record for the most Major wins, with 14 Slam titles each. But with Roger’s French win, he left Pete behind in a glorious swirl of red clay. Roger, History, you are now one and the same…
My List of All-Time Tennis Greats in the Open Era (Men):
1. Roger Federer: Like I said, undeniably the greatest ever.
2. Rod Laver: He won less Majors than Sampras, but you have to remember he couldn’t play any during the years he was a pro, until the Open Era finally arrived (he was already 31 by then)
3. Pete Sampras: Awesome, but the missing French link holds him back behind Laver
4. Bjorn Borg: It’s mind-boggling how much he achieved before retiring at 25(!!!).
5. Ivan Lendl: Perenially underrated due to his “personality” (or lack thereof), but he was supremely consistent (held the year-end No. 1 ranking for four years, reached a Slam final for 11 straight years!)
6. Jimmy Connors: My all-time favorite player. Was oh-so-close to a Grand Slam in ’74, when he won all the Slams but the French, from which he was suspended for playing in World Team Tennis. D’oh!!!
7. Andre Agassi: Andre won less Majors than some players ranked below him, but he won all of them at least once.
8. John McEnroe: Truly mesmerzing when he was at his peak, but his years at the very top were relatively brief.
9. Rafael Nadal: He’s blazing up this list muy rapidamente (hey, I took Spanish for 3 anos, gotta use it any chance yo puedo). If only his knees will hold up…
10. Stefan Edberg: Was never a hugely dominant No. 1, but his gutsy performances (particularly during his 2nd U.S. Open run) give him the edge over Boris Becker.
Here’s the most entertaining moment from Federer’s win (aside from the emotion-laden match point and trophy presentation, during which I kept getting chills at what it all meant):
*Can you imagine if the guy had unnerved Federer to the point he ended up losing the match?!? He would’ve been hung from a steeple by his testicles with no argument from anyone…