Roger Federer and Tiger Woods: Friends Heading in Different Directions

Paul F. VillarrealCorrespondent IJune 7, 2009

UNITED STATES - MARCH 21:  Tiger Woods and Roger Federer during a practice round at the CA Championship held at the Doral Resort and Spa on the Blue Monster Course in Miami, Florida on Wednesday, March 21, 2007.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Approximately 12 months ago, Tiger Woods was winning possibly the greatest of all his 14 major titles on one leg. It was an achievement so heroic and spectacular that it accomplished perhaps the hardest mission in all of sports—to elevate Woods' already incredible legacy.

In June of 2008, Roger Federer suffered one of the most humiliating losses of his career to rival Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

The defeat was so comprehensive that it seemed to call into question Federer's heart, or, at least, how much of his once-formidable skill he still possessed.

Such speculation proved justified. A short time after his fourth consecutive French Open victory, Nadal won his first Wimbledon title while simultaneously ending Federer's five-year reign as the King of Centre Court.

Even before the Wimbledon loss, the whispers had become shouts: Roger Federer was finished. Two Grand Slam titles away from Pete Sampras' record 14, not only would Federer never reach that mark, the critics asserted, he would likely never win even one more major.

What a difference a year makes.

Tiger Woods, by his own admission, is not fully rehabilitated from the reconstructive surgery he underwent on his left knee's anterior cruciate ligament. On Friday, Woods recorded his worst 18 hole stroke-play score in nearly two years at the Memorial Tournament.

What once was assumed to be a foregone conclusion, that Woods would surpass Jack Nicklaus' 18 career major championship victories, is no longer the lock it had so recently appeared to be.

Tiger Woods' knee will heal. His strength will return, in full.

The questions are how much, if at all, will his game be permanently affected by his surgery? How many major championships or other titles does he have to not win until the field no longer feels as though they cannot compete on his level? Will Tiger ever regain the aura of invincibility he had, just 52 weeks ago?

While an air of uncertainty has emerged around Eldrick Woods, clarity may be coming into focus an ocean away.

Roger Federer stands poised on the brink of permanent tennis divinity. Rafael Nadal's sole Roland Garros conqueror stands in his way. That man, Robin Soderling, is 0-9 in his career against Federer and is about to play in his first Grand Slam final.

If Roger Federer wins the 2009 French Open, he becomes the unquestioned greatest player in the history of men's tennis. 15,000 or so screaming fans will be seeking to help vocally carry Federer to victory come Sunday afternoon in Paris. Immortality awaits not only the Swiss Maestro, but those who would have been there to witness history.

A year ago, one of a pair of friends was being fitted for an emperor's robe that looked to be only slightly, and temporarily, beyond his reach. Roger Federer, conversely, was being appraised for his professional funeral casket.

While a sizable portion of America has turned its attention towards a different Prodigal Son narrative, a Tennis' global popularity">world is captivated by this story of two friends, one year that may have changed everything and a role reversal which even the Oracle of Delphi could not have foretold.


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