Roger Federer's Potential Milestones at the 2012 French Open
The courts at Roland Garros, aka the French Open, hold a special place in Roger Federer's heart. It was here in Paris that he won a career-defining maiden title to complete the rare career Grand Slam in 2009, and it was here that he edged Novak Djokovic in an epic semifinal in four sets.
Granted, more could be said for it having been the seat of his deepest tennis sorrows—remember the final in 2008, a straight-sets drubbing by Nadal? Or the loss to Soderling in 2010 which ended his 23 Grand Slam semifinal streak? It was also at the French where he lost his first Grand Slam final in 2006, and where he last failed to reach the quarterfinals—in 2004.
As he embarks on this new stage of his career, however, the French seems to have become the source of new joys. In winning a dazzling semifinal against Djokovic last year, Federer reached his lone slam final of 2011, allowing him at least to claim that feat for an eighth consecutive year.
This year the same might elude him, and in the exact same form—a semifinal match against Novak Djokovic. It is the cruel age of his successors, Nadal and Djokovic. Even now Federer still plays to redefine records, for such have become his achievements that he breaks them just by winning matches.
It happened yesterday, when in defeating Romanian Adrian Ungur 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, he broke Jimmy Connors' record for the most Grand Slam wins by reaching the round sum of 234.
Here are some of the records Federer might set, equal and extend at the 2012 French Open.
Most Grand Slam Semifinals
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Federer currently stands at No. 2 in this regard, right behind the man he just surpassed in Grand Slam wins, Jimmy Connors.
The American, who played to his 39th year, reached his last Grand Slam semifinal in that 1991 year, at the US Open. In all, he accrued to his name 31 Grand Slam semifinal appearances.
Federer has a very winnable draw right into the semifinals at the 2012 French, with potential threats coming only at the quarterfinal stage, where he is seeded to face either Del Potro, Cilic, or Berdych. Should he get past them, however, he would reach his 31st slam semifinal, tying Connors' record.
Considering that Connors, so great a tennis legend, earned his 31st semifinal appearance only at 39, and that Federer is only months shy of his 31st birthday, it would be hard not to see him ultimately surpassing this record at some stage should he tie it at the French this year.
Most Wins at the French Open
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Another record he is likely to surpass at some stage after this tournament is that for the most wins at the French Open.
It might be the Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros right now, but it's interesting to note that the Spaniard doesn't hold the record for the most wins at the French Open—for now. Granted, he has only played in eight events thus far, winning six (and on course for his seventh of eight at the moment). He has won all of 46 matches at the French, No. 7 on the list.
Standing at No. 1 is Guillermo Vilas, who amassed 56 wins over 18 tournaments, followed by Ivan Lendl at 53 in 15 and Andre Agassi 51 in 17. Federer is tied at No. 3 at 51, although he could realistically become No. 2 by reaching the semifinals, and No. 1 by winning the title in a slightly more unrealistic scenario, to tie Vilas.
The 2012 tournament is only Federer's 14th appearance there, which would mean that a 56th match win would also be his 56th in the shortest time thus far.
Winning Every Grand Slam at Least Twice
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As improbable as winning the title and a 56th French Open match win, is this, which would be the same thing differently defined—winning every at least grand slam twice.
The rarest of achievements in tennis has traditionally been the calendar Grand Slam, or winning all four slams in the same year. Rod Laver managed that in 1969, the first and only time so far in the Open era.
Next best has been the career Grand Slam, or winning every slam at least once, not in a single calendar year, but over one's career. Three men have achieved this in the Open era since Laver—Andre Agassi in 1999, Federer in 2009, both at the French, and Nadal in 2010, at the US Open.
Perhaps ensconced between these two career milestones is a third, and so far unclaimed and unwritten—winning every slam at least twice over a career. Federer stands to do just this in 2012, and at every French Open he will play until he retires, because he's already won the other three multiple times, with four Australian Opens, six Wimbledons and five US Opens.
Its quite unlikely that this will come to pass, with Djokovic and Nadal blocking the way to the title. Should it happen, however, Federer would have yet again redefined the record books.
Grand Slam Records He Could Extend
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Federer has enjoyed such success in his career that he also stands to extend some of the records and streaks at the 2012 French.
Most notably, he could extend his record of 16 Grand Slam titles, which could become 17 with a win. The next highest tally is Pete Sampras' 14 majors.
Much more realistic is reaching his 32nd consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, a record which has come to monumentalise as much, if not even more, Federer's particularly extreme brand of tennis consistency and golden winning ways, as his other streak of 23 consecutive slam semifinals.
That went into abeyance two years ago at this tournament, but Federer could reach 32 in consecutive quarters appearances in two matches' time. It would put further distance between him and Jimmy Connors, whose record stood at 27 before the French Open last year.
Federer could also reach his 24th Grand Slam final, which would be his sixth overall at the French, and also extend his streak of reaching a Grand Slam final a year to nine years (currently 2003 to 2011). Ivan Lendl reached 19 and is second-best for most Grand Slam finals.
On a lighter note, Federer has lost the most French Open finals in the Open era with four, and could extend that, too, with a loss to Nadal.
Finally, to return to where we began, Federer could also further extend his most recently confirmed record as the winner of the most Grand Slam matches.