Roger Federer: An Aging King? So Much More

Adam AzmiCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2010

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 17:  Roger Federer of Switzerland sits on the bench at the end of his singles final match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day seven of the 2010 Shanghai Rolex Masters at the Shanghai Qi Zhong Tennis Center on October 17, 2010 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Roger Federer.

These two words have been the pinnacle of tennis for almost as long as anyone can remember. He’s dominated the tennis world for so long and awed many en route to the top.

His credentials: 16 Grand Slam titles, 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 and 23 consecutive semifinals speak for themselves. But to use these mere words to describe him, well, it doesn't do much justice to the achievements that this man has accomplished.

It's 2010, the king has only won one Grand Slam title, his 16th. He's reached two quarterfinals at the Slams and lost a five-set thriller to a player six years younger than himself in the semifinals of the US Open.

He’s won three titles this year (for now), coincidentally his most recent title, The Stockholm Open is his 64th. However, this is considered one of his worst years.

This much of an achievement would be considered a monumental year for any player on the tour, but Roger Federer is not just any player. He’s so much more.

To fully understand the situation, let us take a few steps back. A few years back to be precise.

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It’s the summer of 2001, Wimbledon. Pete Sampras, riding a 31-match winning streak in the tournament met a 15th-ranked unknown 19-year-old. It was supposed to be a clear-cut win for Pete undoubtedly.

It wasn't.

The teen went on to win the match in five sets, 7–6(7), 5–7, 6–4, 6–7(2), 7–5.The teen's name? Roger Federer.

It’s 2003. Wimbledon. Mark Philippoussis became the first to experience the bare greatness of the soon-to-be king. Sweeping the Australian in straights. Hoisting his first grand slam trophy.

Then came 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and the rest was history.

Or so it seems.

He's 29 now and winning less and less. Tournaments that used to be haven for him became obstacles, player that used to be swept away became the waves, and pundits who used to favor him so began writing him off.

Downplaying him as if he was a has-been. Comparing his greatness to younger players   as if neglecting all the amazing things he has presented to us.

People began to find chinks in his armor. Undermining his accomplishments, making it seem like they were minuscule.

And then came the "weak era,” the "Rafa Factor," The "Grand Slam" ploy. All aimed to obstruct his claim to be the greatest of all time.

Is that all there is to Roger Federer? Another candidate for the GOAT? There's so much more.

In the "Weak Era" debate, a writer bluntly stated that Federer could be said to have found the crown of tennis in a bush and put it on his head.

Well, that may be true to some extent, but to put it in a more correct situation, Federer claimed the crown of tennis in a more Arthurian method.

In the time of turmoil, where a king has passed and the peasants were in need of a new king. A boy came and pulled the sword out of the stone and became one the finest kings ever.

So is the case with Federer. After the retirement of King Pete, the tennis world was in dire need of a new star, a new king.

Many tried to claim that spot: Roddick, Hewitt, Safin and Ferrero wrested the crown back and forth, desperately trying to hold on.

And then came Federer. People had expected him to usurp to greatness but never in such dominant, effortless and graceful manner.

Maybe it was a coincidence that Federer had hoisted the Holy Grail of tennis, Wimbledon for his first conquest or maybe it was destiny. Who would ever imagine that destiny would make him into a king like never before.

During his era of dominance, his success might have overshadowed the actual effect he had on the game. He didn't just conquer; he transcended the sport to new heights we had never expected.

The savior, the messiah of tennis. He was a champion, but his game didn't just break the serves of his opponents but broke through the hearts of millions.

The art of his game, the graceful footwork, the liquid whip and his all-around game were not of this world. Breathtaking rallies he engaged in or "Federer moments" as fans have christened it have inspired millions whether it was his amazing backhand flick, his US open tweener.

His name became an instant definition of the sport itself. He was a champion unlike we've ever seen before.

Not a Sampras, not an Agassi, not a Borg or a Laver. He was Roger Federer.

He changed the way people looked at sport indefinitely. Something past champions weren't able to accomplish as well as he did.

Why is Federer so special? Why do we Fed fans believe that he can accomplish the impossible?

Simple. Unlike most champions Federer gives us hope that he can pull through to accomplish the impossible.

Win a career slam? No problem. Come back from match point two sets down? Sure, why not?

He’s the type of guy we like to call the People's Champion. People want to see him win, wish for it badly. His pain is our pain. His joy is our joy. 

Every time he wins, we feel like we're part of his victory. It’s not that Federer fans are delusional, but it's just that if there is one person who can do this.

It’s Roger.

Current players like Rafa, Djokovic and Murray may have all the guns to take him down. But the support that Federer gets is not from his wins.

Rafa may win more titles, but the charisma that Federer possesses is unsurpassable by any standards, much like how Tiger Woods was worshipped by his fans.

Federer's humility towards his fans is something tennis fans have never really experienced.

King Pete was considered dull, Andre was a bit wild, Borg was very private, and McEnroe was dynamite. But Roger was plain old Roger. That's what makes him special.

He's a real person. He's not an enigma. Off the court, he's not trying to be somebody. If you met him at McDonald's and you didn't know who he was, you would have no idea that he's one of the best athletes in the world.

The funny thing is Roger had been lauded as the GOAT way before he won his 16th Grand Slam title unlike other champions who HAD to achieve before they could even be acknowledged as a candidate.

There is no doubt in everyone's minds that Federer is the GOAT and his Grand Slam tally only consolidates it.

What he’s done over the past five years has never, ever been done—and probably will never, ever happen again. Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever.

This just confirms it. Now that he has won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game.

I’m a huge Laver fan, and he had a few years in there where he didn’t have an opportunity to win majors. But you can’t compare the eras. And in this era, the competition is much more fierce than Rod’s".

Yes, a new era is coming and Rafael Nadal is the front runner much like Federer. Competitors such as Djokovic and Murray provide challenges much like Hewitt and Roddick did to Federer.

There is no denying that no player even Federer can escape the trials of time. But believe this, no matter how many champions come and go, the king's contribution to the sport will always be immortalized.

There's probably not a department in his game that couldn't be considered the best in that department.

You watch him play Hewitt and everybody marvels at Hewitt's speed, as well as myself. And you start to realize, `Is it possible Federer even moves better?'

Then you watch him play Andy [Roddick], and you go,`Andy has a big forehand. Is it possible Federer's forehand is the best in the game?'

You watch him at the net, you watch him serve-volley somebody that doesn't return so well and you put him up there with the best in every department.

You see him play from the ground against those that play from the ground for a living, and argue he does it better than anybody.

An aging king?

There's so much more.