Roger Federer burst on to the scene when he ousted defending champion Pete Sampras from 2001 Wimbledon championship in the 4th round. The 2001 championship is more known for the fairy tale journey of wild card entrant and 3 time finalist Goran Ivanisevic. Federer though did not make it beyond the quarters and lost in the very first round of the 2002 championship.
No one could have predicted at that time that this guy will become arguably the best player in the world. Federer won the Wimbledon 2003 by defeating Mark Philippoussis in the finals and what followed that victory was the stuff of legends. What struck me during that championship was the kind of ease with which Federer demolished his opponents. I remember Andy Roddick’s puzzled look in the semis when the champion kept passing him every time he played a great approach shot on his way to the net.
It was how Sampras in his prime used to play on grass. It is quite ironic that Federer who ended Sampras’s hold on Wimbledon will go on to break his Grand Slam record 8 years later. Federer was almost unbeatable for the next 3 years to come on all surfaces except for the clay, the only surface which Sampras was never able to master. Federer though had more success on that surface than Pete as his game was more suited to clay. But as far as the other Grand Slams go, there was only one winner until Nadal came on to the scene.
Nadal often met Federer in the French open finals and defeated him and reminded me of the South American players of the 90’s who were unbeatable on that surface. Nadal began that way, great on clay but could not translate that success to the other surfaces. But the only player who could challenge the domination of Federer during his prime was Nadal. The guy improved leaps and bounds on other surfaces and proved to be more than handful for the champion to put him away. Nadal actually dominates Federer in the Grand Slam finals and holds a proud 5-2 winning record against the champion.
In the last few years though Federer has lost the consistency in his game and lot more errors have started creeping in. Lot more players are now able to defeat him who had no chance of getting close 3 years back. Age might also be a factor as he is not quick around the court as he used to be. He is though still one of the top players in the world ranked second just behind his long time nemesis Rafael Nadal. 2009 probably was the greatest year for Fed as he was able to win the French Open for the first time, the frontier which Sampras was never able to breach. He also passed Sampras’s world record Grand Slam tally in 2009.
It’s hard to call Fed out of form as he has won at least one slam every year since his first in 2003. He is still an amazing player but the old spark is missing. As a great fan of his, I just hope that he has one final hurrah at the top. When Federer is in full flow, it is like poetry in motion. The smooth one handed back hand and power forehand is an amazing sight to his fans. He is probably one of the most graceful tennis players in the history of the game.
Federer still has few more years left in him, which will give him the opportunity to repair his record against Nadal and also a chance to push his Grand Slam tally to 20. He has just added another ATP title to his kitty by winning in Stockholm and thereby equaling Sampras’s record of most singles titles of 64.
Sampras bowed out of the game with a brilliant win in the US Open in front of his home crowd and I hope that Federer to can end his carrier on a winning note and also as the number one player in the world. I guess he deserves that. He is one of nicest guy on the court and humblest off it.