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Who's the greatest?

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Iain Carter | 09:36 UK time, Monday, 6 July 2009

It seems absurd that events in a different sport can influence another, but doesn't Roger Federer's Wimbledon success further shorten the odds on a Tiger Woods win at the Open?

Federer's record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title generated a congratulatory text from the Woods mobile just as soon as Tiger had wrapped up business in Bethesda where he enjoyed his latest PGA Tour win at the Congressional Country Club.

"We texted," said Woods. "He won the French and I won Memorial, so it was kind of let's do it on the same day, let's do it again today. That would be nice. His are a hell of a lot bigger than mine, though. He won two Slams and I won two Tour events. Hopefully I can get the majors now."

The two greatest individual sports stars of our time (who don't propel darts for a living) are big buddies. They have us believe their bond is down the unique insight they share on how to utterly dominate a global sport.

Their conversation topics must include how to keep the opposition down, the media at arms length and how to make sure the noughts keep being added to the sponsor contracts they share.

Tiger Woods and Roger Federer

They act as spokesmen for each other, bigging up the other's triumphs and excusing their disappointments. "And most people forget he was ill then," Woods has said many times to explain Federer's failure to win the 2008 Australian Open.

These two do share much in common and being mates makes a lot of sense at all levels. Tiger will be dispensing nappy changing and night feed advice before long.

But, perhaps more significantly, they remain big rivals as well. The BBC Television commentary on Federer's epic win over Andy Roddick duly noted that the great Swiss had rolled past not just Peter Sampras in the major stakes "but also Tiger Woods."

What was a golfer doing muscling in on such a huge moment for tennis?

Well, it is a reflection of how intertwined the careers of these two have become and it provides a reason why Woods becomes an even more dangerous prospect at Turnberry.

And this makes me wonder whether Federer is in some way Woods' biggest rival? Certainly no current golfer comes close to Tiger's achievements and it is hard to imagine one emerging soon.

So do we have to look to another sport to identify a true rivalry? If we do, then we should look no further than the six-time Wimbledon champion.

It was a question that floated around throughout my time at Wimbledon (I hot-footed there for 5 Live straight from the US Open). Inevitably the other was who the greater sportsman, Federer or Woods?

The nature of the Federer's extraordinary victory will surely have nudged him to the front, just as Woods' US Open win on one leg last year (combined with Rafael Nadal's rise in tennis) had the American golfer ahead.

It's a fascinating argument with no definitive answer - and the fact that golfers don't have to run to play their sport is irrelevant. It is a debate about the skill and nerve required to beat all comers at games played the world over.

It is a story of two great competitors from two great sports plying their trade simultaneously at a level rarely seen before.

Yes, there is an element of comparing apples with oranges here but there is enough common ground to still make the discussion as tasty as the best fruit salad.

Top golfers and tennis players share much mutual respect. That was evident from the golfing talent that joined us in the 5 Live Wimbledon commentary box over the fortnight - Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell all joined us and Adam Scott was also spotted at the All England Club.

But back to the two arguably biggest individual sportsman in the world. Federer moved from 13 to 15 Grand Slams to eclipse Sampras' major record by winning the French Open and then Wimbledon in quick succession.

Were Woods to perform at a similar level and capture the Open and PGA, Federer would be playing catch up again by the time he arrives at Flushing Meadows for his US Open defence at the end of August. This fact will surely not be lost on Woods.

Indeed, both would like nothing more than to continue a tit for tat rivalry and for the golfing world that means Woods will be as motivated as ever at Turnberry and Hazeltine.

Mind you, that would have been the case anyway - competitors at this level don't tend to need any extra gee up. Not that that should stop the discussions thrown up by the greateness of these two extraordinary athletes.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Federer is better than Tiger. Tigers game is too one dimensional. He has no backhand, no volley skills and dosent run towards the net enough.
    So i would take Federer.
    Great idea to compare the two is it not?

  • Comment number 2.

    It would be great to watch RF play a round of golf and TW a set of tennis. Perhaps arm wresting or darts could be considered, with maybe a game of snooker if it finishes all decide who really is the greatest!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Those Gillette adverts are a bit dodgy. Why is Fed hanging round in men's bathrooms?

  • Comment number 4.

    tiger is a better sportsman- he is totally dominant in his sport, whereas federer (until recently) wasn't even the world number 1. Federer is a fantastic tennis player but you could argue that nadal is better as he has a better record against federer. How can you be the best sportmen in the world if you can't even be it in your sport?

  • Comment number 5.

    Seaming Wicket (Post 1)

    I haven't seen Federer hit a 300-yards-plus drive straight down the middle, or a 3-wood 260 yards that lands like a butterfly with sore feet, or sink a 12-foot putt to get into a Major playoff.

    Could be Federer isn't a complete sportsman after all - merely the best at what he does.

  • Comment number 6.

