Monday, July 6, 2009

Appreciating Roger Federer

First of all I have to make a confession: I’m no tennis expert. I’m not even a tennis fan. In fact, until this year I hardly ever watched tennis, and I still find myself struggling to enjoy the slow-paced, excessively long sport. However, even though my lack of expertise on the subject suggests that I would be better off writing about the mating habits of the bottle necked sea turtle, I would like to take some time and start off this self proclaimed sports blog with a few (or a bit more) words about the most recent of sporting events, a.k.a. Roger Federer beating Andy Roddick in a thrilling match to secure his 15 major, and his sixth Wimbledon title.

Now, many people have declared Federer the greatest tennis player of all time. I repeat: this is a statement I am not qualified to make. However, I can definitely make the statement that Federer has reached a completely different stratosphere as an athlete. Not only is Federer miles above the norm, he is also miles above the top. Federer as reached the level of those few select that we so fondly call the Greatest Of All Time. As basketball has Jordan, Magic, Larry and Kareem, as soccer has Pele and Maradona, as swimming has Phelps, as athletics have Carl Lewis – so has Roger Federer joined that elusive elite of the Tennis World.

Federer is the complete package. He dominates statistically – a record 15 major titles (including a record 20 major finals appearances), one of only three men to accomplish a career grand slam, a record 237 consecutive weeks as the #1 ranked player in the world. But more importantly, he has that attribute, that unnameable thing-a-ma-jig that makes great players incredible. The same thing that made a 34 year old Michael Jordan, few hours after being rendered incapable of leaving his bed, ring up the Utah Jazz for 38 points on June 11th 1997, is the thing that made Roger Federer keep playing with the same intensity, when he was atop the whole world with no competition for 5 years, and when he seemed on the low end of his career arc just a year ago.

Now, I am not one for gushiness. I find no joy in combining idolizing adjectives for the hell of it. But Roger Federer has completed his long-awaited introduction to the upper-echelon of athletes worldwide. The only question now is if Federer – still three years younger than Pete Sampras was when he won his last major title – will allow anybody to be above him.

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