Making A Case for Federer

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm
Federer in his usual outfit - a white victory suit

Federer in his usual outfit - a white victory suit

By defeating a distraught Andy Roddick on Sunday in the Wimbledon Final, Roger Federer claimed his record 15th Grand Slam victory and cemented his indisputable legacy as the greatest tennis player that ever lived.

That he is the best tennis player of all time is unquestionable. The guy who’s record he broke on Sunday – Pete Sampras – is really the only other player in that discussion and Federer, with a better overall winning percentage (80.9% to 77.4%) and a French Open victory to his name, has already surpassed Sampras. And he’s not done. Federer is, simply, the best ever to lace up tennis shoes.

But I’m willing to go one further.

Roger Federer is not only the best tennis player of all time, he is also the single most dominant athlete in professional sports today.

I mean, there’s really only one other guy in his class, and that ‘s Tiger Woods. But when you look closely at both men’s career statistics, it becomes clear that Federer has the upper hand.

Take, for instance, their respective winning percentages in major tournaments – a stat which should, after all, define their champion pedigree. The 33 year-old Woods has racked up an eye-popping 14 wins in 50 major starts for an enviable 28% WP – good for a number 1 World Golf ranking and global superstardom.

But Federer has him beat.

Federer’s 15 wins in 41 Grand Slam tries gives him an otherwordly WP of 36.59% and a legitimate claim to the Best Athlete in the World throne. When you couple that with his ridiculous lifetime professional record of 657 – 155 and 60 career titles, what emerges is the statistical portrait of a man who, if he can maintain a high level of production, has a reasonable chance of retiring as the single most dominant athlete in history.

And the guy is only 27 years old.

If Federer can keep playing at or around his current level and ultimately reach 20 major championships, he has to be given Greatest Athlete Ever consideration. Has to. And from that point on, he will be competing only against himself. When you talk about history’s all-time greatest athletes, you mention names like these: Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzy, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Pele, Babe Ruth. From that list, only Jack Nicklaus and his 18 championships can stand with Federer’s current accomplishments. And who knows what will happen over the next few years.

Federer in the Wimbledon Finals

Federer in the Wimbledon Finals

Now, obviously I’m not saying that I think – or can prove -that Roger Federer is a better athlete than Michael Jordan. MJ revolutionized the game of basketball, and he was so dominant in the early 90’s that he retired because he got sick of being so good. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to compare individual athletes with those who c0mpete in a team sport setting. But, if we’re talking exclusively about championships – which are, really, the building blocks of an athlete’s legacy – it has to be mentioned that Federer has won more than twice as many as Jordan. I say this only to put Federer’s accomplishments in a sort of context, because I’m convinced that he gets the short end of the Best Athlete stick merely because tennis is a niche sport, one without a following like that of baseball, basketball, or even golf. Whatever the reason, the greatest current athlete we have – a guy who not only dominates but makes dominating look so damn easy – is left playing second fiddle to athletes with inferior resumes like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James,  Tom Brady (though it pains me to say it), Derek Jeter and yes, even Tiger Woods. I think it’s about time Federer got his due.

So c0ngratulations Rog, you’re officially the Game Six Greatest Athlete in the World.

Now, can you go ahead and send me one of those fancy white suits you’re always wearing during trophy presentations? Thanks.


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