By Alex P. Vidal
The long wait is finally over.
When Sportsmail launched it’s brilliant new Hall of Fame to celebrate the greatest sporting champions in history on November 14, it picked as its inaugural inductee the best tennis player in the history of the game, 17-time champion Roger Federer.
I have always considered Federer to be the best tennis player in the world–better than my hitherto all-time favorites Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. Back in 2007, I wrote a glowing editorial about the phenom from Basel, Switzerland in the Daily Informer after he won the three major titles that year– Australian Open, Wimbledon Open, and US open.
Born on August 8, 1981, Federer, who owns 17 grand slams has the following sparkling conquests: Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010); French Open (2009); Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012); US Open (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008); Olympic silver medalist in 2012.
Tennis correspondent Mike Dickson explained why Federer has to be first in record-breaking champion, ballstriker of balletic beauty, citizen of the world. Dickson believed “that might just be a fair approximation if you try to summarize the life and career of Roger Federer to date.”
Arguably more than any other active athlete, Federer can boast a unique combination encompassing sheer weight of achievement, carried off in a style that is hugely pleasing to the eye, while generally conducting himself in an exemplary way inside and out of his chosen sporting arena, Dickson explained.
Since the days when Federer displayed, by his own admission, somewhat brattish tendencies as a junior, the 32-year-old Swiss has done it all and in a brutally competitive environment, he further observed. “Singles tennis is a worldwide individual sport which draws talent from most corners of the earth, with no different classes, weights or sub-divisions, involving a relentless schedule of play and travel,” Dickson wrote.
Each week, Sportsmail team of writers will nominate their latest pick and write why they are being included.
Dickson observed that Federer has become one of a select few athletes who transcend sport, as illustrated by a poll of 50,000 people across 25 countries two years ago.
When presented with a list of 54 global figures it found that he was ranked, in terms of trust and respect, second only to Nelson Mandela.
“Of course, like all men, Federer is not perfect and it would be impossible to achieve all he has done in a gladiatorial pursuit such as tennis without having a tough inner core and something of an edge, however well he manages to conceal it,” Dickson emphasized.
He is entering that period of his career when, inevitably, the losses are starting to come more freely, but if there is a decline it is coming from an astonishingly high starting point. Listing everything he has won is too arduous, but perhaps the simplest illustrations are 17 Grand Slam titles across all surfaces and 302 weeks ranked as the world No 1.
Delve deeper and there are other statistics which are, possibly, even more jawdropping. From Wimbledon 2004 to the 2010 Australian Open he went 23 Grand Slams in making the semi-finals or better, a run which is 13 more than any other man in history.
His staggering consistency is further shown in the streak of 36 quarter-finals or better that stretched up to this summer’s Wimbledon.