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Author Topic: Roger Federer: Best Ever?
Van Aaron
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Roger Federer's dominating performance Sunday in the finals of the U.S. Open raises the question of where he rates among the greatest tennis players of all time. John McEnroe is among those who have already started calling him the most talented player ever. Consider some of the amazing things he has accomplished in the last two years:

He is the first male player since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three Grand Slam tournaments in one year. Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver are the only other players to do it in the open era.

He has never lost in a Grand Slam semifinal or final. He is 8-0 in those matches, and seven of the eight were in straight sets. (The only time an oppponent took a set off him was at the Wimbledon final this year, when Andy Roddick started the match on fire and managed to win the first set before Federer took control.) No one else in the open era has ever won their first four Grand Slam finals.

He has won 11 consecutive tournament finals.

He has won 17 consecutive matches against players ranked in the Top 10.

On Sunday, he was the first man since the 19th Century to take two 6-0 sets in the U.S. Open final. This was against Lleyton Hewitt, who has returned to the form he showed when he was the #1 player three years ago (Hewitt had won 16 straight matches and had not dropped a set in the Open until Federer destroyed him in the final).

He has done all this while playing without a coach this entire year.

If you had a time machine and could assemble all the greatest players ever for a tournament, there are several reasons to think Federer would win. First, the game is played with so much more power today, it is difficult to believe that players like Rod Laver or Bjorn Borg (or Don Budge) could keep up.

Second, the above stats show that Federer is at his best in the biggest matches and against the strongest opponents. I think that reflects that he is mentally stronger than any of the other top players right now.

Third, and most importantly, Federer has an amazingly versatile game with no weaknesses. He can beat you from the baseline or from the net, going for winners or playing it safe. Most of the greatest players of the past were at their best playing a particular style, and if you could counter that style you could beat them. (McEnroe counted on his serve-and-volley and struggled against strong returners; Lendl counted on his forehand and struggled against players that could take control of the point before he got in position to rip a forehand; etc.) But there is no formula for beating Federer.

Who do you think would win that tournament?

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thegreatgrundle
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He's also only 23. Let's wait a little longer before we start throwing around such grandious titles.

And for your tournament, it depends what surface we're talking about. Sampras at Wimbledon simply could not lose.

[ September 14, 2004, 07:04 PM: Message edited by: thegreatgrundle ]

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Van Aaron
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Let's play the tournament on a hard court.
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thegreatgrundle
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Unfortunately, I don't know much about older tennis players. I don't think they would hold up too well in today's game, however. The players are so much faster and stronger. Granted, improvement in technology contributed a lot to the increased speed of the game (how fast can you hit it with a wooden racket?), and I'm assuming we're giving everyone the same quality equipment, but I don't think the older guys could adapt to the speed of the game.

I think I'm still going to go with Sampras in his prime. I'm probably biased by my age, but there you have it. He's just too good, and it's a shame he didn't have more attitude, cause he could have become a lot bigger in this country than he was.

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Van Aaron
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Like Becker before him, Sampras depended very heavily on knocking the other player off the court with his serve. Federer has such an amazing ability to get his returns back in play and neutralize big servers, as he consistently does to Roddick, that I expect he could have hit a lot of low returns against Sampras or Becker and exposed how ordinary their volleys were.

My guess is that to beat Federer with serve-and-volley would take a truly outstanding volleyer like Stefan Edberg or John McEnroe. Too bad the most recent great volleyer, Patrick Rafter, didn't stick around long enough to test his game against Federer in his prime.

[ September 15, 2004, 05:02 PM: Message edited by: Van Aaron ]

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aupton15
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Just want to point out that Agassi took him to five sets at the U.S. Open and he's OLD!!! (tennis standards). He's good. He might be the best current player. At the end of his career he might crack top ten all time. Maybe. This is very premature.
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thegreatgrundle
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That Agassi match was weird, though. It was broken up by rain, and the wind the next day was absolutely nuts. And Agassi is still very good, even though he's, in tennis years, older that dirt.
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RickyB
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Becker's volleys were ordinary? A large part of Becker's magic was his ability to return shots with a circus-like virtuousity not seen since Yanick Noah (sp?)
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Van Aaron
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Aupton, I agree that Agassi may be among the top ten ever. That's why I don't hold it against Federer that Agassi took him to five sets in adverse conditions playing in front of a pro-Agassi crowd. If only Agassi had found Brad Gilbert and learned to play a smart tactical match earlier in his career, this thread might have been about whether he is the greatest ever.