    Yawn...What a pointless article...yawn

  • Comment number 7.


    does federer have to judge the trajectory of his shot to such an extent as woods on every shot?
    Does federer have to play on a mix of terrains in a single match?
    Does federerhave to work out contours to suit his shot?
    Don't get me wrong, I believe the men are equal, but it's difficult to be decisive on such a topic due to the differences in each sport.

  • Comment number 8.

    tiger is better, because in golf you have to beat everyone whereas in tennis you just beat the person on the other side of the net(e.g. federer did not have to go through the mental and physical challenge of beating nadal at the french). and in golf you have more time to think about what could go wrong- you have to do that for around 3-4 hours- 4 days in a row as well. in tennis you may only be out there for an hour and a half every other day.

    but i still prefer tennis!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm sorry but i find all these comparisons and debates as to who the best sportsman is rather dull and pointless.

    You cannot compare people from different sports objectively. It's a moot point. Just enjoy Federer for what he is - an excellent tennis player and perhaps the greatest ever.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with conorleedsfan - to win a Grand Slam Federer has only to beat 7 guys and normally a couple of those are ranked outside of the top 50, whereas Woods has to beat 120 other guys and nearly always every one of the other top 50!

  • Comment number 11.

    It's obviously tough to compare such varying sports but to put it into context Federer's dominance of Grand Slams (20-odd consecutive semi final places) is the equivalent of Tiger coming in the top four in 20-odd Slams. I admit that there are more variables in golf such as inclement weather, and one bad shot can massively set you back. The two are both incredible sporting legends who will both be revered for years. I'd have Federer just in front (But I'm more of a tennis fan than gold which is probably the contributing factor.)

  • Comment number 12.

    The two greatest individual sports stars of our time (darts aside) - not of my time and I'm only 43! Ever heard of Jahangir Khan? he played 555 consecutive competitive squash games without losing once! Yasuhiro Yamashita was involved in competitive Judo at the highest level and NEVER LOST. So please, you work for the BBC after all, try and be a little better informed before writing superficial attention-grabbing articles!

  • Comment number 13.

    Agree entirely Dafunkhead.

    A transparent attempt to take advantage of the increase in the number of people reading tennis articles because of the Wimbledon effect.

    "Who is the greatest?" is not a fascinating question. Trying to compare sports personalities in different fields or even across different eras is pretty pointless.

  • Comment number 14.

    Fed is best.. In golf there is no-one that is actually trying to stop your ball from going in the hole. In tennis you obviously have an opponent. In every golf tourney it's you against the course. Not so in tennis, where you have to get the better of the opposition.

  • Comment number 15.

    As much as I'd love to compare the relative skills involved between the two sports, as many have already pointed out they are essentially incomparable. So the metre of judgement must be their impact in the wider world beyond their sport. How far do the men transcend their own arena and become role models and icons, providing inspiration and a positive example for those who have never picked up a bat or club? It is their wider impact that will determine who the greater sportsman is as a posed to who the greater athlete is.

  • Comment number 16.

    If you can smoke while you're doing it it isn't a sport. Bad luck golf.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is the silliest article i've seen for ages... Totally pointless. How can you compare the sports?

    Federer may only have to beat 7 players to Woods 120 as someone says, but none of those 120 players have any direct influence on the shot Woods hits, none of them can force a mistake. Tournament Golf is basically a game you play against your own head and the course, not other people...

  • Comment number 18.

    If your going to have a discussion like this shouldnt Valentino Rossi at least get a mention. The things he has done in his own sport are absolutely amazing, for example leaving the dominant team in moto gp at the time (Honda) and then winning the title in his first year with Yamaha at a very big disadvantage.

  • Comment number 19.

    We dont really need to sit here comparing them. They're good friends and thats it. Phil Taylor and Ronnie O'Sullivan are good friends as well, shall we compare them?

  • Comment number 20.

    People are missing the point when the say Tiger has to play 120 people, Roger 7 to win a grand slam.

    Big difference is that Tiger has four days and can afford a bad day, Roger could play one person who for 2 hours could play out of their skin and beat him. This is not the case in Golf as to sustain it for four rounds for someone else is harder.

    A better judge would be Tiger's matchplay form, and looking at the Ryder Cup he doesn't go too well at that!

    Roger has reached 21 consecutive semi finals, how many successive cuts has Tiger made in Majors? I don't know but would be interesting to find out.

    Roger is slightly better in my view.

    Valentino Rossi should not be included nor should any motor racing driver. These silly sports involve machines.

  • Comment number 21.

    16. At 4:41pm on 06 Jul 2009, Waldo0 wrote:
    If you can smoke while you're doing it it isn't a sport. Bad luck golf.

    errrr....i can provide photographic evidence to prove that i can smoke whilst playing both tennis and golf. If we are goingto provide arbitrary judgements i shall provide mine: golf is fun to play; with the exception of matches involving one of the many blonde russian female tennis players, tennis is bad luck tennis!

