Jul/17

16

Federer: The Greatest Champion In Sports History

federerRoger Federer won his eighth Wimbledon title today with a decisive straight set triumph over Marin Cilic. That’s 19 majors overall for the soon-to-be 36 year old icon who is showing no signs of losing his winning touch.

His game is as great if not greater than ever before, in every aspect. Now he has more experience and “fun” playing, as he told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after.

“I’ve seen a lot in forty years,” said an awed John McEnroe, “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Federer and Cilic battled early with Cilic holding an early break point at 2-1. Cilic netted the backhand return and then it was all downhill from there for the Croatian who just completely unraveled under the pressure of playing the “tennis god” and also the outrageously high level that Federer was playing at.

It was as one-sided a major final as you will ever see, but what can you expect when the greatest tennis player in history is at the top of his game?

Or perhaps, the greatest champion in the history of sport. Yes, I’m going to assert that Roger Federer is in a class of his own now. He has raised the bar. Pele, Ali, Jordan, Nicklaus, Gretzky, Schumacher reside in an echelon just below the one and only Roger Federer.

Two time Australian Open champion Johan Kriek on Roger Federer today: “Roger Federer is the greatest male player of all time. But really in demeanor, class, everything he is the greatest tennis player and ambassador of our sport both male and female. Uncomplicated looking in a very complicated sport.
No scandals, just tennis and records. On top of it all a family man with four kids still winning the biggest titles. The accolades do not do his achievements any justice.”

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65 comments

  • Busted · July 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    True…and if Federer was an American instead of Swiss, or tennis more popular in American, I think the same would be true of him as well. Whether people disagree or not – it tends to be success and popularity in America that pushes an athlete's reputation to new heights. Given the lack of popularity of tennis in the US these days – most people didn't even care when Serena won #23. Although, if she was a man it probably would have gotten more coverage from the general media.

  • shawnbm · July 17, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    ^ saddens me, but largely accurate. Because the USA markets and television and radio influence is so pervasive, American athletes get built up tremendously compared to other parts of the world. Ali and Palmer became international figures and the latter was and still is enormously popular in Japan and the Far East. Ali was a symbol of the brahness of the sixties in light of the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. He was enormously popular in Africa because of his political stances. As for Serena and Venus, they are quite famous and followed in the States and elsewhere.

  • Obsi · July 17, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Even if Federer were an American, he wouldn't have impact on the world like Ali.

  • shawnbm · July 17, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    ^ agreed–Ali was a unique figure in history, in some ways more impactful than Palmer, in other ways not. Certainly he was a symbol of a generation, for better or worse. He was a political punch as well as a boxer's punch.

  • shawnbm · July 17, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Sorry–mentioned Federer and I thought you meant Arnold Palmer. Federer is not enough of a political lightning rod that Ali was. He is more like Palmer in that sense, but like Nicklaus in having the greatest record. He's an amalgamation of the two, but in tennis terms.

  • Andrew Miller · July 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Federer’s got plenty of USA fans. I’m not shedding a tear for him. Having seen him in different USA cities and heard others, as in casual sports fans, talk about him even if they could care less about the sport, he’s plenty popular stateside and if not popular has tons of name recognition. Here’s something about the USA game: Ticket prices are outrageously expensive. It costs as much as 40 bucks or more for average ground pass with stadium access for first day of a tournament. So, people who go to the events tend to be going for a unique experience, not because they could name ten players (most of whom cant).
    I’d get around this by going to qualies, which many tournaments now charge the same rate they used to charge for normal grounds passes!
    It ain’t a lack of fans. It’s the pricing. These empty stadiums would be full with decent marketing and a better price point.

  • Andrew Miller · July 17, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Most decent or excellent USA sportsmen know tennis is hard. They’ve been on a court themselves flailing with a racquet. So they’ll give Federer his due and respect also.
    Federer and Nadal have transcended the sport. We’ll be talking about them the way people talk about Laver, and Laver will be brought up less and less frequently. Bound to happen.

  • Andrew Miller · July 18, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Louisa Thomas in NewYorker.com wrote another nice piece, this time on Federer and his gratitude for the sport. Seeing how Agassi talked about hating tennis in the past before he appreciated it, and Kyrgios enjoying its benefits but not its practice, I think Ms. Thomas captured it perfectly. Federer loves tennis and everything about it. Every court is his home court, as the article said. He lives and breathes tennis and cherishes it.
    I hope other players are seeing this and decide they want in also. Not just on Federer greatness, but the greater sport.

