Roger Federer: Where Does He Rank Among the All-Time Tennis Greats?

Kevin PacelliCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2012

BASEL, SWITZERLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Roger Federer of Switzerland kisses the trophy after defeating Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the final during Day Seven of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Tennis at St Jakobshalle on November 7, 2010 in Basel, Switzerland.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Roger Federer fans around the world, their beloved Maestro is now 30 years old and well past his prime. With players like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reigning the ATP rankings, it seems as though his time as a superior player is quickly coming to a close.

Although it has been a discussion among tennis fans for a long time now, it's time to start seriously considering where the Swiss legend falls among the greatest players in the sport's history.

Federer's stats and achievements are certainly nothing short of incredible. He currently holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles with 16, and completed the Career Grand Slam at the 2009 French Open. His streak of 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 is another record that will most likely remain for a long time.

Based on these numbers alone, it is easy to say he is one of the greatest players of all time, and that is undoubtedly true. However, other players in history have shown similar success, and it is hard to say whether or not Fed is the best ever.

One major setback for Federer in the "greatest of all time" conversation is the lack of intense competition during his reign at No. 1. Some of the other players near the top of the men's game at the time were Andy Roddick, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin. All have Slam titles under their belt, but none will go down in history for their play.

Other players in the discussion experienced success comparable to Federer's during times that were much more competitive. Pete Sampras, for one, holds the record for most total weeks at No. 1 (286, one more than Federer) and won 14 Slams. His era of success saw several players who are considered some of the greatest today, including Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Boris Becker.

It isn't completely fair to use this argument against Roger; after all, who knows how good his competition would have been without the Maestro as an obstacle? Sampras' accolades were almost as impressive, though, and they become even more unbelievable when considering who he was up against. 

It is also important to note that when faced with the obstacle of one of the Greats, Federer could not retain his dominance. Rafa Nadal has been the "king of clay" for a long time now, and he has won six of the last seven French Opens. However, his first Slam title outside of Roland Garros came at Wimbledon of '08, so we can consider that point his emergence as a top player.

Since that Wimbledon, Federer has only won four Grand Slams. His career head-to-head record against the Spaniard is a disappointing 9-18.

This is quite a contrast from Sampras' performance in the presence of major competition. He beat Andre Agassi, his biggest rival, 20 times out of their 34 encounters.

Once again, it is difficult to say whether or not this is a fair comparison, since Nadal is arguably a better player than Agassi, but it does prevent Federer from being the clear greatest.

Another man by the name of Rod Laver also has something over Federer: the coveted calendar Grand Slam, which he won back in his historic 1969 season.

Had Federer accomplished the same feat, he would be widely accepted as the "greatest of all time" in tennis, but without that, it is hard to put him in front of Laver.

It is nearly impossible to argue that Roger Federer is not one of the greatest players in the history of tennis. His career accomplishments and records will likely remain untouched by future players for a long time. Regardless of whether or not he is a step above Sampras and Laver, one thing is for sure: his legacy will live on in tennis history forever.