Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Greatest of All-time? Yes.

roger_federer1I am certainly a man with a wandering sports mind, and during the sports year that sends me in all sorts of directions. One effect is that I end up watching certain events in sports that I don't know much about, but I have built it into my annual calendar. Such is the case in tennis, with the French Open Men's Final, the Wimbledon Final, and generally a few nights of US Open tennis the week before Labor Day.

I don't know tennis. I enjoy it, but I cannot name 5 men's players, I bet. It is enjoyable, but because of sports clutter, there just isn't a time where I can dedicate 2 weeks to a major, and therefore I swoop in for a few championship finals.

Which brings us to what happened this weekend. Roger Federer won his 14th major, and his first ever French Open. This completed his career grand slam, an accomplishment that only Andre Agassi had since the 1960's. Consider all of the amazing players of the last 40 years to not close that deal.

Over the last few years, I have really been intrigued at this athlete's pursuit of history. Since I very much enjoy athletic greatness, this pursuit has been worth the effort to tune in quite a bit. The emergence of Rafael Nadal has added to the intrigue because he seems to give Federer fits.

Are you also interested in greatness? Try to digest these two paragraphs from his wikipedia page:
Federer holds numerous records in the sport, including 14 Grand Slam men's singles titles (3 Australian Open, 1 French Open, 5 Wimbledon, 5 US Open), equalling the all-time record with Pete Sampras. Federer is only the sixth male player to achieve a career Grand Slam and the only player in history to reach the final of each Grand Slam tournament at least four times. Federer has made it to an unprecedented 20 consecutive Grand Slam singles semi-finals starting with the 2004 Wimbledon Championships, progressing to the final 17 times in that timespan with the only exceptions being the 2005 French Open, the 2005 Australian Open and the 2008 Australian Open. In addition, Federer has won 12 grand slam singles titles during this timeframe.

As of June 2009, Federer holds the record for reaching the semi-finals of 20 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments and has equaled Ivan Lendl's record of reaching 19 Grand Slam finals (non-consecutive). He is the only male to have played in the singles final of all four Grand Slams two years consecutively. As a result of Federer's success in tennis, he was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for 4 consecutive years (2005–08).

Those facts are just amazing. Is it Tiger Woods without the same American popularity? If he was one of us - say from Atlanta, instead of the finest Swiss athlete, would we be obsessed with him?

Here is a chart of the top 5 major winners in tennis history:

RankNameMajor WinsMajor Finals
1.Roger Federer1419
2.Pete Sampras1418
3.Roy Emerson1215
4.Rod Laver1117
5.Bjorn Borg1116

Table Tutorial

Absolutely remarkable to look at these staggering numbers.

When considering that Laver, Emerson, Agassi, and Federer are the only 4 tennis players since World War 2 to win the career slam, I was curious what cost some of the other greats:

* Pete Sampras: 0 French Opens, 0 French Open Finals.
* Bjorn Borg: 0 Australian, 0 US Open
* Ivan Lendl: 0 Wimbledon
* Jimmy Conners: 0 French
* John McEnroe: 0 Australian, 0 French
* Stefan Edberg: 0 French
* Boris Becker: 0 French
* Rafael Nadal: 0 US Open (it's pretty early)

For those of us who do not understand or really follow tennis, it is sure interesting that someone like Pete Sampras or Roger Federer can be so dominant to win 5 straight majors on one surface, but move him to the clay in France, and they cannot ever win a title (Until Sunday).

Here is the year-by-year, major-by-major rundown since Federer began winning majors in 2003:

YearAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS Open

Table Tutorial

Pretty remarkable stuff. As we head to Wimbledon, We see that Nadal may not play due to a knee injury, and that Federer could possibly become the first to ever win 15 majors. You may not know tennis, either. But, if you love greatness, Roger Federer deserves a little attention this summer.

Federer commercial I have never seen...

Federer gets the giggles

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