So here we are again, it's early February and the dust has begun to settle after the first Grand Slam of the year down under.
Having watched Roger Federer not only extend his record-breaking consecutive Grand Slam semi-final count to 23, but masterfully manipulated and annihilated Andy Murray in the Australian Open final, it is once again abundantly clear that Federer is still setting that bar high for consistency in 2010.
In fact, ''high'' is an understatement.
Federer's stats reign unimaginably supreme over all other sportsmen of this era. The Michael Schumacher's, the Tiger Wood's, the Michael Jordan's: they don't hold a candle to this man's scorching consistency.
He's reached 18 of the last 19 grand slam finals, broken only by just the one semi-final; he's been at No. 1 in the world since February 2004, barring only a brief spell at No. 2 for 30 weeks or so; and he's only weeks away from having the all-time record for total weeks at No. 1, with 268 (He's chasing Sampras' 286 weeks).
Take Wimbledon for one.
He's reached seven consecutive finals (2003-09) and won six, losing only one to Nadal, in which he was two points away from winning. At 28, he's likely to break the record of total Wimbledon victories (7), or at the least match it. He is regarded by most as the Grass Court King of just about any era, with a 65-match winning streak to his name, despite the shortness of the grass court season.
Take the U.S. Open.
He's reached six finals in a row—again losing only one—and again, he was two points away from winning. Furthermore, has a 40-match winning streak to his name at Flushing Meadows, and a hard court record-winning streak of 56 matches.
Simply mind-blowing stats.
Just when you think that's enough, there's the surface of clay, which despite the fact that he's in the pathway of arguably one of the greatest clay courters of all time, Rafael Nadal, has still managed to clock up almost unmatchable consistency.
As a matter of fact, he has reached more French Open consecutive semi-finals than the Spaniard himself, and with four consecutive French Open finals and the 2009 victory, he's even cemented his place in clay courters' history as a true great.
I can go on and on, but by now it's clear. Federer's choke hold on men's tennis is such, that with every upcoming Slam, it's almost a given he has a spot in the final.
However, there is of course the other side of Federer: his ability to manage himself to perfection. It's been over 10 years since he missed a Slam, and considering how deep he goes in each one, that's an unthinkable feat.
And while his closest competitors—the Nadal's, Del Potro's and Djokovic's—are going down with injury, one can't help but feel that this is part of the reason why he is so competitive, so dominant.
Being Irish and studying history regularly, I can't help but draw a rather unusual, but nonetheless relevant, parallel to Roger Federer.
In Ireland during World War II, all supplies including food, coal, gas, turf, and just about any other source of fuel, was rationed severely by the Irish Government as supplies were cut off from England. These years were known as the years of ''The Emergency'' in Ireland, and times were very tough.
The government decided to employ men to go around from house to house to ensure that gas was not being used during ''off hours," or the hours in which fuel could not be used. These hours consisted of most of the day.
The feeling among the general Irish people was that these restrictions were far too harsh, and anger was soon directed towards the men who went around checking the houses (''men'' had now been turned to singular, as the people referred to the man who checks their houses became known as ''the Glimmer Man'').
It was said that these men were ruthless, and had no hesitation in charging an extremely hefty fine. People spoke about how when the Glimmer Man came along it was ''lights out time.'' They even came up with the now famous line, ''Glory be the Glimmer Man,'' putting a sarcastic slant on it.
Newspapers began publishing cartoons mocking the ''Glimmer Man," showing illustrations of a man who had all the features, looking sort of like the Boogie Man. One such illustration shows an elderly woman who is starving, attempting to open a gas oven, only to find the ugly Glimmer Man inside ready to charge her.
The common perception of these men across Ireland as the evil Glimmer Man began to develop. Soon it was considered common knowledge that the Glimmer Man was always there; you always had to watch out at any second, because at any time, he could pop out, whether you were rich, poor, or anywhere in between.
It was a foregone conclusion, that at some time or other the Glimmer Man would stop you.
Federer has no doubt become the Glimmer Man of men's tennis.
While some may see Nadal as an exception to this, his injuries will not allow him to compete with Federer's fitness.
His consistency has allowed him to reach almost every grand slam final in the past five years. He's stopped the runs of Marcos Baghdatis (Aus Open 2006), Fernando Gonzalez (Aus Open 2007), Robin Soderling (French Open 2009), the players who made their breakthroughs, only to hit the inevitable, Roger Federer.
The same has happened to Murray on two occasions (U.S. Open 2008 being the other). He had a fantastic tournament, but ultimately he hit the Glimmer Man.
There are no doubt players who will get away, or even defeat him, like del Potro (U.S. Open 2009), but it is becoming a cert that if you want to be very successful in slams, you have to answer to Federer.
You'll be lucky to win one without facing him.
The fact is, Roger Federer, for now at age 28 and for the foreseeable future, will always put himself up there in the Slams, always be around the business end of tournaments, and he'll always have his test ready for the opponent. It sounds like nothing special, but he does this more than any other sportsman in his time, or any other time.
So if you have an excellent tournament in tennis terms, it better be in fitness terms, and mental, and in just about every other sense. Then you'll have a chance, maybe even a good one, but if you don't, lights out.
The Glimmer Man is here.
P.S. I'm going for a crazy prediction this year, Federer to win the Grand Slam, I might write about it next. As many of his rivals struggle for fitness, and many many other factors, I have a sneaky feeling. I made a €10 bet with odds of 32/1, they are now down to 9/1! Look forward to writing again :)
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