What the players say about Roger Federer

June 8, 2009

federerWith the French Open trophy tucked under his arm at long last, it was job done for Roger Federer.

He now owns a record-equalling 14th grand slam crown and became only the sixth man to complete a career grand slam of the four majors.

So where does this leave him amongst the greats?

Pete Sampras, the man who knows his days in the record books are now numbered after Federer equalled his tally of 14 slams, Billie Jean King and Andre Agassi were quick to hail the Swiss master as the greatest ever racket-swinger in the sport.

Others were not so sure.

“Roger now has the best record in the Open era but it’s simply impossible to compare his records to the amateur era players,” Jim Courier, who competes on Outback Champions Series tennis circuit, told Reuters.

“With this win, I would put Roger’s record up against any of the all time greats and he still has plenty of runway to add to it if he stays healthy. The greatest open era achievements that spring to mind — (Rod) Laver’s slam, Sampras’s 14 majors. Sampras’s six years in a row as season ending number one, (Ivan) Lendl’s 8 U.S. Open finals in a row, Federer’s five Wimbledons and five U.S. Opens (and counting) in a row and Federer’s semifinal or better streak at a major (still counting).”

The American’s sentiment was also shared by Sweden’s Mats Wilander.

The one thing that there is no doubt about is that Federer is head and shoulders above everyone who has picked up a tennis racket when it comes to talent.

“Roger’s got too many shots, too much talent in one body,” Australian great Laver, observed.
“It’s hardly fair that one person can do all this — his backhands, his forehands, volleys, serving, his court position … the way he moves around the court, you feel like he’s barely touching the ground, and that’s the sign of a great champion.”

However, one cannot forget that Laver and Bjorn Borg could have hoarded many more than the 11 slams they each won if circumstances had not conspired against them.

Laver, the only man to have won two calendar Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969, was banned from entering the amateur-only grand slams from 1963 to 67 after turning professional.

Having remained dominant throughout the period, it is easy to speculate that Laver would almost certainly have won several more majors from the 20 he was forced to miss.

Borg won his first slam at 18 and by 26, he had turned his back on the sport.

The other thing also that needs to be taken into account is the hold his great rival Rafael Nadal has over him. The Spaniard has a 13-7 record over the Swiss, so how can a player who is being considered the greatest have such an inferior record against one of his own peers?

So where does that leave Federer in the pecking order?

The Swiss said: “I think it should be judged at the very end. How well did I do? Good? Great? Very good? Or medium? It’s for other people to decide.”

PHOTO: Roger Federer poses next to the Eiffel Tower during a photocall in Paris, June 8, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I find it strange that you bring Borg in to support your position.If a person retires voluntarily with no physical injury to prevent them playing that means to me they weren’t up to the challenge mentally.Certainly they made a choice not to compete. Borg for me cannot be included with those who faced themselves and the trials and tribulations of a career in the public eye,like Federer,Sampras,Aggassi,MacEnroe, etc. I agree with Roger,he should be judged at the end.However I think the players who have played him already believe they have not seen anything like his game before; Aggassi,Henman, and many others have said this.

Posted by Fran | Report as abusive

Who is Mats Wilander to keep opening his mouth? Federer can be compared to Laver only, he has got the all around perfect game. Borg quit the game because he was losing dominance. That was his fault, couldn’t deal with McEnroe. Mats was average at best.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

Love that guy!! I”ve never heard a bad word about him…I”ve never been fortunate enugh to go to one of his matches but he always seems so kind and gracious…always whether he sins or loses.
Just out of cruiosity tho..”Whats with the BLUE SHIRT? Is it his luckY shirt like Tiger’s RED SHIRT?

Posted by Fran Hoye | Report as abusive

We all very conveniently forget two things – 1. during Laver’s era, the grand slams were basically played on two types of surfaces only, 2. the beauty of Roger’s game cann’t be measured

Posted by ooolala | Report as abusive

Roger is by far the best, 15 finals out of 16 slams? Nobody can compare. Mats Wilander has to find something else to do. He was a boring baseliner. He just wants to see his name in the papers, and Jim Courier, how high did he ever get in the rankings. The real class acts and champions like Sampras and Laver know a king when they see one.

Posted by lisa | Report as abusive

Mr. Federer is a champion player and is definitely with out any doubt the best player ever. let this kind soul enjoy his recent accomplishment. and we should all hope he continues to play this wonderful sport for a long long time because he is a amazing skill to watch.

