Melbourne: Greatness. Class. Humility. The personification of these three words brings an image of a certain Swissman to mind, who has time and again triumphed braved all odds and proved why he is perhaps the greatest, to have ever stepped foot on a tennis court.
Roger Federer’s career, at 36 has turned out to be more like wine. The older he gets, the better he becomes. His 20th Grand Slam title win in the form of the Australian Open on Sunday is just a testimony to the above statement.
The year 2017 was one to remember for Federer. Miami Masters, Indian Wells, Shanghai, name it all and he’s won it. Coming back from a knee surgery, the right-handed Swissman began the season with an Australian Open win. The biggest of them all was at the Wimbledon where he won his eighth title without dropping a single set in the entire competition, which took his Grand Slam tally to 19.
Statistically, Federer is by far the greatest ever tennis player. After a four-year drought where he hadn’t won a slam, the scintillating Swissman has come back to win three of the last five available.
Out of the total of 200 men’s singles titles that have been won ever since tennis became a professional sport in 1968, Federer has won an unprecedented 20, i.e 10% of what has been on offer. Extraordinary, isn’t it?
No wonder former tennis great Rod Laver, who won 11 Grand Slams from 1960-1969, points out Federer as the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) when he said, “For me, I think Roger Federer is certainly the greatest player that has come along.”
“He’s stood the test of time — that’s probably the one thing that puts you in that category of the best ever. That’s one of the things that he has done. He loves the game, and everything he does around his life is somewhere related to all the great (things he has done),” added Laver.
Federer was at his gladiatorial best against Croatian Marin Cilic in the Australian Open final on Sunday and yet, he didn’t have it easy against his opponent, who posed a challenge to the maestro.
Playing out a five-set thriller under the closed stadium roof at the Rod Laver Court, Federer, who entered the contest as the favourite was too hot to handle for Cilic, who had to settle for a 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 loss in an enthralling battle that lasted for three hours. His tears of joy at the end of the match, told the entire story.
Federer was dominant in the first set where he easily won and was looking good for a straight sets victory but the Croatian bounced back to edge past him in the second set.
The third set once again belonged to Federer but was denied once again in the fourth by Cilic, who put up a tough fight. But nothing could get in the way of Federer clinching his 20th Grand Slam and sixth Australian Open title as the world witnessed a legend take great strides to achieve immortality in world sports.
Federer who turns 37 this August is now only the second oldest man behind Ken Rosewall also has four more titles than Rafael Nadal and is only the same number away from Margaret Court all-time record holder with 24 Grand Slams.
Truly that number isn’t far if the Swiss great continues to march into rare territory and the time isn’t far when Federer himself becomes the measuring stick for greatness.