    #6 Dafunkhead - easily the most insightful sentence on the whole page.

    one last point.....the new roof on centre court...whats the point in that? it has to be biggest waste of money in british sport

    Thank god thats tennis done for 12 months now!

  • Comment number 22.

    Until Federer wins a Grand Slam with a broken leg I'm afraid he can't come close. That is the sign of a champion.
    Everyone knows it too, which is why Tiger gets someone to carry his bag....respect! Federer always carries his own, because noone wants to help him.

    Tiger wins.

  • Comment number 23.

    Flubster - you must be one hell of an athlete. Can you provide links to those pictures?

  • Comment number 24.

    You cannot compare the sports, both are great sportsman in their field it's a non topic!

    That aside I cannot understand why people are consistently carping on about Nadal? Nadal is injured, Federer is again the number 1, so ask the question why is Nadal so injured at such a young age?
    Trained too hard, too many tough matches, not economical enough, not smooth enough not as skillful as Federer?
    The fact is the smoothest most economical and skillful tennis player on the planet has to date never had injury.

  • Comment number 25.

    Roger is a legned is Tennis and Tiger is a legend in Golf, the only point that may push Roger ahead is that is generally accepted that Roger is the greatest tennis player of all time now he has won 15 slams and won on each surface.

    Tiger is the greatest Golf player on the circuit at the moment, but is he better than Jack Nicholaus?

    I think you need to be considered the greatest in your own sport before you can try to lay claim to be the best.

  • Comment number 26.

    An interesting discussion about who the real number two is, although if either one gets cancer then goes on to dominate thier sport in a way never before seen then they could be right up there with Armstrong.

  • Comment number 27.

    You must be joking!
    Lance Armstrong is greater than Woods and Federer both put together. No contest !!!

  • Comment number 28.

    Charlie-999, Federer was world number 1 for 237 consecutive weeks less than a year ago. He is world number 1 as we speak! He's broken so many tennis history records that I have lost count. Lengends (Pete, Andre, etc) in the game insist that he is the GOAT. Shall I go on?.....

    You might not be King Roger's fan, but please be brave enough to admit it. He is the number 1 tennis player. Period!

  • Comment number 29.

    Given that most tennis pundits agree that's it is impossible to even compare tennis players from different eras, how on earth you are meant to come up with any viable method of comparing Federer and Woods is beyond me. The only thing more perplexing than this article is the comment from Charlie-999 (number 4). Do the 5 years that Fed spent as world number 1, combined with the fact that he has now regained that ranking anyway, not count for anything? One day you may be able to argue that Nadal is a better player, but at the moment he isn't even close to matching what Federer has achieved in the sport.

  • Comment number 30.

    Why do people read an entire blog only to then call it pointless and criticise it? Miserable so and sos....

    Federer is the best sportsman I've ever seen. I've only watched Golf over the last 3 or so years though while I've been a fan of Tennis since the early 90s so my opinion is probably biased. I probably didn't see Tiger at his best in the early 2000s.

  • Comment number 31.

    This is a pointless excercise but I know I can rule out Tiger Woods for the same reason the writer has ruled out Phil Taylor. If you can win a Major in a sport when you are in your mid forties and overweight like many of Tiger's compatriots it's not a proper sport.

    In fact I think you can rule out any sport where you play with a stationary ball, so out goes Stephen Hendry and whoever happens to be the best bowls player of all time.

  • Comment number 32.

    You cant compare the technical side of two totally different sports. You have to look at how they approach and dominate the gmae, mentally.

  • Comment number 33.

    The very fact this question cannot be answered is part of the fun, but the big point that stands out is that these two have been so dominant in their own sports that the obvious rivalry comparisons are beyond them. That, in itself, is testament to their extraordinary strangleholds over their sports.

  • Comment number 34.

    While on the topic of talented sportsmen, I'll throw one Dan Carter out there, NZ flyhalf, only man i've known to be capable of dismantling a team on his own....irony being he has nothing to show for it....somewhat of an unsung sporting hero...far more complete player than even our very own Wilko :)

    As for Tiger and Federer I personally would rather not compare the two and just express how much respect I have for them as individuals truely amazing sportsmen.

  • Comment number 35.

    Re: Post 20. steviehullyyy

    "Roger has reached 21 consecutive semi finals, how many successive cuts has Tiger made in Majors? I don't know but would be interesting to find out."

    Some quick research. 37 consecutive cuts made stretching from The Masters in 97 to the Masters in 06. He missed a cut in the 96 Masters and made the US Open and The Open but did not play in the USPGA so I did not included those two as he missed a major. Not bad going.

    To the original article, not really worth the debate but it's still interesting nonetheless! If I was really forced to pick one I would say Tiger, but they are both extroadinary!

