Earlier this year,Roger Federer won his 16th grand slam and further solidified his status as the greatest male tennis player of all time. Not only did he win, but he did so in impressive fashion, beating Andy Murray in straight sets.
Tennis fans are somewhat split on who they consider to be the best to ever play the game. Federer's main competition has pretty widely been narrowed down to Pete Sampras.
There are plenty of men who make the argument very interesting if you narrow it down to surfaces. But when you are talking about consistent, overall performance, the evidence incontrovertibly leads to Roger Federer.
I am a huge Sampras fan, but when it comes to deciding who is a better tennis player when the two played at separate times, certain factors and statistics cannot be overlooked.
This goes especially for the two men in question because so many of their records coincide with one another: Grand Slam titles won, consecutive weeks at No. 1, and performance at certain grand slams, just to name a few.
I won’t even count Federer winning the only meeting between the two since Sampras was close to retirement at the time.
These two champions have quite a bit in common but the Swiss has moved faster and is still going strong.
Federer won his 16 slams out of 27 played while Sampras needed 47 to win his 14. Sampras has won seven Wimbledon titles but Federer won five in a row and currently holds six.
Fed is the only male tennis player to win five consecutive grand slams at two separate events (Wimbledon and US Open).
Fed is the first male tennis player to win his first four grand slam finals. He’s in the lead for consecutive weeks at No. 1, as well as at consecutive grand slam semifinal appearances with 23.
The list goes on.
He is tied with Sampras in a few categories but again, he is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s already said he plans on staying on the tour long enough to have his twin daughters watch him play.
Some argue that Federer cannot possibly be considered the greatest of all time because Rafael Nadal ”owns” him. When you look at the Federer-Nadal rivalry, it’s important to break down their head-to-head.
Let me preface this by saying that I think Nadal is the most dominant clay court player of all time.
This is my theory.
Nadal leads their head-to-head, 13-7. And 11 of these matches took place on clay courts, with Nadal winning nine and only three on grass, with Fed winning two.
As I said before, Nadal is a beast on the clay. But Federer is a close second and is certainly the best right now on grass. The fact that so many of their matches have been on clay supports the idea that Fed is second best on that surface and the best on everything else.
Many of these matches happened with them holding the top two spots in the world. So Roger is getting to the finals on clay where nine times out of 11, he has lost to Nadal.
Nadal, however, is not performing the same way on other surfaces and getting to the finals where he would, in all likelihood, face Federer.
My point is that if Nadal performed better on hard and grass courts, there would have been way more meetings between the two in the finals on those surfaces, and there is no doubt in my mind that it would bring their head-to-head numbers a little closer.
For those who say Federer would have no chance if Rafa were injury-free, please know that’s part of it.
Federer manages to stay relatively healthy year after year by playing efficiently and training smart. I do not know a lot about Rafa’s training regimen. All I’m saying is that something is wrong when a 23 year old man is taking chunks of time off the tour to deal with injuries. Meanwhile, Roger Federer is almost 30 and still going strong.
Longevity matters in this game, not short bursts of impressive performances. These are fun to watch but do not carry much weight in this particular argument.
The fact is that success in the professional tennis world is ultimately measured by grand slam championships.
Roger Federer has set records that no one ever imagined, and that seem to be unbreakable. It is so difficult to dominate on the ATP tour, and Federer has been doing it and proved that he can continue to do so with his latest grand slam title.