Swiss ace seals his status as the greatest ever

Swiss ace seals his status as the greatest ever

Federer heads Grand Slam winners list

Swiss ace seals his status as the greatest ever

AWESOME FOUR: Roger Federer holds the Wimbledon trophy, flanked by Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Rod Laver. AFP

Federer not only has superior technique, fitness and an indefatigable spirit, qualities that ultimately saw him over the line in that 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 win over Andy Roddick.
The Swiss, who at the age of 27 can win many more grand slam titles, also has a speed of thought and deftness of footwork that combine to give him a decisive advantage on court and can make his victories look easy.

While others rely on instinct or muscle memory to make their shots in moments of white hot pressure, Federer can delay the moment when he must commit to a shot until impossibly late.

We saw it at Wimbledon in a semifinal performance against Tommy Haas that exposed an extraordinary gulf in class and while the final will be remembered as a slugfest more than anything there were glimpses of it there too.

Victory on Sunday took him out on his own ahead of Pete Sampras in the list of all-time grand slam title winners and the American was happy to describe as the game's greatest ever.

"In my book Federer is the greatest," Sampras said, adding: "The guy is a legend. He's an icon. He's a credit to the game."

The contrast with 'Pistol Pete' is a revealing one.
While the American always seemed to strive for perfection -- the serve that would whistle past his opponent and never be seen again, the unplayable volley from close at the net -- Federer's quest has always been as much about flair and finesse.

Federer will work the angles as well as belt the cover off the ball, and by occasionally playing his way into trouble he will invent shots that others could never have dreamed of, let alone played -- and all while staying remarkably unruffled.

Major Milestones

Federer won his first major title at the age of 21 in 2003 at Wimbledon. His Wimbledon tally now stands at six, and he has won five successive US Opens, the Australian Open three times and got the French Open for the first time this year.

The raw numbers speak for themselves, and may never be bettered, but the stats alone cannot do him justice as a player. 

Of former greats, Rod Laver is held up as someone who might be considered his equal. The Australian won 11 majors, including two calendar slams, and that number might have been significantly higher had he not turned professional and ruled himself out of the grand slams for several years.

Yet what-ifs in sport can never count for as much as achievements etched in silverware. Laver, now 70, resists the comparison, saying Federer's status as the greatest of his own era is enough, yet he speaks with obvious admiration when describing the Swiss in action.

With Federer, it's about panache as much as the pursuit of perfection and that combination is what makes him great.


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