Roger Federer has already set a new standard of excellence in men's tennis. A second French Open title would again raise the bar.
On Friday, Fed dispatched tough Frenchman Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. The win puts Federer in the fourth round or deeper in nine straight French Open appearances.
The 31-year-old won his lone French Open title in 2009; but he's been the runner-up four times and reached the semifinals twice. To think this is by far his weakest Grand Slam event puts into perspective just how stellar his career has been.
His 17 career Grand Slam titles are already tops all-time. If his career didn't overlap with the clay-court genius of Rafael Nadal, Federer would have had more success at Roland Garros. After all, Rafa is the reason he was runner-up four times.
What sets Federer apart from other greats is his longevity. He's still an elite player with his 32nd birthday approaching later this year.
He's won nine tournament titles since he turned 30. Winning the 2013 French Open with Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the field would only further solidify his post-30 proficiency.
Last year was a great for him, as he won Wimbledon for the first time in three years; he reached the gold-medal match at the London Olympics and regained the No. 1 world ranking. Although he relinquished it to Djokovic in November 2012, no one has spent more time in his career atop the world rankings (302 weeks).
Federer is currently ranked third, but he will surpass the idle Andy Murray for second if he reaches the semifinals at Roland Garros. Sustaining the momentum he created in 2012 could again push Djokovic for the top spot.
If 2012 was Fed's last big year, it would have been great for his legacy. But to win another Grand Slam event this late in his career, over the two best players in the world, on his least favorite of the three primary surfaces would be an amazing accomplishment.
If he faces and defeats Nadal in the final—their earliest possible meeting—it would be the biggest victory of his legendary career.
All of the factors involved: age, surface and competition say that Fed should be fading from relevance. But that couldn't be further from reality.
Federer doesn't need to win another tournament to be in the greatest-of-all-time discussion. However, if he captures the 2013 French Open title, the conversation will begin and end with him.
*statistic information per ATPWorldTour.com
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