STARNBERG, October 26, 2022 (Guest Post)
There was not a dry eye in the house when Roger Federer announced his retirement. The tennis icon called it a day on his legendary career following his final match. Fittingly, it was a doubles match alongside arguably his all-time greatest competitive rival Rafael Nadal, at the Laver Cup.
Born in Basel, Switzerland to a Swiss-German father and a South African mother, Federer took an interest in tennis at an early age. He was a ball boy at his hometown Basel tournament, a Swiss indoors tournament. He played his first junior match in 1996 at the age of 14 in his home country before going on to play in the boy’s tournament at Wimbledon in 1998.
It was at this time he won both the boys’ singles final over Irakli Labadze, and in doubles teamed with Olivier Rochus defeating the team of Michaël Llodra and Andy Ram. He also reached the boys’ US Open Final that same year in a losing effort to David Nalbandian. He finished his junior career with four ITF singles tournament wins, becoming the No.1 junior player by the time he had finished.
What would follow is arguably the greatest career of any men’s’ singles competitor in the history of the sport, setting several records. He won an incredible 20 grand slam titles, including five consecutive US Open titles, 8 at Wimbledon and 369 grand slam wins. He has set records for consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals, consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals and grand slam appearances. He was ranked No. 1 in the world for a record 237 consecutive weeks and set the record with 783 hard court wins and 192 grass court wins. He has been a pillar of sporting greatness for two decades and usually headed into iconic tournaments link Wimbledon as the favourite in the sports betting.
His longevity means that he has stood across the court from some of the greatest competitors the sport has ever seen, building some strong competitive rivalries along the way. Former No. 1 Andy Murray first met Federer on the court in 2005 at an ATP Tour event in Bangkok which Federer won. He did not have much success over the Brit in the matches that would follow but towards the end of his career the Swiss ace would consistently get one over on him. This was no more prevalent than at the Wimbledon 2012 final where Federer claimed his record 17th major title.
The polarising Novak Djokovic has also been a long-time Rival of Federer. Although Federer beat Djokovic consistently in the latter’s early career, they would eventually trade wins leading up to their historic 2019 Wimbledon final game. Federer was a game point away from winning the Wimbledon Championships but couldn’t hold on to the point and lost the finals in a 5-set encounter. Djokovic leads the icon in victories with 27 to Federer’s 23 proving just how tight of a rivalry this was.
However, undoubtably his strongest rivalry was when he would face off against Spanish star Rafael Nadal. Aside from being the greatest rivalry in their respective careers, it has become one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the sport. They played each other in all the French Open and Wimbledon finals from 2006 to 2008 and their meeting at the Wimbledon 2008 Final is considered to be one of the best tennis matches in history.
For many of us Roger Federer is the greatest mens player of all time, and it is hard to argue against that. Although he sits narrowly behind Nadal and Djokovic respectively for Grand Slam title wins, his numerous spells on the sidelines through injury are perhaps the only reason he doesn’t top that list.
However, his injuries are what makes his longevity even more impressive, playing all the way to 41-years-old and even managing to reach the quarter-finals at nearly 40. Over the course of his career he has amassed an eye watering $130,594,339 in prize money and has done so with elegance and grace, consistently being one of the strongest sporting role models in the world.
The only regret is that he couldn’t have started earlier and finished later, to allow him to play some of the greatest before his time. He himself has stated that his dream opponent would be the enigmatic Bjorn Borg. John McEnroe would have undoubtably have been a great foe of his, his polarising figure reflecting that of Djokovic.
Whether you think he is the GOAT or not, no one can deny that Roger Federer’s career has been incredible. Not just for his skill but his impeccable character on and off the court. He has often shunned the limelight, rejecting a flashy lifestyle for a quiet home life with his family. A consummate professional and great man beyond that, his legacy is indelible and he will forever be remembered as a true sporting great