  • Comment number 36.

    Comparing two great players of the same sport from different eras is enough of a challenge. It is therefore utterly pointless to try and compare greats from different sports altogether.

  • Comment number 37.

    Federer is ahead in my books.
    It can't be argued that if Woods wins a couple more then he moves in front of Federer because Tennis players have shorter careers, and Federer has already set the record for the most GS ever. Woods could carry on playing golf for years and his biggest challengers will probably be much older than the biggest challengers in Tennis. Let's face facts you can be overweight and middle aged and still be successful at golf- you can't be successful at tennis unless you are young and at the peak of fitness.

    Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon this year because of dodgy knees and he is most certainly a better athlete than Woods. The fact that Woods won with a bad leg not only shows the greatness of the man but also the difference between the sports.

    When Woods gets close to retirement he might have eclipsed Federer but at the moment any rational person would put Federer ahead. This does not detract from the achievements of Woods (and I'm a massive fan) it simply reflects the acheivements of Federer in a sport where players have a more limited shelf life and put their bodies through far more physical pressure.

    Two great sportemen.

  • Comment number 38.

    Firstly to those who say its a boring article...why reply then?

    Anyhoo, can you compare them? yes... just read above, lots of people comparing them... is it scientific and based on facts? of course not its a bit of fun you daft twonks, just enjoy it ;-)

    Of current sportsmen they are the two most worthy Id say, of recent years Michael Schumaker would have run them very close. Going back a few years further Don Bradman is still unrivalled as a cricketer.
    Mohammed Ali of course had all the talent in the world and is a personal favourite. Pele, again genius, Maradonna, cheating genius, Best, drunk genius, which might actually lay in his favour, to be that good under the influence?? wow!

    Phil Taylor? do me a favour...its a board game.

    Keep chatting though, cos its all good fun!

  • Comment number 39.

    in keeping with the great British tradition of associating alcohol with sport, they should each be invited to down a yard of ale and then play each other at pool and/or darts. the true test of sporting greatness.

  • Comment number 40.

    Floyd Mayweather Jnr is at the same level in terms of dominating a single competing global sport.

  • Comment number 41.

    i couldn't possible say who is better. but the point about federer only has to beat 7 people to win is not really applicable. it is a match play senario- if federer has one bad day he could go out there and then. If tiger has a bad day, he has the time to make it up in the other rounds of golf. for this reason tiger himself says that what roger has achieved is greater than what tiger has.

  • Comment number 42.

    This is the sort of debate that could go on forever and with other sportsmen of such quality but both are great role models in their sport coming across as humble and win (lose) with dignity.

  • Comment number 43.

    Comes down to either a preference of golf over tennis or Woods over Federer. Anybody claiming to be completely impartial is either lying or their opinion should be disregarded because they would have no real interest in the debate.

  • Comment number 44.

    How can you possibly compare people from different sports, that require different levels of discipline, skill and fitness and try to decide which one is the greatest?. A golfer does not require a higher level of fitness than a tennis player or an Olympic athlete but the tennis player probably needs the same amount of skill as the golfer.
    The argument about who is the greatest in their own sport is down to a personal viewpoint and can never be 100% sure because players from vastly different eras can`t be matched against each other.
    What we can say with certainty is that Tiger is by far the best of the current generation of golfers and Roger has the best tennis record of the past 20 years at least but only time will show if they can ever be surpassed.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    An odious comparison! Each time he plays, Federer has one opponent only at a time (albeit over several rounds)- in a sport where rising stars are few and far between.
    When Tiger Woods plays, he has to beat up to 150 of the best players "round by round" in a sport that is more competitive year by year.Out of 150, a percentage will always "overperform" and a percentage will "play to their ability." Federer only has one man who can overperform, and he can control that to an extent. Tiger can't do this.
    Also, One bad round can destroy Tiger- such is the quality of his peers- whereas Federer can get away with one bad set.
    Whatever Federer's quality, Tiger's achievements are way beyond his on any statistical level.
    No contest, I'm afraid!
    It would be fairer to compare Federer to another "one on one" sport.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is no way in which Woods and Federer can be compared, as the two sports they practice are in no way comparable. Similarly, it's difficult to compare their levels of dominance.

    Tiger may need to be the best of 150 people over 4 days of golf; Federer has more interaction with his opponents, and has to beat each before being able to progress to the next stage of a tennis tournament.

    The mental and physical strength Tiger posses, and the shots he is capable of have set new boundaries in golf; Federer is doing as many previous players have done, but arguably better.

    Federer is the winningest player in the history of men's tennis, but Tiger is yet to surpass Jack Nicklaus's major record.

