Roger Federer last week won his 18th Grand Slam title since joining the professional circuit in 1998, solidifying himself as one of the greatest players to ever play the game.
His playing style on the court and mastery of the one handed backhand has spawned many imitations. One such example is former world number 13 Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov who’s likeness to Federer has earned him the nickname ‘Baby Fed’.
After a layoff of 6-months from the sport it could be disputed that the Swiss champion was no longer able to play at the high standard of tennis with which he dominated the ATP circuit over the years.
However, in his first major tournament back from his break Federer stated that the most important thing was to get back enjoying his tennis and playing in front of the crowd again.
In a post-match interview after beating unseeded German Mischa Zverev in the Australian Open quarter final, Roger said that this is as far as he will go in the competition.
He went on to beat Rafael Nadal in a five set thriller on court Rod Laver, a rivalry which has helped create this legacy.
The rivalry between Federer and Nadal is one that will be talked about in years to come as one of the greats alongside McEnroe v Borg, Courier v Sampras and Williams v Williams.
The pinnacle of their rivalry came in July 2008 in the men’s singles final of Wimbledon. Both players playing in their prime. Rafa was just off the back of his 4th consecutive French Open dubbing him ‘The King of Clay’ and Roger on the verge of winning an unprecedented 6 Wimbledon titles in a row.
Having gone two sets down, Federer looked like becoming the first player in history to come back from a two set deficit in the Wimbledon history winning the third and fourth sets in tie-breakers. The final set was eventually won Nadal nine games to seven.
The significance of the match was that many fans and analysts alike thought it to be the beginning of the end of Federer’s career. The loss saw him slip from the top spot of the world rankings which he held for 128 weeks before being over taken by Nadal in August of that year.
While his talent and credentials alone would merit Federer as one of the all-time greats, it was his resilience in the dethroning to Nadal that qualifies him as potentially the best of the open era.
In 2009 he returned to Wimbledon for the first time in his career, a runner-up. The exclusion of Rafa from the main draw due to injury meant Federer was favourite to take the title. He did so in beating American Andy Roddick in five sets, claiming his coveted 6th Wimbledon title and also sending a message to Nadal as he knocked him off the top spot.
While Roger Federer, just like all sporting professionals has dips in form and are prone to the effects of old age, a concept which all athletes try to prolong.
The 2012 London Olympics seemed to be a turning point in the career of the aging champion. For the first time competing in the games, having been Switzerland’s national sporting icon for so many years, he wasn’t the flag bearer for the opening ceremony. This was an honour taken by up and coming tennis star Stan Wawrinka.
Federer lost the gold medal match to future world number one and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Federer was reportedly retiring after the games and was expecting to cap off his career with a gold medal.
A significant night in Federer’s career which etched his name further into history came on 11 Januray 2015. Roger beat Canadian Milos Raonic in a warm up tournament in Brisbane to pick up his 1000th professional career win, a feat only matched by two other players in open era history.
Having won a record number of Grand Slams, sat at world number one for over two years, won over $100 million in prize money alone and won the Olympic gold medal, there is one achievement that has slipped away from Federer. Without tarnishing his career, the ideal climax to Roger’s career would have been the longest unbeaten streak.
Federer came close to beating Bjorn Borg’s 1978 record of 49 consecutive wins in 2007 with the run being stopped at 41 victories.
At 35-years of age, Roger Federer could happily retire as not only one of the greatest tennis players of all time but also as one of the greatest athletes of the 21st century. Off the back of an Australian Open win however, it would appear that Federer will be looking to secure his 8th Wimbledon title.