Roger Federer will retire sitting third on the record of most males’s grand slam titles – behind each of his closest, most career-defining rivals in Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
He additionally ends with dropping information in opposition to each males – 16-24 in opposition to Nadal, 23-27 in opposition to Djokovic. His report of essentially the most weeks as world No.1 by a person was taken from him by Djokovic final yr. He’s lengthy been third for many Masters 1000 titles. He by no means received an Olympics singles gold, not like Nadal.
None of that issues within the least, although. As a result of the legacy that Federer leaves behind, his influence on the game as a complete, his unprecedented common reputation and the unequalled grace, poise and brilliance with which he performed all make his standing as tennis’ ‘GOAT’ all however unquestionable.
At the least on this writer’s opinion.
Data in sport are fleeting – they’re, because the previous saying goes, made to be damaged.
In time, maybe even Nadal’s 22 grand slam wins and counting, or Djokovic’s report ought to he surpass the Spaniard, will likely be damaged as nicely, for another younger upstart to surpass.
However it’s fairly one other factor to go away a mark in your sport as indelible because the one Federer has left on tennis. In case you want proof of that, take a look at the unbelievable, on the spot response from around the globe to his retirement announcement on Thursday evening (AEST).
Channel 9 had Todd Woodbridge and Alicia Molik available previous midnight to wax lyrical about his extraordinary profession. Followers in every single place took to social media to share their devastation, put up highlights and reminisce.
The present males’s world primary, Carlos Alcaraz, summed issues up completely:
Needless to say this has come greater than 12 months since Federer’s final skilled recreation, at Wimbledon in 2021. All of the whereas, accidents repeatedly forestalled any comebacks, noticed his rating plummet first outdoors the world’s high 10, then the highest 50, and the final lingering hope followers had of him staving off Nadal and Djokovic surpassing his grand slam tally dissipated.
Just like the Queen’s passing (I’m conscious that there are some sizeable limits to this analogy), information of Federer’s retirement was removed from surprising, however no much less poignant or emotional for it.
Maybe Nadal or Djokovic – Rafa particularly – may have the identical outpouring of emotion as soon as they resolve to name it quits. However I’d argue not even the legendary Serena Williams, who not like Federer had the feelings dialled as much as 11 with a strong farewell tour on the US Open simply weeks in the past, had a send-off fairly this all-encompassing.
Many sports activities have nice champions, iconic figures who dominate the statistics, win and win and win and win, and obtain adulation for it. Federer is exclusive in that, for a big chunk of his profession, he has performed second and even third fiddle to Nadal and Djokovic; often dropping to them in main tournaments even whereas his report remained intact.
It’d be like Pele working into Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi whereas he was nonetheless taking part in.
Some will argue that this standing diminishes his claims on GOAT standing. For me, it enhances it.
For Federer’s tennis legacy goes far past his on-court exploits, in a means that Nadal and positively Djokovic by no means really have.
He’s a participant who can in some way face a participant at their residence occasion, and nonetheless have the vast majority of the gang on his aspect – as he did in opposition to John Millman on the 2020 Australian Open, to a lot shock.
Regardless of being at its soul a person sport, international locations have an attention-grabbing connection to gamers ‘representing’ them on the world stage, and invariably need them to succeed – take a look at the way in which Australia has obtained behind Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic at latest slams, for instance. However Federer by no means belonged to merely Switzerland – he was an honourary citizen of any nation he confirmed up in.
His philanthropic work, absolutely, performs a component – however then once more, Nadal and Djokovic too are unbelievable beneficiant with their money and time. Nadal particularly is liked for possessing a lot of Federer’s off-court attributes – humility, class and beauty are traits each males share.
But if Nadal’s type of tennis was the essence of willpower and resilience, admirable extra for his sheer pressure of will than the spectacle itself, Federer’s was undeniably lovely in each conference.