  • Hartt · July 18, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Andrew, thanks for the info about the New Yorker article. Looking for it brought me to one about Tommy Haas, written during IW. I enjoyed a bit of insight into the work of a tournament director. There was a lot about Tommy’s view of Fed in that article, and of course he has known Fed, and watched him play for many years. I like this quote from Haas about Roger: “He makes it look so easy. That’s what’s so frightening.”

  • Busted · July 29, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Obsi said:

    Even if Federer were an American, he wouldn't have impact on the world like Ali.Click to expand…

    True…but it's a different era and a different time in history. Would Ali have the same impact today that he had in the '60s and '70s? Nope. Culturally it's a completely different time. That's not to say that racism and prejudice doesn't still exist. It's just that in the days before social media and the internet athletes built a mystique because they were seen and heard from so infrequently. Now days they all tweet and endorse products out the ying yang and can be seen all over doing so.

  • mrzz · July 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Busted said:

    True…but it's a different era and a different time in history. Would Ali have the same impact today that he had in the '60s and '70s? Nope. Culturally it's a completely different time. That's not to say that racism and prejudice doesn't still exist. It's just that in the days before social media and the internet athletes built a mystique because they were seen and heard from so infrequently. Now days they all tweet and endorse products out the ying yang and can be seen all over doing so.Click to expand…

    It is true that we live on different times. But the cold truth is that Ali faced the great questions of his time in a way that it is impossible to forget. What he would do now is anyone´s guess, as what would do today´s sportsmen in Ali´s era. We assume that today is impossible for an athlete to become as great as Ali, which is reasonable, but it could well may be so simply because we actually do not have someone as Ali around…

  • shawnbm · August 16, 2017 at 10:44 am

    That time in the Sixties with the Civil Rights movement AND the war in Vietnam is a very unique sociological event, and Ali was a centerpiece of it. he was loud, brash and defiant, in addition to being self-aggrandizing. He was the antithesis, for example, of Arnold Palmer. Those two are like bookends of that decade–Palmer is 1960 and Ali is 1970. I loved both and followed (and read widely about) both, even though I actually saw more of Ali in the early Seventies (Palmer had been supplanted by Nicklaus by that time). Ali was thrust into a limelight no other had been thrust into precisely because HE changed the way the professional athlete interacted with the press. He was the first of his kind, and had the boxing skills to match. He clearly was a bright and intuitive man, who happened to be the best boxer of his time–a time when The Sporting News and boxing as a whole was much firmly in the center of the sports world in USA along with baseball (both have fallen off in the last fifty plus years, sadly). As a result, his impact is unequaled in terms of sociological impact across races, socioeconomic strata and even nations. We shan't see another Ali or someone approaching him until there comes another confluence of sociological turmoil on core beliefs in our world.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 16, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Shawnbm; Thanks for sharing those wonderful comments about Muhammad Ali. I only experienced the later 70s part of Ali. I also wrote a book about Muhammad Ali: Portrait of a Champion, and in all my years of covering boxing since '92 I've heard hundreds of Ali stories and not one, NOT ONE was even remotely negative. He always had time for everybody and he uplifted and inspired everybody and also made them laugh and smile. I'm looking forward to the new Ali museum site at his old training camp in Deer Lake PA which will open soon.

  • shawnbm · August 16, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    ^ how fortunate you have been Scoop. Outstanding!

  • Busted · August 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm

    Obsi said:

    Even if Federer were an American, he wouldn't have impact on the world like Ali.Click to expand…

    I didn't say he would have – just that he would big an even bigger star if he were. Even Michael Jordan and LeBron James haven't impacted the world the way Ali did. Ali was from a singular moment in history when sports, religion, politics, human rights and an unpopular war collided. The late '60s was literally a perfect storm for Ali to re-invent himself. I doubt we'll ever see anything like that again – not in this age of the internet where hackers are hacking celebs' phones and posting their nude selfies just because they can. Up-and-coming athletes are almost over-exposed, and in some cases have their failings exposed, before they can achieve anything. It's just a whole other word these days and you can't go back to the vacuum of the '60s when everything happened offline without an instant selfie to document history.

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