The Best of the Rest: The Men Behind Roger Federer In His Era
Since Federer's first Grand Slam victory on Grass in 2003, the biggest call against the one many call The Greatest That Ever Breathed, is the lack of competition in his era.
First off, I think there's something wrong with a sport and the way it is organized if in a time with larger communication, transport and sponsorship opportunity, there is anything but a deep pool of talent the world can watch go head to head.
The biggest point of them all is boxing, Heavyweight boxing in particular, it's critics are endless and they have a claim. However just because the good fights are not being made does not mean there is a lack of great heavyweight fighters. I am certain there are, but the money doesn't make the scouts go round anymore, and that's the problem, not to mention the corruption the sport has long had.
Not so the story of tennis, like golf, it's popularity never wanes, maybe in part due to the physical benefit of playing the sport and the ease of which you can get into it.
That said, whenever one player of all there are to behold is so untouchable, and so legendary in his accomplishments, there is always going to be that question mark, how is this possible?
I for one believe Federer just makes all the other players look worse than they actually are. Watching hours and hours of archive footage from matches in the era of Becker and Connors, if anything, a Top 20 ranked player today is better conditioned and more intelligent, and would probably beat the greats of yesteryear, but that's a bit controversial, so I won't get in too deep.
What I will showcase is in my opinion the ten greatest players below Federer who have played since his first Wimbledon Title in 2003.
10. Marat Safin
The true greatness of Safin will never be known, in reality, he was one of the most complete players in a physical aspect as there have been, better than Federer.
But they say any sport is 50 percent body and 50 percent mind, and I tend to agree, too bad for Safin; his mind was about 10 percent into tennis, maybe less.
Still in the Federer era, Safin is one of only four players to win a Grand Slam since Federer won his first, Safin won the 2005 Australian Open after beating Federer in the semifinal in an epic match for all time, and one of the few where Safin had the will and heart into it.
He made the Aussie Open Final the year before after beating Agassi in the semifinal but lost to Federer in a walk.
Safin had to deal with injury problems from late 2005 until last year, where he made a comeback by making the Wimbledon Semifinal, ultimately losing to Federer.
However, it should be noted Safin had 0 percent of his mind in that match and told reporters he had absolutely no chance at beating Federer.
Sigh, this could have been a great rivalry if Safin had a calmer head.
9. Fernando González
Here's a fun fact, what does Fernando Gonzales have that Federer doesn't have?
An Olympic Silver Medal, wait for it, in Singles!
Federer has yet to gain a medal period at the Olympics for single play while Gonzales captured Bronze in 2004 and Silver in 2008.
On the ATP, he has yet to win a single tournament, but the guy competes.
Since 2004, he has made the quarterfinals at a Slam four times, making the Final at the 2007 Aussie Open.
His best year came in 2006 however when he made it to the semifinal at three Master Series events and a final at another.
8. Andre Agassi
Yeah, Agassi played a damn long time, but he was damn good for that damn long.
In the Federer Era, Andre made a Slam Semifinal or better on three occasions, and a Slam Final at the 2005 U.S. Open, where he would lose to Federer. He then retired at the end of 2006.
He made a Master Series Semifinal or better seven times, winning his only title in the Federer Era in Cincinnati in 2004.
7. Andy Murray
Perhaps it isn't fair putting a guy who's only started to have success since 2007 on this list, but it's been pretty undeniable.
Murray made the Semifinals at three Master Series events before 2008.
In 2008, he exploded on the scene, winning two titles and making the Quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open Final.
He continued his success in 2009 making a final at one Master Series event and winning another.
Making the Quarterfinals at the French Open and a Semifinal at Wimbledon.
The future is bright for this Briton.
6. Nikolay Davydenko
Though the man is yet to make a Grand Slam Final, he is 2-0 in Master Series Finals, not counting his runner-up in the Tour Final in 2008.
In Slams, outside of Wimbledon, Davydenko has been a consistent contender, making the Semifinals four times at a Slam, and the Quarterfinals or better a total of nine times.
5. Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt has yet to win a title on the ATP tour since Federer won his first Wimbledon, but the Aussie has made strides.
He made two Slam Finals, in 04 and 05, and in total has made it to a Slam Quarterfinal or better 10 times in the Federer Era.
4. David Nalbandian
No, the guy is not retired, as far as I know he's just taking a bit of a break. Hip surgery, ya know?
In terms of Grand Slam success, he has only made one Final, at Wimbledon the year before Federer's Era began.
Since, he has made four Slam Semifinals.
The biggest reason I put him so high is his success against Federer when matched. Nalbandian beat Federer at the Tour Final in 2005, and also beat him in Madrid in 2007.
A total of three Master Series titles and four other finals.
His career has gone downhill, but from 2003-2006, he was one of few players on tour who could push and beat Federer, the greatest in his prime.
And David beat him a few times in 07 as well.
3. Novak Djokovic
As one of a select few to win a Slam in the Federer Era, Novak gets a high spot automatically.
In truth however, Djokovic made another Slam Final at the 2007 U.S. Open, in which he beat Federer, and in terms of consistency which he's lacked recently, Novak did have a streak of five consecutive Slam Semis or better, from 07-08.
He's won five Master Series, including the Tour Final in 08, and had made five other Master Series Finals, including a streak of three in a row in 2009.
2. Andy Roddick
The last world No. 1 number one before Federer, what a long time ago that was...
Roddick won his first, and to date only Grand Slam at the 2003 U.S. Open, he finished first on the money list for that season.
Since, it's been the Federer pill for Roddick.
Ace Andy lost three Slam Finals to Roger Federer, including back to back at Wimbledon in 04 and 05.
He's made his fifth Slam Final at 2009 Wimbledon, again against Federer.
In the Master Series Tournament, Roddick has won four and lost in two other Finals.
Consistency has been lacking as Roddick has lost early in Slam Tournaments on numerous occasions, yet still, in the Federer era he's made the Semifinal or better nine times...quite a mark, all thing considered.
Were it not for Federer stopping Andy in many of those Quarterfinal and Semifinal matchups, he could put up a better streak than he has.
1. Rafael Nadal
No surprise really, the only man to have won more than one Slam in the Federer era, and six at that.
Nadal made two other Slam Finals at Wimbledon losing to Federer, but is the only man to ever beat Federer in a Grand Slam Final, having done it five times, on three different surfaces. Ouch.
The only thing holding back Nadal from being better than Federer is time itself, and his style of play, some have called him a successor to the Federer throne, and although that may be true, winning 10 more Grand Slam titles will be anything but easy.
In terms of Master Series success, Nadal has won in 15 tournaments, including five in a row at Monte Carlo and three in a row at Rome.
He's made five other finals and won Olympic Gold for singles in 2008.