Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon gives the Swiss his flowers on his birthday.
Over this past weekend, one of tennis’s greatest players and biggest global ambassadors turned 39 years old.
Roger Federer completed yet another revolution around the Sun on Saturday, August 8, proving yet again that class knows no age limit—here’s where we would say and fit something about his career, something else about his playing style, something, something, and so on.
Look, they say that you should always give folks their flowers while they can still smell them. We get that—but we think that’s too easy. If you’re looking for the traditional career retrospective in honour of Federer’s birthday, Google is a mere click away and you’ll get plenty of options there.
But we’re still here to give King Roger his flowers, we’re just putting our own twist to it.
Whose birthday is it?
-We have literally just gone through this. It’s Roger Federer’s 39th birthday.
Hmm sorry, who?
-You know the guy. Great fella who plays tennis, as they say, pretty, pretty, pretty well and who’s been doing so professionally since just before the turn of the century.
Oh right, the guy whom the sport doesn’t need?
-Yeah no, let’s not waste time or space to such nonsense.
Alright, then how should we describe ol’ King Roger if not like that?
-Some would give him the title of the greatest men’s tennis player in history.
Would you call him the greatest of all time?
You’ve always been quite the contrarian.
-Well sure, but that’s not all it is. We’re not saying he isn’t the best ever just to be a contrarian, there is some logic behind it.
Whether said logic is sound remains to be seen.
-We can practically hear you grinning through the computer screen.
Alright alright, we’ll stop. So what logic do you use to maintain that Roger Federer isn’t the best men’s player in history?
-Well that’s not really the point of this exercise. We’re here to give the great man his flowers and express how much we appreciate all he’s managed to accomplish over the course of his 22-year-career.
Come on, you’re not fooling anyone. Where’s your inner asshole?? Tell us how you really feel, CBG!!
-We’ll say that Federer is indeed perhaps the best global ambassador that men’s tennis has ever seen.
Don’t give us a non-answer like that. Why isn’t Federer the greatest of all time?
-The Swiss might have the most Grand Slam titles in history; if you believe he’s the best ever, that’s where it starts and possibly that’s all you need. But we don’t believe he’s that far ahead of the two players next on this Grand Slam titles list to overcome other areas where Federer lacks.
-Federer is six years older than his two other rivals, which means he’ll retire before their own playing days are over and that both players will probably have a few years after Federer has stopped playing to catch up and (probably) surpass him. And with a 16-24 and 23-27 head-to-head record, Federer is also quite behind both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in that regard. How can he be the best ever if he’s not even the best of the 21st century? Not only that, but Nadal’s 35 Masters 1000 titles and Djokovic’s tally of 34 are much higher than Federer’s 28 such titles.
Hmmm okay, is that all you’ve got?
-Let’s not forget that only four of Federer’s 20 Grand Slam titles have come against the pair: nothing against Fernando Gonzalez or Andy Roddick, but they’re not Djokovic or Nadal. (Consider that the same number is 10 for Nadal and 8 for Djokovic.) While it’s true that you can’t control who you play, who you play has an effect on your chances of winning.
Insofar as Federer is men’s tennis best player of all time, it probably has something to do with the sense that he makes it all seem so easy and effortless: that you look at Nadal or Djokovic play tennis and feel like with enough work you might be able to replicate it, but that you could never replicate what Federer does. The Swiss’s case probably also has something to do with the fact that he’s been so great and for so long. In short, his case for the greatest player of all time is one based on longevity.
Any last words?
-Happy birthday to the great Roger Federer.
You sound convinced and convincing.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG