Many sports critics regard Roger Federer as the greatest player to ever grace the sport of tennis. At the same time, there are some fans of the sport that constantly do their best to undermine Federer’s accomplishment. One of the most popular ways to do so, seems to be by creating the argument that Roger Federer obtained all the accolades he did because he played in a weak era of tennis.
That idea in itself is weak. It is an insult to several other strong players that were unfortunate to coincide with and have been part of Roger Federer’s age group. Federer did not win all he did because he had no competition, but rather, because he was too good at what he did.
One could mark the beginning of the “Federer era” at Wimbledon 2003, when he raised his first major trophy. It is much harder, though, to mark its end. The moment in which the Federer era officially ended might be the 2010 Australian Open. That year in Melbourne, Federer raised his record 16th major title. It is also the major tournament in which his also record streak of 23 consecutive grand slam semifinals would end. After the 2010 Australian Open, Federer would go nine majors without hoisting another trophy.
Now that the Federer era has been book-ended, it is time to look at its facts. Between Wimbledon in 2003 and the Australian Open in 2010, Roger Federer took 16 out of 27 majors played. No other run in the history of the sport is as impressive as that. Between 2004-07 alone, Federer’s prime, he took 11 out of 16, which was unheard of up to that point.
Many detractors point to the moment in which Rafael Nadal won his first of two Wimbledon titles in 2008, as the beginning of a newer and stronger era. This of course, is mainly done to further subtract from Federer’s achievements. This would mean the “strong era” of tennis began when Federer was already almost 27 years old and reaching the end of his peak years. Even so, 18 majors have been played since then, and Federer still took five of those. Not too shabby for a player past his prime.
Entering this past season, Roger Federer had three clear goals in mind, all of which he achieved. The first, was to win another Wimbledon title; the second, was to return to the No. 1 ranking, and the third was to medal at the Olympic Games. Federer did all that, beating players five to six years younger than him. This year’s success begs the question: how was Federer able to accomplish such things if most of his prime belongs in a weak era?
That is easy to answer. His period of dominance was as strong of an era as the current one. Federer was just at a much higher level than most. When he was in the midst of his dominance, the only one able to defeat him in a grand slam tournament was Rafael Nadal, and throughout most of his prime they only met at two majors: Roland Garros, where Nadal has established himself as the greatest clay court player ever, and Wimbledon.
2012 may arguably go down as one of the best if not the best year of Federer’s career when all is said and done. While it is true that there were other years in which he won more titles and totally dominated the major tournaments, if one puts it into perspective, 2012 might be slightly more significant.
This past season was the first in which Federer was past the three-decade threshold for a full campaign. If one couples that with his being a husband and father of two three-year old twins, there was a lot on his plate all year long.
This year Federer won a total of six titles, participated in 10 finals, and was World No. 1 for a third of the year. It must be said that in terms of trophies hoisted and finals won, 2012 was his best campaign since 2007. More importantly, he proved to himself and the world that despite his age, he still has some more tennis to give.
At the same time, he showed detractors that he was not the benefactor of a weak era of tennis, yet that he might have deprived his age group contemporaries from their own taste of greatness. I personally would not be surprised if Roger Federer won another major trophy next year and several other titles, and frankly, neither should you.