This year, he became the oldest number one in the game’s history – fourteen years on from first reaching the summit. This year, he became the second oldest man to win a slam after defeating Croat Marin Cilic in Melbourne. This year, he picked up his twentieth major trophy. He is once again challenging for the biggest honours in tennis after a barren five and a half year spell, in which he fell to a low of seventeenth, but he is back and there is no sign of Federer’s powers waning.
As impressive as his unrivalled record of success is the simplicity and elegance of his game. His style is magnificent and his movement majestic, he is a fan’s favourite for the way he swans across the court with elegance and ease, for the way he plays his one-handed background so smoothly. At 37 years of age, the manner in which he glides across the court in a fifth set tie-break with consummate ease, without breaking sweat, is marvellous.
He makes stupendous shots look simple while his opponent is physically and psychologically spent. His endurance was second-to-none for over a decade, and he still maintains the ability to go the distance against players 15 years his junior. He is a jack of all trades, master of all. One cannot pigeon-hole Federer, he has all the shots in his locker. A serve and volley specialist, a baseline technician able to dictate the tempo of play, he will occasionally throw-in a nifty, audacious, well-disguised drop-shot catching his opponent off guard.
He is also part of an elite club to have won all the slams (joined only by seven others) showing his versatility and adaptability. He has made the transition between hard, clay and grass court surfaces appear seamless year in, year out, which often proves a large obstacle for others on tour. If it weren’t for the brilliance of Rafael Nadal, Federer would have bagged himself countless more titles at Roland Garros. His prominence rose when, as a fresh-faced nineteen year-old, he knocked out reigning Wimbledon champion from the AELTC in 2001, and in the process, helped draw the curtains down on Sampras’s fabulous career. He has been a household name ever since.
But despite his exploits on court bringing fame and fortune, it appears not to have changed him as a person. A calm, mild-mannered gentleman – Federer always appears gracious and modest when he wins, and dignified in defeat. He is the perfect role model in various ways. It is always said people should create their own identity, but for young athletes aspiring to rise to the top, modelling aspects of your demeanour on Federer would do you no harm.
During the early years of his supremacy, only Nadal in Paris proved a thorn in his side, as Federer brushed past all others he encountered, marching on receiving cheque after cheque, trophy after trophy. Federer was eventually overtaken by the gritty determination of Nadal, and the flair of Djokovic. This is what makes Federer’s bounce-back to the summit of world tennis this year, even more remarkable. He may well look back once he hangs us his trainers and view this an equal accomplishment to the earlier stages of his career, when he blitzed all in his path.
He is starting to manage his schedule and selecting which tournaments he participates in, to reduce the physical strain top-level tennis has on an athlete’s body. While Federer is still impressing and showing signs he could well add to his record haul by winning Grand Slam number twenty-one, he is in the twilight of his career and we won’t be blessed with his presence on centre court each July for much longer.
Some say you cannot compare the achievements of players from different generations. It would be unfair to contrast Bjorn Borg with Federer, or Jimmy Conners with Rafael Nadal. But Federer will undoubtedly go down as the greatest male tennis player of all time, his dominance in the noughties will go unmatched for decades. Roger Federer, the ultimate GOAT.