    Phil Taylor (regardless of what you think of darts) has possibly dominated a sport more than anyone else in history, and the likes of Michael Schumacher (7 time Formula 1 champion), Valentino Rossi (8 time motorcycling world champion), Floyd Mayweather Junior/Joe Calzaghe (unbeaten in boxing) and Lance Armstrong (7 time Tour de France winner) may feel they deserve a mention as the Greatest Sportsman.

  • Comment number 48.

    Based on that argument Tamero, I guess that marathon runners are the greatest since they have numerous other competitors to overcome! Foolishness. Please refer to point 41- if Woods has an off day he could make up time later in the day/event. Federer does not have this luxuary. There are pros and cons to each sport. Tennis is far more of an athletic sport and injury is therefore more prevalent. Do you honestly think Nadal would have injured himself if he was a golfer!
    Be that as it may, as I said it is a choice between golf and tennis. I choose tennis because it is clearly a more physical game and is played by natural sportsmen. This differs to golf where one natural sportsman (Woods) comes along and dominates.

  • Comment number 49.

    All of these "who's the greatest" debates are ultimately subjective, unresolvable and futile but it doesn't make them boring. What's certain is that Woods and Federer stand head and shoulders above all of the sportsmen and women of our time.

    I would give the edge to Federer who has displayed far greater dominance and consistent brilliance in his own sport than Woods over the same period. 15 wins, 5 times runner up and 3 losing semi finals (or top 4 position) in the last 25 grand slams is a stunning return. Over the same period Woods has 6 wins, 4 RUs, 3 other top 4 positions in majors. That's quite a difference.

    It's true that Federer doesn't have to beat every competitor in his field but in truth golfers play the course not the man. In head to head play over just one round Woods is more vulnerable but only relatively to his own dominance in the sport.

    What clinches it for me though is that during six years of unparalleled dominance the sporting public has never tired at all of the joy of watching Federer's unique game. I don't think any sportsman past or present has ever induced such gasps of astonishment from his audience than Federer. Even uncompetitive straight sets victories seem like works of art. But with Woods the air of inevitable victory that he sometimes brings to events drains the occasion of all its atmosphere and excitement. There is awe and respect but a lack of affection too.

  • Comment number 50.

    Is golf really a "sport"? Surely any game you can play while smoking can't be termed a "sport"!!!

    Marvel at each individuals skill and domination but comparisons are ill-judge, boring and pointless.

  • Comment number 51.

    Federer isn't even the best player in his sport, Nadal is the better man, and I think he would have beaten Federer again this year.

  • Comment number 52.

    Of course darts is a sport. Is Archery a sport? will it's in the Olympics so I think it qualifies. Think of darts as a bit like archery. and while we're at it, why isn't darts in the Olympics? Britain would clean up. Bring it in for 2012. "sir Phil Taylor"
    I really don't think too many people appreciate how difficult darts is and to succeed at the top level for as many years as Taylor has is simply incredible - nobody compares.

    Federer vs woods? not sure. which of them has the prettier wife?

  • Comment number 53.

    One way to determine who is the greatest may be to ask their opponents how much they fear having to face either.

  • Comment number 54.

    Agree with all of those who say that comparing sportspersons across different sports is a completely inane exercise. Even if it weren't this inane, comparing golf to tennis is especially ridiculous - any sport where John Daly can be a contender is not a sport - it's a GAME, to be discussed along with other games like darts, pool, chess and checkers.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tiger > Federer.

  • Comment number 56.

    Comparing Tiger and Federer is nearly impossible as they are complately different sports. However, both games have a similar structure (tennis - four grand slams, golf - four majors etc.).

    1.Federer has won 15 Grand Slams to Tiger's 14. (But to be fair, tennis has had 3 grand slams this year and golf has only had 2.)

    Tiger 0 - 1 Federer

    2.Tiger has won 68 PGA Tour titles to Federer's 60 singles titles.

    Tiger 1 - 1 Federer

    3.Federer has only won at least one of all the Grand Slams (due to his only French open win) and Tiger has won all majors at least 3 times.

    Tiger 2 - 1 Federer

    4.Federer was no.1 for 237 weeks before being overtaken to Tiger's 264.

    Tiger 3 - 1 Federer

    5.If we class a grand slam semi-final to the equivelant to a Top 10 in a major, federer has 21 consecutive semis to Tiger's 7 consecutive Top 10s (excluding those he missed due to injury.)

    Tiger 3 - 2 Federer

    Re: post 20 - "Roger has reached 21 consecutive semi finals, how many successive cuts has Tiger made in Majors? I don't know but would be interesting to find out." - 49 of the last 50. The one he missed may have had something to do with the fact that his father died a few weeks earlier.

    Game, set, match - Tiger Woods.

    P.S. Tiger has won a major with a severe knee injury - yet to see Federer win a Grand slam with an injury.

  • Comment number 57.

    And to #51 (GusKnowsBest):

    You wrote - "Nadal is the better man, and I think he would have beaten Federer again this year".