Posted by amy | Report as abusive

It’s easier to bash people who have so much including grace & multi-lingual eloquence out of sheer envy. MW & JC wanted to be counted when their opinions aren’t worth the time to type them.

Posted by s adams | Report as abusive

I think that Federer is one of the greatest tennis players!! He has class! Only this French open made
me years older, because there were days that I was not
sure if he will make the finals and then the next moment
he played a super shot! and won the game!

Posted by Gerba de Klerk | Report as abusive

He is the best! So beautiful to watch, so eloquent in speech, so open and generous with his fellow players, fans, the press.

Watch every match he plays because its transitory and we will soon be left with tennis without Roger F. I wish it could go on forever!

Posted by tennis fan | Report as abusive

About Rod Lavers achievement of winning all four slams in one year – Know this all and sundry, three of the four slams were played on grass. Only French was played on clay. Now ask your self how many slams would Federer have won if three of the four slams were on grass and one on clay. How many slams would Pete Sampras have won if three of the four slams were on grass?

Rod’s achievements were great, but they are overhyped. Also do consider that today tennis is a global sport with millions of televised audience. All this leads to greater competition as people all over the globe want to get a compete. Back in Rod’s days all the trophies were parcelled amongst four or five good tennis players. So there is this element of individual achievement that is Inflated as the ratio of good tournaments to good players was much higher in the past.

Considering all this, Federer’s achievement of winning on FOUR different surfaces (Yes Rebound Ace is different than US hard court) is far superior to Rod’s achievement of winning on grass and clay.

Posted by JSmith | Report as abusive

I totally agree with Fran. If a person retired voluntarily, the “what if” question can’t be applied to them. And we can only apply this “what if” question very very reluctantly to Rod. If we apply the same question to Roger, we can conclude that he would’ve won 3 – 4 french opens by now. And that would put him lightyears beyond any one else. What i see is happening right now,it seems Rod’s status is forever protected by this “can’t compare history – what if” thing. When a younger Roger had only won 10 slams or less, of course he couldn’t be compared to Rod because, well, he won less. And now when he has won 14, he still can’t be compared, because, well, we can’t compare eras and because of the “what if” question.

Let us apply the “what if” question to both, and see what comes out:
– in five years that Rod was not allowed to play, how many could he have won? even very optimistically, I’d say 10. So that put him at what, 21? That’s a godly number.

– now, if nadal had never been born, how many Roger could’ve gotten? 3 French + 1 wimbledon + 1 aust + 14 exsiting. Hah, 19. Not shabby at all, is it? who’s to say Roger can’t get 2 more?

Posted by Paul | Report as abusive

Federer is having a great career. His style and grace on court is matchless. He’s already one of the greatest players ever. It’s just that now statistics are backing him up. But his play, his talent, can never be measured.

Posted by cazeep | Report as abusive

[…] What the players say about Roger Federer […]

Posted by The Ultimate disc golf show/ Team Gateway | Golf Swing Trainer Beginning | Report as abusive

Jim Courier does know a thing or two about tennis, Lisa. And he got to world number one, since you ask.

Posted by TennisBlogger | Report as abusive

I am amazed at so many nay sayers when the rest of the greatest ever contenders are unanimous in saying Roger is the best. If Pete and Rod say Roger is the best then he is the best. They know tennis better than anyone on these blogs. Period.

Posted by Hunter Green | Report as abusive

this is not well researched but i think generally is the case: i think re: laver it’s noteworthy that when he played his chief rivals were primarily australian (emerson, roche, newcombe…), a country of fewer people than the greater metro area of ny city. i think that speaks to the shallowness of talent at that time (69 and of even less depth of talent in 62 when it was essentially a club sport). now when u look at the top 20 players they are from all over the world (none from australia): spain, scotland, france, america, serbia, argentina, chile, switzerland…that speaks to the depth/breadth of the game, far greater now than ever before. bottom line, i think pre-open era tennis is not too relevant.

Posted by druf | Report as abusive

This argument that nadal has a “head to ehad” advantage over federer is really irrational, as it isnt federer’s fault that nadal COULDN’T EVEN REACH ONE FINAL of a US OPEN which federer DOMINATED by winnign 5 IN A ROW.
Nadal got a head to head advantage MAINLY due to FRENCH OPEN finals. But isn’t it strange Federer was ALWAYS there in french finals, but nadal NEVER EVEN MADE ONE us open final? By using head-head of just 3 SLAMS, you are rewarding nadal mfor his POOR US OPEN outings (0 finals) and OUNISHING federer for his amazing french open consistency: 3 finals + 1 win.