Ricky, I stand by my remark. Becker was very athletic and it was entertaining watching him dive for the ball. But to me excellent net play is about turning a ball coming at you hard and low into a crisp, well-placed volley. There were several contemporaries of Becker who were much, much better at that than he was, particularly Edberg and Pat Cash. (Incidentally, I was a big Yannick Noah fan, and he was also a better volleyer than Becker.)

[ September 16, 2004, 08:34 AM: Message edited by: Van Aaron ]

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RickyB
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Yanick Noah was a joy to watch. [Smile]
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aupton15
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Well Van Aaron, I suggest we wait until Federer is as old as Agassi before we start such a thread. At least give him a couple of consistent years of this.
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thegreatgrundle
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Tennis is a sport where people show up, look like the next big thing, and then flame out in a big way. Now, I don't think Federer will do this, but you never know.
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RickyB
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True. I remeber when Jim Courier was supposedly the heir to the mantle of the greats.
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Sunil Carspecken
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It's certainly possible that he could become the best ever. It's a question of whether he can keep up this kind of performance and whether anyone even better emerges. I hope he continues to dominate, because his game is so much nicer to watch than power players like Roddick or grinders like Hewit. I'd love to see him serve and volley more too, that would be even better. He seemed to have forgotten how to volley at all in his recent match against Agassi.
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Serotonin'sGone
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quote:
He is the first male player since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three Grand Slam tournaments in one year. Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver are the only other players to do it in the open era.
Yes, but Rod Laver won 4 majors in a year, twice in a row. honestly, no player has ever been as good as laver, and i doubt one will ever rise that could touch him.

We talk about agassi being ancient--but laver won both of his grand slams while he was in his 30's. that's just nuts. If he had played in his 20's, no one could have touched him, and the record for most majors won would certainly be his.

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Van Aaron
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It's very difficult to compare players from different eras.

If you look at who was more dominant when they played, I agree that Laver wins by that standard. Laver was dominant in his day to a greater degree than any player since, winning the Grand Slam before turning pro (when he was in his 20s, I'm pretty sure), then winning it again several years later when the majors were finally opened to pros. Certainly if the open era had started a few years earlier, Laver would have won more majors than Sampras. (On the other hand, if three out of four majors were played on grass in Sampras' time, as they were when Laver played, Sampras might have won two or three dozen majors.)

But if you look at who is really a superior player, I can't agree. The game is played with so much more power today, I find it hard to imagine a player from the 60's or earlier (or probably even from the 70's) beating today's top players. In my time-machine tournament, I think Laver would be a heavy underdog to Federer.

[ September 23, 2004, 11:50 AM: Message edited by: Van Aaron ]

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Hannibal
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look at the williams sisters, they dominated the women tennis for 3 years, but recently they cant win a title.

roger federer is very very good, but lets see if he can keep this up.

by the way, where did gustavo kuerten disapear? or is he only playing in the rolan garros? (clay)

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Van Aaron
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If the test is who can sustain excellent play for a long period of time, then it is too early to compare Federer to the all-time greats. If the test is how does the person's game right now stack up to the all-time greats, then Federer must get serious consideration. In this respect, he is different from most of those flashes in the pan. Even when they were dominating, the Williams sisters very clearly had weaknesses in their games (far too many errors, Venus's second serve, not attacking the net when they should, etc.), and the reason they are struggling now is they didn't get serious about trying to improve. What weaknesses does Federer have in his game?
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thegreatgrundle
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He said that he needs to improve his volley. He was comparing his game to Henman's, and said he envied Tim's volleying ability. He can also get into these little funks during matches, where he lets the other guy back in. It happened against Agassi for a while, and against Roddick. A little more mental toughness might help him out.

Seaking of all time greats, if Roddick can figure out the rest of his game, he'll be unstoppable with that 150+ mph serve. How the heck is anyone supposed to stop that? I really hope the whole Federer/Roddick rivalry materializes over the next few years. The contrasting styles would make for some great tennis. It would be Sampras vs. Agassi on speed.

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thegreatgrundle
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I'm watching Sportscenter, and they showed some Davis Cup highlights of Roddick's match. He hit a 155 mph serve. His new personal best. 155! [Eek!] That's ridiculous!

[ September 24, 2004, 06:44 PM: Message edited by: thegreatgrundle ]

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