    Whose fault was it that Nadal wasn't at Wimbledon? To enlighten you - it was HIS OWN! Or rather, the playing style that he uses. So no, he wouldn't have beaten Federer this year, because he wouldn't even have made the final - someone would have exploited his injury and beaten him well before that.

    Nadal is a great player, but his extremely physical style make him susceptible to injuries and fatigue (also evidenced by the fact that he fades by the US Open every year). So I will be very surprised if Nadal can sustain his excellence as long as Federer has - and in order to be ranked among the greatest, he will have to.

  • Comment number 58.

    For me what sets great athletes apart is the ability to win against the odds. Ali's greatness is measured by his domination, bald stats and sublime skill but DEFINED by his beating of Liston and Foreman. Wins against the odds. He shook up the world. So for me Tiger nudges Fed because of that win on one leg. A win against the odds, a triumph over adversity. If Roger was injured (heaven forbid) out for a while, entered Wimbledon seeded 25 then won the tournament, that would draw more gasps than his considerable achievement yesterday.

  • Comment number 59.

    The comments complaining about the comparing of two men from two different sports are ridiculous. They do after all both play sport and that is where the real comparison is. They both dominate there respective sports and in terms of majors titles, will not be caught by anyone currently active, making them both true greats and making it merely a bit of fun comparing them!

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm going to do a Benitez and talk about FACTS.

    Golf is the most technical sport on the planet.

    Tennis is the second most technical sport in the world. However it has the physical, stamina and variety that golf hasn't got.

    So who knows... They are both legends. Difficult to compare the best tennis player ever to not just the best golfer but also the most influential golfer of the past 50 years.

  • Comment number 61.

    They both have a lot of playing time left too. Wait till they are both calling it a day and then decide. On that thought Tiger could easily set an undefeatable golfing record.

  • Comment number 62.

    Tiger Woods has grown the game of golf through his impact on and off the off course like no other athlete has ever done for any other sport. People who never used to be interested in the game now play or watch, I don't think people watch Tennis because of Roger Federer, they watch because they always have or becuase they can't avoid it if you're watching BBC Lol.

    But seriously, people play the game in Asia in their masses now because of Tiger Woods, they are both great sportsmen, but Roger is just a great Tennis player, Tiger is mch more than a great golfer, his foundation has reached over 10 million children and his legacy for other golfers is massive, multi million dollar prize funds every week, and the crowds for this week's tournament were over 200,000 for an event which is only three years old and is not a major championship. Golfers are fitter than ever before and younger than ever before, you only have to look at the field for the Open, there is a 16 year old from Italy and a 17 year old from Japan.

  • Comment number 63.

    Depending on what you mean by "our time" you could argue that Michael Jordan is right up there and probably ahead of both Woods and Federer.

    He made the all star team in his rookie season (as a starter), he was a fantastic player both offensivly (3000 points in his first full season after his rookie season) and defensivly (200 steals and 100 blocks in same season as his 3000 points).
    He was voted finals MVP 6 times (more than any other player)
    He played in the all star game 14 times
    Won two olympic golds.
    And all that is just scraping the surface of his stats and achievments.

  • Comment number 64.

    I mean no disresepct, but I think it's very pointless to speculate. Clearly they are both supreme in two very different sports. It's like trying to argue who's the better - Nigel Kennedy and Brian May. Or Kiri Te Kanawa and Amy Winehouse (ok possible bad example). In my opinion.

  • Comment number 65.

    can you compare completely different sports no achievement yes and they are close but fed is just ahead and has the best ever record in his field so I would have to give it to him Tiger may better Nicholas but who is to say but then you could say Phil Taylor is the planets best sportsman just look at his record

  • Comment number 66.

    Tennis Major - you know the winner will come from the top few seeds.

    Golf Major - the winner can come from anywhere in the top 100, and often does.

    It is harder to be dominant in golf.

    Tiger wins.

  • Comment number 67.

    I agree, it is unfair to compare two individuals from two different arenas, but in the spirit of things I'll give it more of an informed go, and hopefully an unbiased one too;

    Woods 68 PGA Tournament Wins, 36 european tour wins=104 total wins
    Federer 60 career titles
    Verdict Woods 1-0

    Woods Major wins 14
    Federer Grand slam wins 15
    Verdict Federer 1-1

    Woods Only player to win 4 majors consecutively
    Federer 3 of 4 grand slams won consecutively
    Verdict Woods 2-1

    Woods has won all 4 majors 3 times, masters x4,US Open x3, Open Championship x3, PGA Championship x3
    Federer has won all 4 slams, but only french once, US x5, wimbledon x6, Australian x3
    Verdict edged by woods due to ability to be consistent amongst diferrent courses, weather conditions, and competition, whereas federer struggles on clay vs rafa nadal. Woods 3-1

