Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Art of Being Roger Federer

(Despite his accomplishments, Roger Federer, the best player in men’s tennis, is not a household name in the United States. English is one of the many languages in which he is fluent, so the language barrier does not explain it. Those who claim that the public finds dominance “boring” seem to disregard the fact that Tiger Woods’ dominance has in no way diminished either his popularity or that of his sport. So, as a die-hard tennis fan, I thought I’d do my part and try to place the man and his accomplishments in a greater historical perspective.)

On Sunday, Switzerland’s Roger Federer defeated Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets to win the Tennis Masters Series Event in Madrid. For Federer, who has already clinched the year-end world’s number 1 ranking for a third consecutive season, it was his 10th tournament victory of 2006. He became the first man in tennis’ “Open Era” (post-1968) to win at least 10 tournaments in three straight seasons.

According to tennis great Ion Tiriac, no player in tennis history has been as technically proficient as Roger Federer.

Federer won three grand slam tournaments in 2006. He captured the Australian Open in January, Wimbledon in July, and the U.S. Open in September. He also won three slams in 2004. He is the only player in the Open Era to accomplish this feat twice.

Roger Federer is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a tennis match.

This year, Federer won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open for the third consecutive season. He is the only player to have accomplished this feat. He only lost two sets (one in each tournament) over the course of 14 matches played in both tournaments.

Roger Federer is not capable of hitting a target on the broad side of a barn with his forehand. Every time he tries, the whole damn barn falls down.

In 2006, Roger Federer has lost a total of 5 matches. Only two players have defeated him: Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. One of Nadal’s victories over Federer occurred in the finals of the French Open. It prevented Roger Federer from capturing his fourth consecutive grand slam tournament, and, as it turns out, prevented him from winning all four slams in a calendar year. Neither feat has been accomplished since Rod Laver won all four grand slam tournaments played in 1969.

The worst moment in a professional men's tennis player’s life is not when he finds out Santa Claus does not exist. It’s when he finds out that Roger Federer does.

Federer has now appeared in 6 consecutive grand slam finals. He is the first player to accomplish this feat in the Open Era and only the second in the history of men’s tennis.

Roger Federer’s forehand is the only hand that can beat a Royal Flush.

I first saw Roger Federer play at Wimbledon in 2001. He met 7-time (and 4-time defending) champion Pete Sampras in the 4th Round. I had heard about Federer, but, at that point, he was a promising player with a history of inconsistency. Federer defeated Sampras in 5 close sets. It proved to be the only meeting between the two players.

Someone once tried to tell Roger Federer that his forehand wasn't the best shot in the history of tennis. Many now believe this to represent the worst mistake in the history of mankind.

Speaking of Sampras, he is, in many ways, the primary player against whose career Federer will be measured. Pete Sampras owns the most career grand slam titles with 14 as well as the record for most years ranked number one on the ATP Tour (Sampras finished 6 consecutive years ranked number 1 in the world). Both players possessed exceptional movement and blistering forehands.

There are no steroids in men's tennis, just players Roger Federer has breathed on.

The careers of the two players, to this point, contain some eerie parallels. The two are exactly 10 years apart in age; Sampras was born in August 1971 and Federer was born in August of 1981. Sampras turned professional in 1988 while Federer turned pro in 1998. At this point in Sampras’ career, he had 8 grand slam titles. Federer has 9. In 1997 (2007 for Federer) Sampras captured the Australian Open and Wimbledon to bring his haul to 10. In order to remain ahead of Sampras’ “pace”, Federer must win at least two grand slam tournaments. It would be foolish to bet against his doing just that.

If tapped, the power generated by a Roger Federer forehand could power the country of Switzerland for 44 minutes.

The one glaring hole on Sampras’ resume is that he never captured a French Open title. Sampras’ best finish at Roland Garros was reaching the semi-finals in 1996, where he lost to eventual champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Federer already has one appearance in the French Open finals to his credit. Unlike Sampras (whose powerful serve was blunted by the red clay), Federer is an accomplished clay court player.

Everybody loves Raymond. Raymond loves Roger Federer.

Heading into 2007, the only serious challenger to Federer’s dominance remains Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Nadal is a 20-year-old left-hander who owns a winning career head-to-head record against Federer. After defeating Federer in the French Open final (the second consecutive year he defeated Federer in Paris), Nadal made it to last year’s Wimbledon final. Here, he lost to Federer in 4 sets. Nadal had a disappointing hard-court season, however, and has recently admitted to being both physically and mentally drained at this point in the ATP season.

Roger Federer once hit a forehand so hard that the tennis ball broke the speed of light, went back in time, and struck Amelia Earhart's plane while she was flying over the Pacific Ocean. Mystery solved.

So, as the 2006 tennis season winds down, I hope more of you will start tuning in. If you don’t, you may miss more of the stellar play of the man whom many feel will go down in history as the greatest player the sport has produced.


Anonymous said...

Roger federer may or may not be better than Sampras, but when it comes to forehand power, I'm sorry Pete has him beat! I've seen Sampras hit forehands on several occasions where it only took about one second to travel from corner to corner! Roger comes close, but sorry no cigar.

Anonymous said...

Pete beats federer on the forehand?
what is this based on? What scientific information do you have to suggest your argument?
According to Federer's forehand it has more spin and more velocity than Sampras. This is due to Federer's incredible technique called jump, which is a 4th level derivative of distance.
to use Sampras forehand is better? no that is not true. this is dumb at best.

Anonymous said...

If you ask me what scientific evidence I base my assertion on, then the same can be asked of you! This is'nt rocket science pal, just open your eyes and let your little mind process the emperical data. I'm sorry but I've seen both forehands and Sampras hits the ball flatter and with more velocity, and as for the spin on the ball? We'll will just leave that to the rocket scientist like you to figure out.