Posted by Reem Saied | Report as abusive

This argument that Nadal has a “head to head” advantage over Federer is really irrational, as it isn’t Federer’s fault that Nadal COULDN’T EVEN REACH ONE FINAL of a US OPEN which Federer DOMINATED by winning 5 IN A ROW.
Nadal got a head to head advantage MAINLY due to FRENCH OPEN finals. But isn’t it strange that Federer was ALWAYS there in French finals, but Nadal NEVER EVEN MADE ONE USOpen final? By using head-head of just 3 SLAMS, you are rewarding Nadal for his POOR US OPEN outings (0 finals) and PUNISHING Federer for his amazing french open consistency: 3 finals + 1 win.

Posted by Reem Saied | Report as abusive

Hang on Reem, Nadal got head-2-head advantage mainly through French Open titles? Have you forgotten last year’s Wimbledon final or this year’s epic in Melbourne? At least Nadal can say he beat Federer in his own backyard to win the Wimbledon title. Yes it’s not Federer’s fault that Nadal did not reach the Paris final last weekend but the great man himself was the first to admit: “I knew the day Rafa won’t be in the finals, I will be there, and I will win. I always knew that, and I believed in it.” While Nadal, for now, remains a blemish in his record, no one can take away the fact Federer has reached a record 20 consecutive slam semi-finals and contested 15 of the last 16 finals. Also, who knows, if it had not been for a bout of glandular fever last year, the 2008 Aussie Open and Wimbledon titles could also have been his.

Posted by Pritha Sarkar | Report as abusive

I think you can never compare between the ages and say who is the great.You cannot judge a player based on his achievements but based on how well he fought during dark periods.How well he came back to win.In that case i agree i havent seen other players but yes federer is the champion and the best i have seen.But u cannot underestimate the talents of everybody.Nadal for instance with his abilities to win wimbledon and australian open is awesome.Ofcourse federer is the best talent now but u may never know how he wud have played during those ages with less racquet technologies.Hence i believe be in the moment and appreciate each and every players talents is the best thing to do.

Posted by S.Kartheepan | Report as abusive

Comparisons of different era is a meaningless topic and a waste of time. For now, the intense comparison is Roger vs Rafa and even that it is overly biased and ridiculous.
With due respect, both are great players and regardless you are Rafa supporters or Roger supporters, give them their due respects for the great achievements and great pleasure they brought to the otherwise boring game of tennis in recent decade.
It seems that everywhere in the world is pin pointing Roger, just because he wins so many slams and yet has a deficit record against Rafa? To all tennis fans out there, be fair . No one seems to criticize Rafa or questions Rafa. Be fair and accept that each players are unique and special in their own ways. Accept the fact that other then Rafa, there is another charming great champion called Roger exists within the same era, and like it or not, at present (future we never know) Roger’s achievements far out-numbered and out-weighs Rafa.
This comparison is pointless and meaningless. Previously, Roger can’t be called the greatest because he never wins French, now that he has done it, remarks have shifted that he can’t be the greatest because he keep losing to Rafa, because the French has no Rafa final, and on and on. Why there is no one questioning Rafa that since he is so great why he cant even get in the US open final? Why he can’t even defend his French? When he is injured, everyone seems to sympathize him and miss him. When Roger is down with mono, nobody cares and even worse, writes him off as some old star on decline. What is wrong here?
On a day Roger beat Rafa? Because Rafa is not at his best, because he is injured, etc. On a day Rafa beat Roger? That is normal. End of Story. See what i mean? What it is that the world wants more out of Roger? It seems that as long as he cannot get ahead of Rafa in head-to head records, all his achievements is nothing. Poor guy. Let him have his day. He has achieved so much and please, do give him his due credits for what he is worthy off.
If you guys really want to compare Rafa with Roger? Wait till Rafa has a 20 continuous Slam semis, wait till Rafa has 14 Slams in his bags, and wait till Rafa has completed his own career slam. Then we are talking apple to apple.
Can he do it? Maybe , if his poor pair of legs can still run for another few years. Good luck.

Posted by TC Kang | Report as abusive

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Posted by Kishore | Report as abusive