It makes it that much more exciting when history is made, when it’s done in a history making way. Roger Federer won his 6th Wimbledon and record breaking 15th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon yesterday. If he had won in three easy sets it would not have diminished the accomplishment, but that’s not the way it turned out. It took Roger over 4 hours to secure a 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 victory over a completely game Andy Roddick.
16-14, that is pretty much three normal set wrapped up into one. Roger had been unable to break Roddick’s serve the entire match; and as the 5th set lingered on, getting that elusive break was the only way he could win. Roddick had held serve 37 times before, but 38 was not to be and Roger had number 15. That’s the way to break a record. And he did it in front of Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, and Rod Laver; three of the other greatest’s of all-time.
Now we look at Roger’s career, which isn’t yet over, and look to characterize it’s place in history. It’s tough to judge eras. I agree with the way Rod Laver looks at it. He says there is no greatest of all time. Rackets change, what tournaments are important change, the surfaces change, and of course the level of competition can change. What you can judge is the greatest of an era. Lavers says he’s the best from the 60’s, Borg and Connors shared the 70’s, Sampras dominated the 90’s , and Federer’s been the best lately.
Laver’s right. He won a Grand Slam in 1969, but then 3 of the 4 Slams were on grass. Federer has the most Slams, but that is skewed. Now any top player plans his year around those 4 tournaments. Borg and Connors rarely played all 4 in the same year; and that was by choice, not injury. They just didn’t mean then what they meant now. And the toughest thing to judge across eras is the competition. Federer has had to contend mostly with Nadal, Roddick, Murray, Safin and Hewitt. Nadal is great, but as a group how do they compare to Sampras’ nemeses Agassi, Edberg, Courier, Becker, Chang, and Rafter. Then you have the late 70’s early 80’s period when Connors, Borg, McEnroe, Lendl were all legitimate top 10 all-timers playing at the same time. That doesn’t even count their other competition, guys like Ashe, Vilas, Nastase, and Gerulaitis.
To give you an idea how I stand. I tend to feel that a WAC football team that goes 12-0 is probably not as good as a 10-2 team from the SEC, but it really is impossible to compare eras in a way that is fair to all involved. So the only thing to do is say that Roger Federer is GREAT in big bold letters. He has done all that could possibly be asked of a tennis player. He has dominated most of what has been put in front of him and done it with class.
Yesterday was a great match that would be remembered regardless of the history made, but made it was and now Roger stands alone on the Grand Slam podium with his 15 titles. Roger, thank you for the memory of your accomplishment. You really are the greatest ever, but taking a page from Laver, so is he, Borg, Connors, and Sampras.