Sport Writer Evan Yabsley explains why, in his opinion, Roger Federer is undoubtably the greatest sportsman of all time
Friday 16th February saw Roger Federer defeat Robin Haase in the quarter-final of the ATP Rotterdam to become the world’s oldest Number 1 seed in singles tennis ever. The 36 year old Swiss beat Andre Agassi’s record of 33 years of age, and replaced Rafa Nadal at the top of the ATP world rankings. This marks an impeccable start to 2018 for Federer, having won a record 20th Grand Slam title at the expense of Marin Cilic at the Australian Open in January.
With all his accolades, there’s no doubting that Roger Federer is the single greatest tennis player of all time, and despite being 36 years old, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. However, there is no need to limit to his superiority to just tennis.
Since the turn of the millennium, the world has witnessed some of greatest athletes to ever grace the world of sport. Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Lebron James and even Mo Salah, the 21st century has seen some true sporting greats who have changed the face of their sport forever. However, none have done so quite like the Goat himself, Roger Federer.
2017 for Roger Federer was supposed to be an epilogue to a tremendous career. Federer had other ideas. Instead of being ‘finished’ like his critics said, he went on to start a new chapter in his illustrious career, winning three of the last six grand slams, all at an age where Pete Sampras had been retired for over half a decade. This is no mean feat. Over the past 45 years, only 5 players have won a grand slam over the age of 30, and not one of them went on to win multiple grand slams. Since turning 30, Federer has managed to win a truly sensational four Grand Slams, three of these coming since turning 35, including a record tenth Wimbledon title and a joint record sixth Australian. Not to mention from 2004 to 2008 he won five consecutive US Open’s. Not bad for a man whose career was considered in its twilight at the turn of the decade, with many doubting whether he’d ever win another Grand Slam again.
The numbers alone stake Federer’s claim as one of the best athletes of the 21st century, but anyone who has watched this man play will understand why I think he is the best. No tennis player has ever been quite as graceful as Roger on the court, and no one in any sport has ever made being the best look so effortless. His trade mark one-handed back hand is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in sport, and plays as If the racket is a natural extension of his hand. His footwork mirrors that of a dancer from the Moscow State ballet, and his between the legs shot in the 2009 US Open against Novak Djokovic, dubbed the shot of the century, really proved why he’s one of the most exciting men in sport to watch. Not only this, he does it all without breaking a sweat.
It’s not clear how long Federer can keep up this spectacle, he is still believe it or not a human being. No matter how many or how few years it may be, sports fans of this generation have been truly blessed to witness Roger Federer in all his sporting glory. It is unlikely that any sports star will be able to replicate his sheer skill and talent for decades to come, and it’s likely that in 50 years’ time, we will still be talking about Federer as the greatest athlete of the 21st Century.