Where were you on July 2, 2001 ? I vividly remember that day as the ‘Master of Grass’ Pete Sampras took to Centre Court and played a certain Roger Federer in the fourth round of Wimbeldon. It was the fiefdom of Sampras, his own backyard for the past 8 years (except 1996 ). What followed was shocking , a teenager playing the match of his life who didn’t get overawed by the crowd and played against his idol. It was the turning point in the history of Tennis. Vanquishing of the crown and the rise of a new master. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Meet Roger Federer, the current reigning king of Tennis and, arguably, the greatest ever to have held a tennis racquet (the only time the greatest ever debate got stirred up was when Rod Laver and Pete Sampras’ era took place).
Born on August 8, 1981 in Binningen near Basel, Switzerland, to Robert Federer and Lynette Du Rand. Federer was, from childhood days, inclined towards Tennis. Federer’s laurels as a junior player came at the Wimbeldon of 1998 where he won both the singles and the doubles crown.
Federer turned professional in 1998 and won his first tournament in 2000, Milan Indoor tournament. Federer a.k.a Fedex won his first Master series event in 2002, Hamburg Masters, thereby breaking into the top 10. From here on in it was a steep ascendance for Federer as he grew in stature with every game.
Coming of Age:
2003 Wimbeldon – The stage was set. Federer was ready to take that next leap and enter the books of greatness. In 2003 Wimbeldon final Federer beat Mark Philippoussis in straight sets and became the first Swiss male player to win a Grand Slam. What followed was absolute dominance over the next 5 years. During this time, he remained at the apex for 237 consecutive weeks which is a record.
A list of his Grand Slams titles:
Australian open (04, 06, 07,10)
French open (09)
Wimbeldon (03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 09)
U. S open (04, 05, 06, 07, 08)
16 Grand Slams till date and counting…
Federer v/s Nadal : The great rivalry
Borg – McEnroe, Becker – Edberg, Evert – Navratilova, Sampras – Agassi.
And now Federer – Nadal. It’s right up there with the best. Nadal has, time and again, questioned Federer’s ‘greatest ever’ tag by being untouchable on clay ( read French Open ).
The 2008 Wimbeldon finals were one of the greatest tennis matches ever played. In the 5 – set thriller which defied everything, Federer ended up on the wrong side of the result but the match went beyond winning and losing.
“When Federer plays, it’s poetry in motion”. There are, as such, no chinks in the armour of Federer. His anticipation and nimble on the feet movement make him stand out among his peers.
From a crisp one hand backhand to a deadly forehand, from superb service play to drop – dead drop shots, from cross – courts to down the lines , the play is flawless. The biggest strength in Federer’s play is his adaptability. His game is suited for any court i.e from slow clay to fast grass and deco turf. He can play endless rallies and serve-volley, both with equal comfort.
Not just an Idol on the field:
Federer has given back to the society in more ways than one.
He started charity work by establishing The Roger Federer Foundation in 2003 to aid underpriviliged people and for the upliftment of sports. In 2004, he visited tsunami affected areas (including Tamil Nadu) and donated for the relief of the victims. In 2005, he auctioned his racquet from the U.S open championship to help generate money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, he was appointed goodwill ambassador by UNICEF, and has also featured in many UNICEF public messages to raise awareness among youth about AIDS.
Is he The G.O.A.T ?
Federer still has some years left in him of tennis and by the time he hangs up his boots he would be right up there with the greats of the game. His 16 Grand Slam titles have already put him on the acme of most Grand slam titles (Men’s) list.
Is he the G.O.A.T (a term used in tennis parlance meaning Greatest of all time) or not will be for his peers and legends of the game to decide. But one thing is for sure, we are privileged that he has come in our times.