Roger Federer will go down as the most talented tennis player of his generation and one of the most talented of all time. He will also be considered one of the best tennis players of all time. Another claim that he can make involving the word ‘greatest’ will also have the word ‘choker’ associated with it. He has been building a strong case over the years and the meltdown in the French finals on June 8, 2008 sealed the deal for him.
It is high time we stopped the comparisons with Tiger Woods about ‘who is the greatest sportsperson on the planet’. Tiger has comprehensively bested Federer on one important parameter and clinched the verdict. Mental fortitude and ability to perform in the clutch are important pre-requisites for great players. And that is where Federer has drawn a blank and Tiger has scored full marks. Federer is like the student who scored 7 A’s and an F and hence is not eligible for the big scholarship. The stage was set up perfectly for him at the French- a chance to beat his arch nemesis and cement a place in history. And what did he do – rather than raise his game a few notches, he dropped it way below – so much so that the spectators had a good reason to ask the Swiss for a refund on their tickets. Can you imagine Sampras succumbing to the pressure like that? Never!!!
Additionally great players don’t get dominated by anyone for too long. They always figure out a way to overcome the fiercest of adversaries. Roger has failed on that count as well. His rivalry with Nadal is becoming more one-sided in Rafa’s favour with each passing day. Rather than come close to solving the Nadal puzzle Roger is moving away from it. Rafa on the other hand is tantalizingly close to unlocking the mystery of beating Federer at Wimbledon. That is another F for Federer.
Now for proof of why Tiger scored A’s on the same parameters to close the debate.
Tiger Woods overcame a badly damaged left knee – bad enough for him to use his club as a walking stick and delivered in a pressure cooker situation with the US Open on the line. His powers of concentration were at their peak as he made more than one tournament saving putt. His victory was more a reflection of his never say die attitude than of his talent. The last 6 holes on day three proved conclusively that he has the ability to raise his game to superhuman levels whenever the situation demands. His performance was a story of sheer grit, physical hardiness and mental toughness – the exact requirements to qualify as a great champion and fully deserving of an A for mental strength.
Tiger has had his fair share of dangerous rivals. Ernie Els challenged him for a while. Then Vijay Singh ran him close managing to snatch Tiger’s world number one ranking. And finally there was Phil Mickelson – who almost out-hit Woods off the course. Each rivalry made for an interesting duel. But in the end Tiger out duelled them all; to the extent of totally shattering their confidence. Tiger gets another A for this as compared to Federer’s F (for being on the receiving end of his only major rivalry.)
The debate could not be settled by arguments about talent or dominance of their chosen sports. It finally came down to a battle between a tiger and a Swiss cow. The tiger was too fierce and the cow was too meek. That was the only difference between two supremely talented individuals but the difference was good enough to settle the debate once and for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Introducing Eldrick ‘Tiger’ Woods – THE GREATEST SPORTSPERSON ON THE PLANET.
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