Roger Federer Passes Sampras for the All-Time Record of Weeks Spent at No. 1

Benjamin J. BlockCorrespondent IIJuly 16, 2012

Roger Federer Passes Sampras for the All-Time Record of Weeks Spent at No. 1

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    As of Monday July 16, 2012, Roger Federer passes Pete Sampras for the most weeks spent at No. 1 in the World with 287 and counting.

    He just won his seventh Wimbledon title and he's approaching the wrong side of 30 years old, but Federer continues to break records and quiet the nay-sayers. 

    According to the Associated Press, Federer reflects on the record.

    "I had set a goal with my team to try and get back to the top of the rankings, but I never thought with the depth in the game this year that I would have been able to get it back so quickly," Federer said. "I am extremely proud and honored to have beaten Pete's record as he was my childhood hero and I have always looked up to him."

    This accomplishment for Federer is of similar status to Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Jerry Rice's all-time receptions of 1,549 and Bill Russell's 11 championships.

    Now that Roger Federer has set the all-time record, why don't we take a look at some of the other tennis greats that he has surpassed. 

Pistol Pete Sampras

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    When you hear the name Pete Sampras, you automatically think of tennis royalty and a great champion. 

    To this day, every time I step on the court I try to emulate that classic hump-backed posture, with my tongue hanging out of my mouth, and my foot pointed toward the sky as I rock back in my serving motion.

    Sampras was everything that was right about tennis.  He played hard, he was humble in both victory and defeat and he was the perfect role model for younger tennis players growing up. 

    When the ATP asked Sampras about his reaction to Federer eclipsing his record of 286 weeks at World No. 1, he had nothing but complimentary things to say. 

    "Great effort. The hardest thing to do in sports is the ability to stay on top. Roger has been able to do so by great play and durability."  

    If anyone knows three things about great play and durability, it's Pistol Pete. 

    In a sports world where success and stature is measured by championships, Pete Sampras has an extensive list of career highlights, but here are just a few defining stats: 

    14 Grand Slam singles titles

    Seven Wimbledon titles

    From 1993-1998, he became the first player in ATP history to have six consecutive years, eclipsing Jimmy Connor's record of five straight.

The Powerful Lendl

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    The 6'2", 175-pound Czech Ivan Lendl was a force to be reckoned with back in the '80s. Besides being one of the innovators of power, strength and incredible fitness in the men's game, his greatest accomplishment might be that he ranks third behind Federer and Sampras with 270 weeks at World No. 1.

    Nothing about Lendl was flashy, but his mental toughness and will to win were unparalleled to anybody else on tour for a number of years.  

    Some of the young studs in today's game should watch old footage of Lendl dismantling opponents with his power game.  As long as Lendl is Andy Murray's coach, I bet it will only be a matter of when the kid breaks through and wins a Grand Slam singles title.

    Before a bad back caused him to retire after the 1994 U.S. Open, Lendl amassed a pretty nice resume which included eight Major singles titles and an astonishing career Win-Loss record of .805.

How Could Anybody Ever Forget About Jimmy?!

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    At fourth all-time with 268 weeks at World No.1, it's yours truly, Jimmy Connors.  Now here's a guy that never disappointed crowds with a lack of effort or enthusiasm.  Hell, he spent as much effort getting into it with the crowds and umpires as he did actually playing tennis.

    If there was one thing this guy had though, it was guts and fortitude.  He always wanted to win, and pair that with his uncanny shot-making ability and longevity, and that's exactly why he spent 268 weeks on top of the tennis world.

    For years Connors was one of the most must-watch men's tennis players, and even though his mouth and behavior caused a lot of controversy, he'll forever be remembered as a winner.  

    Some forget that Connors had been World No. 1 five straight years between 1974-78, which was an all-time record before Sampras came along and eclipsed that with six straight of his own between 1993-1998.

    Connors was that guy where you either loved him or you hated him, but despite his on-court behavior, he was one of the most incredible winners that tennis has ever had. 

Johnny Mac

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    Nice, quiet and respectable are three adjectives that sane tennis fans would not use to describe John McEnroe.

    McEnroe was a bit temperamental—or just mental—sometimes, but this guy was overflowing with talent and may have had the greatest hands in the history of the game. Mac was one of the greatest ever at net and was like an artist the way he carved up opponents.

    It should be no shock that he is fifth on the list with 170 weeks at World No. 1.

    He demanded perfection from himself, and the linesmen and umpires, of course!