Easily roaming the court docket with an innate potential to hit essentially the most attractive of winners off each forehand and backhand wings, he’d drop jaws with trick photographs, paint the strains with surgical precision, and present the deftest contact to ever be seen on a tennis court docket. All of the whereas being cheered on by tens of millions, if not billions.
I’ve usually thought of Nadal and Djokovic to play tennis as if perfected by an algorithm: relentless, ruthless if not barely monotonous at occasions. Federer’s type at all times felt so extremely human: artistry in movement, he’d make extra errors, shank extra forehands, ship extra backhands crashing into the online – however in between make us gasp, or giggle, or sing, or simply stare open-mouthed at his newest miracle.
Nadal and Djokovic are tennis automata – so ridiculously superior that they provide not the slightest probability of replication, and even to problem them is like going through essentially the most clever supercomputer particularly designed to fulfil its objective.
Federer, in distinction, impressed devotion partly as a result of his type appeared, if not reachable in idea, then reachable in creativeness: he’s the way you wished you could possibly play tennis when you have been a little bit higher.
He’s beloved among the many followers, however maybe much more so by his fellow gamers. He received the peer-voted Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award 13 occasions in 14 years between 2004 and 2017; it’s value noting too that as his profession wound down, it has been Nadal to win 4 in a row, having lastly not needed to compete with the Swiss nice any longer.
My key level in all of that is that there’s, to my thoughts, a distinction between the ‘greatest’ in a sure discipline, and the ‘biggest’. The previous implies a sporting superiority that’s immediately debatable, paradoxically each immediately quantifiable and rarely ever certifiable, and largely fleeting.
Greatness, however, runs deeper, lasts longer, and is more durable to catch. You’ll by no means be capable to measure how a lot affect Federer has had on the sport, how many individuals fell in love with tennis by means of watching him and what number of would keep up till silly o’clock all around the globe to observe him play.
However the proof is there each time he stepped onto the court docket, and a tidal wave of sound would unfold throughout the world; or for a extra instant instance, in the way in which the world – and never simply the tennis world – has come collectively to replicate upon his retirement.
It’s even achieved the inconceivable and obtained Piers Morgan sounding cheap. Absolutely that’s value an additional grand slam or two.
Djokovic and Nadal each have arguably stronger claims on the ‘greatest’ title than Federer, however points such because the occasions wherein they performed – the previous duo hit their primes with Roger passing his – the disparity between matches on Nadal’s most well-liked floor of clay and Federer’s on grass, and plenty of different elements make this a neverending debate that can by no means have a solution.
Actually, we’re fortunate to have witnessed, in the identical era, three gamers so worthy of the ‘GOAT’ moniker as to make it deserving of debate within the first place.
Greatness goes past the bodily. It transcends particular sports activities – hell, it transcends sport generally. It’s inconceivable to measure like taking part in information and statistics. You’ll be able to’t, in any case, ever calculate love.
In a lot the identical means as boxing is perpetually linked with Muhammad Ali, or baseball with Babe Ruth, or cricket with Don Bradman, or gymnastics with Nadia Comenaci, Roger Federer is greater than only a titan of tennis. For therefore many individuals, he is tennis.
Wherever he leads to the record of all-time greats when the final tennis ball is struck in anger in a thousand generations’ time, there will likely be no forgetting Roger Federer.
So long as folks watch movies, THAT level in opposition to Nadal within the 2017 Australian Open closing will likely be shared and reshared, to please a era of followers.
So long as championship factors are performed, folks will bear in mind the time he had and spurned two of them within the 2019 Wimbledon decider to Djokovic, and really feel sick about it yet again.
So long as up-and-coming younger abilities emerge with a brisk forehand and a need to play attacking photographs, they are going to be in comparison with the person who crafted that type in his personal picture, inspiring generations to observe – a lot of whom he’d find yourself taking part in earlier than the tip.
It could take one other hundred years to return throughout an athlete as universally admired and beloved. And it’s that, greater than any title Roger Federer ever received, that can stay his enduring legacy, and the largest and greatest cause to enshrine him as tennis’ biggest ever.