Sunday, July 5, 2009

Roger Federer proves he is the greatest tennis pro ever

By Rick Morris

My partner at FDH, our Senior Editor Jason Jones, has a romantic streak a mile wide. He readily confesses to wanting to believe that he has seen the greatest in a given sport with his own eyes. Along with other information informing his thought processes, that keeps him from agreeing with me (for example) that Oscar Robertson was better than Michael Jordan and in fact the greatest hoops player of all time. I argued the case for the Big O last year during our first annual Pantheon voting, along with Walter Johnson, Willie Mays, Bobby Orr, Jim Brown and other greats who I never saw in my own time. This year's balloting should be just as great and will occur on our July 22 episode of THE FDH LOUNGE (this concludes our gratuitous plug!).

I mention the fact that I don't share Jason's romantic view on the subject as a means of establishing just how unlikely my next take is: after today, I am convinced that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player (male or female) of all time.

Again, I am always greatly suspicious of naming a present player as the greatest ever, and I've always noted that Federer never really had a singular great rival (except Rafa Nadal in the past year -- prior to that, it was predictable that Roger would beat him everywhere but on the clay) -- and ironically, one of the reasons for that was the man he toppled today en route to his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title. Andy Roddick captured his first, and only, Grand Slam at the 2003 US Open, the very next major after Federer's first ever at Wimbledon two months earlier. Roddick's underachievement for most of the last six years, along with Nadal's aforementioned slow development into an elite all-around force, has deprived tennis fans of seeing Federer have to surmount a legitimate rival for most of his time on top.

But I cannot deny Federer his due after seeing him come back strong in 2009 when he looked to be (ever so slightly) in decline. Courtesy of Wikipedia, he has set numerous other impressive records that speak to a consistent level few others in sports have ever matched:

^ Tying five other male players as the only ones to capture the career Grand Slam.
^ 20 Grand Slam finals (a record).
^ Semifinals or better in 21 consecutive Grand Slam events (a record, the second player on the list only managed 10 in a row!).
^ Once held the #1 world ranking for 237 consecutive weeks (a record).

His accomplishments are unparalleled and as his career continued to develop in the last year with his rebounds from his crushing Wimbledon and Australian Open finals losses, it has become clear that his greatness would have shone through in any era against any foes.

Congratulations, Roger Federer. To paraphrase Rickey Henderson, today you are the greatest of all time.

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