The debate of whether Roger Federer is indeed the best tennis player to ever pick up a racquet will inevitably resume, most likely in Roger’s favour, in the coming days. Comparing players across generations often leads to great discussion but it’s a fruitless debate. No one can truly be right. Federer may be the greatest tennis player in the history of the game but we will never know.
What we do know though, or rather, should know, is that Roger Federer is the most unique tennis player anyone has ever witnessed and will ever witness.
His dominance is unique in itself but it’s more the way in which he achieves that very dominance.
Federer makes it look so simple. Too easy. He appears as effortless as you or I do on our couch, with a bag of potato chips watching TV. Sometimes it’s as if he isn’t trying. Roger Federer plays 4 sets in a championship final and doesn’t break a sweat. Heck, sometimes I even break into a sweat on my couch in the summer.
And here we are, 17 major victories later.
Federer dominates but he does it with such ease and fluidity. His movement has the grace of a gazelle yet his power parallels that of a pitcher throwing an effortless 95mph. He is the antithesis of his arch frenemy Rafael Nadal. While Nadal tramples the court to shreds over the course of a match, Federer leaves the ground virtually untouched. Nadal will weeze like a dying animal at times while Federer stays quiet as a mouse.
Dominance and tennis go together like ice cream and apple pie. Roger Federer is by no means the first to rule the tennis world. However, he is the first and only to do it in such an undemanding manner. Pete Sampras dominated but he did it through the serve and volley. Roger Federer has grinded out points from the baseline for 14 years. Although, I guess his opponents do most of the grinding.
In his prime, pressure wasn’t a part of Federer’s vocabulary. Big serves and big shots during big moments were ho-hum. He responded to clutch situations in a way that might have made Michael Jordan jealous. It’s not just the robotic gracefulness that he brings to every point but it’s his ability to elevate his game when he needs it most and appearing to do it with that same robotic gracefulness. No additional external effort required. At least, it always seemed that way.
He doesn’t really have bad days. 33 straight quarter-finals will tell you that.
Injuries? Forget about it. If he hadn’t gotten mononucleosis that one time, you would probably think the guy is invincible.
It is possible that his effortless dominance is unprecedented across all sports. I mean, has anyone in the history of professional sports made winning look as easy Roger Federer has over his career?
Joe DiMaggio’s elegance earned him the nickname the ‘Yankee Clipper,’ in reference to the new Pan-American airliner in 1939. Canadians will never forget Bobby Orr and the way he seemingly floated across the ice.
Roger Federer, he more than deserves to mentioned in the same air as those effortless greats.
He reminded us all yesterday how good he was during his best days. You couldn’t beat him because he wouldn’t beat himself. 1 month away from his 31st birthday, Federer was in his “not make any unforced errors mode” against Andy Murray. In his prime, that was his default mode.
On the wrong side of 30, it would be, well, wrong of us to expect another major from Fed.
Even in his old(ish) age though, there is one thing that you can always expect from Roger Federer when he steps onto a tennis court. Something we may never see again in the history of the sport.
His unprecented and unflappable effortlessness.
Chris is a writer on Comedic Prose, and he also is the editor of Painting the Black.