Monday, 8 June 2009

Federer: One of the all-time greats!

Yesterday's French Open victory for Roger Federer surely confirmed him as one of the all time greats of tennis if not the greatest player to have ever played the game. After Raphael Nadal's shock defeat earlier in the tournament, I along with most other tennis fans wondered whether Federer could seize the moment and achieve the ultimate tennis prize by claiming the elusive Grand Slam.

I have to say that I was really pleased for him. No matter what sports you follow it's always a privilege to know when you're watching one the true greats of that particular sport.

Even after Nadal's defeat you couldn't say with 100% certainty that Federer would go onto to claim the French Open title. Regardless of how great a Champion he is, I was sure that there must have been doubts and anxieties in his own mind as he progressed through the rounds.

Federer even admitted this himself when he spoke about the difficulty in maintaining his focus during the final, and not getting carried away with thoughts of what winning the tournament would mean for him and his place in history.

It's easy to forget sometimes just how difficult it is to complete the Men's Grand Slam in tennis. In 25 years of following tennis Federer is only the second player I've watched to have done so. Andre Agassi did it in 1999 and Federer is now one of only six players in the history of tennis.

It really is something special when you begin to look back at some of the great players from previous eras who couldn't complete the Grand Slam. Names such as Sampras, Becker, McEnroe, Conners, and Borg. None of whom managed to win the French Open except for Borg.

Playing on clay seems to present a totally different set of challenges then grass and hard courts, but it should be remembered that Federer had played in 3 previous French Open finals so he was no 'mug' as they say on the surface, he just happened to come up against the greatest clay court player ever in Nadal!

The question now is that after completing the Grand Slam and equaling Sampras' record of 14 Slam titles, how many more can he win? I think he could potentially reach 20. He's still only 27 and I can see him playing for at least another 5 to 6 years.

Of course we still have Nadal who could quite easily do the Grand Slam as well if he wins the US Open, but there are issues concerning the state of his knees. The way he plays, he puts a huge amount of pressure on his body so we'll have to see how many years at the top he still has left.

Out of the two I think I've always been very much a Nadal fan, as I've always loved his raw power and aggression in his play more so than Federer’s cool, calm, classic style. I did however become really endeared to Federer following his defeat to Nadal at the Australian Open this year.

When giving his congratulatory speech to Nadal he broke down in tears as the pain of another defeat to Nadal began to sink in. At that moment the respect I had for him grew even greater as I thought that's what a real champion is all about. Despite the countless Grand Slams and career wins, he still had that desire to keep winning, to keep breaking records, and the pain of losing still meant so much to him.

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