Well…yesterday was a landmark moment in the history of tennis. Roger Federer finally captured the one major title that had eluded him for so long. He can now call himself French Open champion. I suppose it was only a matter of time. Not only has Federer dominated the sport until recently, he also had reached and lost three straight French Open finals before his victory on Sunday. Had it not been for Nadal, we might be talking about 4 straight French Open titles for Federer. Of course, everyone is talking about Federer’s place in history. The comparison’s with Pete Sampras (not concerning their game or strategy) have existed for years now. However, Federer now can claim two things that Sampras can not: French Open champion and career Grand Slam. In fact, Sampras never got closer than the semifinals at the French Open. With this victory, Federer has already tied Sampras’s record of most major titles in men’s singles. It seems inevitable that Federer will break Pete’s record since he is only 27 and has several years of great tennis left in him. However, Federer now longer dominates the tour like he did a couple of years ago. I think this is good for tennis. Too much winning by one player gets boring. So…let’s go ahead and pose the question that everyone is asking.
Is Roger Federer the greatest men’s tennis player of all time?
I agree with Sampras that it is impossible to compare eras or account for all of the circumstances during a player’s career. That said, Sampras did endorse Federer as the greatest ever. Quite a compliment coming from the man who sits atop the major titles list with Federer. I’m not sure that we’ve ever seen a men’s player dominate over a five year period like Federer has. Laver was a master in his own right. Bjorg was a beast in the short time he played. Connors still holds the record for most tour wins (almost double Federer’s total). But if history judges greatness by major titles, Federer will take the cake when it is all said and done. I’m not quite sure that we’ve seen an all-around game like Federer’s before. He can do it all and do it extremely well. I would have liked to see him and Sampras (in his prime) battle it out. I think Sampras has the type of game that could give Roger fits. In fact, Roger has never really faced a great serve and volley player like Sampras before. Sampras seemed to be the last of the old guard (though I think many players on the tour would greatly benefit from a serve and volley aspect to their game).
So…I say Federer is the best ever based on what we can judge. However, I think Sampras would have been more than formidable. Who knows…we may be having this discussion about Nadal in 5 years.