    Woods world number 1 for 264 consecutive weeks, 555 total weeks at no.1
    Federer world number 1 237 consecutive weeks, 238 total weeks at no.1
    Verdict Woods 4-1

    Woods consecutive major top 10's = 8 Us Open 1999- Masters 2001
    Federer Wimbledon 2005-US Open 2007 10 consecutive grand slam finals
    Verdict Federer 4-2

    Woods career earnings (golf only) $86,914,539
    Federer Career prize money $49,475,219

    Overall verdict Woods 5-2

    Interesting facts

    Woods 3rd in all time PGA tour victories (Snead 82, Niklaus 73, Woods 68)
    Woods 2nd in all time Major victories (Niklaus 18, Woods 14)

    Federer 4th in all time weeks at ATP world number 1 (Sampras 286, Lendl 270, Connors 268, Federer 238)
    Federer 5th in all time grand slam wins (Connors 233, Agassi 224, lendl 222, Sampras 203, federer 182)
    Federer 2nd in all time slam win % (Borg 141-16 89.8%, Federer 182-26 87.5%)

    So both still have a little way to go until they can show all time dominance of their respective sports.

  • Comment number 68.

    i play a lot of golf and tennis, so this is always a huge debate for me.
    To be honest, i don't know how they are comparable.
    when tiger wins, he has to beat the whole field, wheras federer only has to beat 7 people, it is much trickier to win a golf tournamnet.
    whatsmore, tiger has changed the game of golf beyond belief, federer has a bit, but nowhere near as much as tiger.
    as much as federer is a brilliant sporting person, tiger is much better

  • Comment number 69.

    From a personal point of view as a youngster i played all sports played football, cricket and rugby to a decent standard until i hit my thirties and smoke and drank and consumed other things that are not recommended. I can eagle a golf ball, hit a fifty plus at snooker and if id been coached from the age of 2 would prob be a dab hand at tennis. Anyway the point being as fantastic,good looking and all round genius that i am, i cannot throw darts, try as i might, and although 90% of the population have probably tried nobody else can throw em either, not like Phil taylor.
    Personally cant stand the smug bugger, but when i add up stats, participation and personal experience the fat man is the best of all time x

  • Comment number 70.

    Of course one of the main reasons we cannot compare Tiger Woods' achievement with Roger Federer's is that golf is more of a pastime than a sport. Of course it requires some flexibility and hand to eye co-ordination, but so does walking (or in golf's case, "a good walk ruined" as Mark Twain famously complained). Compare that to Roddick being physically and mentally drained by Federer's relentless willpower on Sunday. Don't believe me? Ask yourself this: could you play 18 holes with Tiger, could you play 5 sets with Federer?

  • Comment number 71.

    Silly debate, but here's the question that I think could be quite telling:

    Have Tiger and Roger play the number of rounds there are in a Major, and see how many shots Roger is behind.

    Then have Tiger and Roger play 7 best of 5 set tennis matches, like in a Grand Slam and see how many sets Tiger wins. Or games he wins. Or service games he holds. Or serves he returns. Or points he gets....

    Anyway, I think it's a stupid comparison, especially as a golfer's career is so much longer. (Is that not also a little telling?) And whoever made the broken leg comment is an idiot - of course Feder could never win a Slam with a broken leg, but I didn't see Tiger running flat out on it, serving on it, and jumping on it for 3 hours every other day for 2 weeks solid! That's the trouble with stupid articles - it brings out stupid people with stupid answers. And you can include me in that group.

  • Comment number 72.

    JohnB999 - quite right about Rossi

    Just a comment about both Federer and Woods, greatest of the modern era yes but let Woods play with old fashioned golf clubs and Federer with wooden rackets, would they cope ? they would because of the talent but would they be the greatest.

    Nicklaus and Laver in their prime would have been a match for these 2.

  • Comment number 73.

    "The two greatest individual sports stars of our time (who don't propel darts for a living) "

    im sorry but that just smacks of arrogance, why doesnt phil taylor deserve to be mentioned in the same breathe as woods or federer? just because he isnt the front page stuff of a glossy mag or the fact darts isnt as glamarous?

    ohh and your entire article is pointless, how can you compare two differnt sports? the two men mentioned are greats in the their own right.... just as the people who "propel darts for a living" are...

  • Comment number 74.

    Wake up, golf fans! How can the fact that Tiger was able to win a major with one leg be a good thing?! All that proves is that golf isn't a sport, it's just something for the old folk to do to improve their mobility following a hip replacement. You might as well say that David Bryant is the greatest sportsman ever for his domination of indoor bowls.

  • Comment number 75.

