Tennis

Roger Federer: Is He Already the Best Ever?

PARIS - JUNE 01:  Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates during the Men's Singles Fourth Round match against Tommy Haas of Germany on day nine of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 1, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Lou DiPietroAnalyst IJune 3, 2009

He may no longer be No. 1 in the world, but don't be surprised if Roger Federer can reclaim that title. He won’t have to beat four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal to do it, but if Roger Federer wins the French Open and claims his record-tying, 14th Grand Slam singles title, it may cement him as the best player in ATP Tour history.

Why, you may ask? Simply put, he’s already the best, whether you think so or not.

So what if he has been No. 2 since late last year, when Nadal’s huge run to the U.S. Open finally ended Roger’s record four-and-a-half year reign on top. So what if the Spanish lefty was upset in the fourth round at Roland Garros, ending his 31-match winning streak at the event and ensuring that we won’t see a Federer vs. Nadal IV match in the finals.

In the words of many, but specifically Jesse “The Body” Ventura, "Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good."

To paraphrase Kid Rock, "Federer’s a pimp, you can check his stats."

A 14th Grand Slam singles championship would tie a record held by Pete Sampras, who most consider, at this point, to be the best ever to grace a court.

Sure, winning Grand Slams doesn’t always translate into overall success, especially at the French Open. Just ask Gaston Gaudio, Albert Costa, or even three-time champ Gustavo Kuerten.

Pistol Pete himself never even got to the French finals, only surviving the final four once in 13 tries, while Federer is a multi-time finalist and has reached 20 consecutive Grand Slam semis overall.

While he holds the record for most total weeks (287) at No. 1, it took Sampras 11 stints at the top to accumulate that record. Federer, meanwhile, did his in 237 consecutive weeks. That is pure dominance.

Add in 58 career titles and counting, four Masters Cup Year-End Titles, four ATP Tour Player of the Year awards, and nearly $50 million in career prize money, and you’ve got a resume that’s pretty hard to beat, let alone compete with.

So what if he can’t conquer that last demon, defeating Nadal on clay, this year. It took Nadal quite a few years to overcome Roger at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

He’ll have his chance and you can’t really measure greatness by a small sample in a highly specialized individual sport like tennis.

If you needed one more bit of proof that Federer is the truth, know this: It was Switzerland’s greatest export since chocolate that ended Pistol Pete’s 31-match Wimbledon winning streak.

The way he has played at Roland Garros so far, you might want to bet the farm on him toppling another of Sampras’ biggest marks come Sunday.

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