The Reuters global sports blog
Is Federer now the G.O.A.T?
We’ve heard what some of the great and good of tennis have said about Roger Federer’s achievements but can we now rank him as the best player ever to have picked up a racket? Here, Ossian Shine considers the arguments, while in the post below Miles Evans urges a spot of caution.
At first it looked as though the world’s tennis pundits were bickering about whether or not Roger Federer was a herbivorous bovid.
But what in fact was grabbing their goat was whether or not the Swiss phenomenon was the GOAT – or Greatest Of All Time.
The argument is likely to rage for years, or at least unless Federer grabs so many grand slam singles titles that he kills off the claim of his own hero Rod Laver.
Federer now sits level with Pete Sampras on a record 14 major singles wins, but pips the American in the GOAT stakes by virtue of the fact that Federer has won all four grand slam titles — Australian, French and U.S. Opens, plus Wimbledon — whereas Sampras never conquered Paris.
Despite all the froth this sort of argument excites, Federer refuses to get caught up in it.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever know who is the greatest of all-time, but I’m very proud to be up there. How well did I do? Good, great, very great or medium, I don’t know. It’s for others to decide,” is his level-headed approach.
Aside from Federer, the player with the greatest claim to the GOAT title is perhaps Rod Laver who won three fewer grand slam singles crowns than Federer and Sampras, but whose 11 came in a career interrupted by his decision to turn professional in an era when tennis was an amateur sport.
Laver himself says he does not believe in such a title and that it is not possible to compare different eras. His fans, however, point to the fact that Laver won calendar grand slams (all four majors in a season) twice — in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a pro.
Eight times grand slam champion Ivan Lendl’s solution is to agree that Laver was the best of the amateur era and that Federer is the best of the professional players.
But even that is not enough for some pundits who ask how can Federer lay claim to being the best tennis player of all time when he has not been the world’s best player for the past year and seems incapable of bettering current world number one Rafael Nadal.
That point would seem to be a spurious one, however. Every great champion reaches his peak and faces a slow decline as younger, faster, fitter players emerge. That should not be allowed to tarnish his achievements.
Interestingly, one very distinct voice refusing to cite Federer’s record against Nadal as a chink in his armour is the Spaniard himself.
PHOTO: Switzerland’s Roger Federer holds each of his 14 Grand Slam tennis trophies in this combination image from file photos. (From bottom R to top L) Wimbledon 2003, Australia 2004, Wimbledon 2004, U.S. 2004, Wimbledon 2005, U.S. 2005, Australia 2006, Wimbledon 2006, U.S. 2006, Australia 2007, Wimbledon 2007, U.S. 2007, U.S. 2008, French 2009. REUTERS/Staff/Files