    After you get past his obnoxious on-court behavior, you realize that the guy won 17 Major titles, seven of which were Major singles titles and 10 which were Major doubles titles.

Bjorn Borg

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    Sixth on this list with 109 weeks at World No. 1 is the tall, lanky, blond-haired, head-band-wearing Swede Bjorn Borg.  If you blinked, you might have missed one of the greatest and shortest careers in tennis history.

    Borg's career is most likely defined by his six French Open singles titles. He used to own Roland Garros, that is until a Spaniard by the name of Rafael Nadal came along—but we'll get to him next. 

    Borg had an unconventional greatness about him.  He could anticipate any shot and just had an ability to grind out matches with his speed and endurance.

    I compare him to the Great Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers. Both men left their sport way too early, but the time that they did spend competing was something to be remembered.

    Just imagine if Borg hadn't retired just before turning 26.

RAFA!

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    At seventh, having spent 102 weeks as World No. 1, we have Rafael Nadal.  In all likelihood, Nadal will not end up seventh on this list when his career is all said and done, but lets acknowledge his accomplishments thus far.

    To match his seventh ranking on this list, Nadal has seven French Open singles titles, overtaking Bjorn Borg's previous record of six.

    This Spanish lefty has given the word athleticism a whole new meaning.  There isn't a ball he can't chase down or a shot he can't execute. He plays with this unmatched intensity and often resembles a bull in a china shop when taking care of business on the court.  He maintains a humble and respectful outlook for the game and those that came before him, but when he's between the lines, he plays with reckless abandon.

    There's a lot more to come from him, no doubt. It'll be fun to see where he ends up on this list when it's all said and done.

All-American Bad-Boy

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    After spending 101 weeks at World No. 1, Andre Agassi lands at the eight spot on the list.

    He came onto the scene in 1986 as a 16-year-old with acid-wash jean shorts, long hair and a bad-boy image, but most importantly he had some serious game.  

    Hands down, he had one of the best returns of serve you have ever seen and an awesome shot-making ability, where he made opponents look silly and things look easy.  He was one of the best at running players side-to-side and had a high tennis IQ.

    His first of eight majors came in 1992 at Wimbledon and after enduring a mid-career collapse when he fell to 141st in the world in 1997, Andre probably played his best tennis in his late 20s, early 30s.

    He was always compared to Pete Sampras, since both were American and had come up through the ranks at the same time.  They had their battles, but Sampras' skill-set won out more often than not.  Agassi can hang his hat on the fact that he won a French Open title, the one thing Pete could never do.

    I hate to say that Agassi was a wasted talent because he did accomplish the career Grand Slam and he did compile eight Major singles titles total, but he seemed to lose focus at times in his career (aka the Brooke Shields era).

    You can't help but wonder what would have been if he had dedicated himself during the mid-to-late '90s instead of being more concerned with his image than his substance of play.

The Man from Down Under

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    At ninth, it's the former World No. 1 from down under who spent 80 weeks there, Lleyton Hewitt

    2001 was the year of Lleyton, when he beat Pete Sampras in the U.S. Open Final for his first Major singles title and then went on to become World No. 1 

    I can remember the time when this guy was like a blur on the court. There was nobody faster than him during the years where he held down the World No. 1 spot. He was gritty, tough and always had a flare for the dramatic. 

    What defined Hewitt's legacy was the fact that he peaked just at the right time. At the time that he was dominating the men's game Sampras and Agassi were declining, and it was also just before Federer found his dominance and took over the tennis world. He also didn't have to worry about Nadal and Djokovic back then. 

    To his credit, I think he played to his highest potential at the right time and made the most out of his 80 weeks on top.

Stefan Edberg

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    Rounding out this group of the top 10 men's tennis players to hold the title of World No. 1 is Stefan Edberg with 72 weeks.

    Edberg is Swedish just like his countryman Bjorn Borg, but that is where the comparisons end.  

    Edberg was a great serve and volley player with a nice backhand, and while nothing about him was like poetry in motion, he did enforce his dominance in 1990 and 1991 when he was No. 1 in the world.

    Edberg played in an era jam-packed with talented guys like Sampras, Agassi, Courier, Chang and Boris Becker, but had an imposing style of play that enabled him to carve out his place in history.

    Winning six Grand Slam singles titles in a 14-year career, having spent two years at World No. 1, isn't a bad résumé at all.

Roger Federer Tribute

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    Former World No. 1's and other tennis icons speak to Roger Federer's significant achievement.