Tennis and Roger Federer are synonymous to each other. In the last decade, Federer has dominated every event he has step foot in and is often called the greatest tennis player of all times. But is it true? Can he really compare with the tallest giants in the game? Let’s find out.
Did Federer have competition?
Federer has always been better on grass and hard court but clay court has always been his weakness. Though he is better than many of his peers, he has lost 11 times to Nadal which sticks out like a sore thumb in his professional career. Initially, when Federer started winning Grand Slam after Grand Slam, he was playing against players who were neither at their prime, nor the best in the world at the time. Though he did meet stiff competition on a few occasions, at least 50% of its Grand Slam journey was relatively easy. He played against players whose average ranking was around 16.3.
It is not difficult to note that players like Nadal and Djokovic have played against much stronger players than Federer and a big chunk of his Grand Slam wins were against weaker players. Now that Nadal and Djokovic are emerging as the two prominent faces of Men’s Tennis, Federer’s era is on the decline. This isn’t to say that he is a bad tennis player. He is one of the finest in the game. However, a lot of his impressive record can be contributed to the lack of firm and strong competition.
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The dominance factor
Watching Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras play makes you question everything in Tennis. Those were players beyond time, who graced us with their presence and showed us what real dominance and excellent gameplay was. Rod Laver and Boris Becker were two other examples of what strong gameplay is all about. Federer can be compared to them but we can’t declare him as the conclusive winner.
We must acknowledge that he has 20 Grand Slams to his credit and he emerges as the true hero of the game. However, if you look at Serena Williams’ record, you would be baffled. The 23 Grand Slams, power packed game and her constant gameplay with much younger and highly talented players have only made her better. She is great in-ring, even after delivering a child and is ready to go again. Her Grand Slam entered/won ratio is also much better than Federer’s.
It would be difficult to compare two players from different eras like Sampras and Agassi with Federer. The conditions, training etc. were much different then. However, it is easy to compare Williams with Federer and we see a clear winner emerging in this pattern. It is evident that it is not Federer but Williams who has not only gotten better with age but also won more.
To Federer’s credit, we have to acknowledge his versatility. What he brings to the game is variety which is not matched well by other player who often emerge as specialists.