    Well well, This is a difficult answer I can try to answer.
    Firstly I should declare that I have terrible eye-hand coordination and therefore completely useless at both sport. So, so far Roger and Tiger are both exceptional players compare to me. What I can talk about is their smaller more accessible form:

    Golf and table tennis. I've been on Britain's fun golf circuit for a while (Barry Island, Ramsgate..) and always managed to get a decent score as playing against myself did find the odd moment of concentration. So I am better at golf (extrapolating here). At table tennis I can successfully serve fairly regularly but rarely managed to return, in fact even hit the ball when it was returned to me by any opponents (in a few occasions the guy I was playing was asleep and managed to score a point).

    So again by extrapolating tennis, for me, is a much more difficult sport (let alone the back ache every time I tried tennis). than golf and my admiration goes to Roger.

  • Comment number 76.

    thesefeetdontdance wrote:
    "Nicklaus and Laver in their prime would have been a match for these 2."

    Respect your opinion, and Laver was peerless in his time, but at 5'8" he would be more of a "pocket rocket" nowadays and his artistry would, unfortunately, be muscled off court. More skilled with a racquet, very likely, but he just wouldn't have the physical power to win.

  • Comment number 77.

    To the question: Who is the greatest, Tiger Woods or Roger Federer? The answer is Lance Armstong

  • Comment number 78.

  • Comment number 79.

    Surely golf can only be classed as a pastime along with darts, snooker, bowls, tiddlywinks, fishing in the cut, monopoly, conkers and cross stitch embroidery. Roger Federer is a very fine athlete and sportsman and probably the greatest tennis player ever.
    Still no takers for Lance Armstrong then ! He has just had three years off on the beer and has still managed to put himself into third place today in the TdF which is arguably the toughest- and biggest- annual sporting event in the world.
    Golf. Tiger Woods. You cannot be serious ! ! !

  • Comment number 80.

    to people saying that golf is a pass time sport, have a look at woods' physique and i guarantee that is not for boating, but that is what is required in golf.
    golfers are the highest paid sportpeople for a reason: its a true sport...
    tiger is the best

  • Comment number 81.

    The reason these two stand comparison is not because their sports have any similarities (they don't), it's because both sports have 4 majors each year. So regardless of the symantics involved in actually winning your chosen sport, you still get 4 goes each year.

    So on that basis you can compare them, maybe winning a golf major is harder, but then they get a longer career. Maybe Fed only really gets three goes per year because of Nadal's (injury free) ability on clay.

    Nadal's unlikely to catch Fed in terms of best ever, but he may well be a worthy competitor for many years to come and has good chance of becoming the best clay court player of all time.

    Tiger plays the US tour, maybe to be considerd truely great he should do a few seasons in Europe just to make sure he's really as good as he is.

    they're both superb sportsmen but I think I've got to agree that federer having gone ahead in majors/slams and being considered the greatest ever rather then greatest of his generation plus having done it all in 6 years has the edge for me.

  • Comment number 82.

    the guy who reeled off all the stats was interested reading and i agree with all of his points except Tiger hasnt won 34 european tour events, he hasnt even played in that many in his career. He has counted majors and world golf championships on top of PGA tour victories but they are co-sanctioned events. he actually has 7 european tour victories that were not co-sanctioned events, but none the less Tiger is the greatest sportsman/woman of all time.

  • Comment number 83.

    oh yeah,I've played Tennis for 15 years and I've just got into golf (5 games into my "career") I'd still reckon I'd nick a hole of Tiger before I won a game off Fed

  • Comment number 84.

    Let me close this case for all of you: First of all how can you compare tennis to golf? My grand grand father could compete in a golf masters' tournament and have a shot at winning. In tennis you need skills and stamina, in golf, you can have a beer belly as big of my mini van and still beat tiger woods.
    Shall I say more? You can call a great golf player as much of a sportsman as you can call a poker player, it is really not a sport, so if golf is not a sport then tigerwoods is NOT a sportsman, but Roger is because he has to run for every point.
    Case closed, now go eat your pancakes and don't try to make a case that is not.

  • Comment number 85.

    Indeed we are told Woods does have a great physique - I believe he was an excellent 400m runner. However, this only confers an advantage to his game - he has still been beaten by podgy old goats with beer bellies. At the top of tennis, an excellent physique with fitness to boot is a basic requirement. Not meaning to be controversial but golf is a highly skilled activity, tennis is a sport - the two cannot be compared.

  • Comment number 86.

    Re 80. There is plenty of money in golf not because it is a sport but because very rich, high flying, corperate business people enjoy doing it.
    It does however take considerable skill and practice to play it well and Tiger Woods, certainly, is very skilled and gets plenty of practice .
    I am very good at wallpapering because i'm very skilled and get loads of practice. Perhaps wallpapering should be classed as a sport !

  • Comment number 87.

    connorleedsfan: tiger is better, because in golf you have to beat everyone whereas in tennis you just beat the person on the other side of the net

    Wow, you cannot win the tournament by just beating one guy (who's on the other side of the net) RF definitely has more skills than TW, Golf for me is a boring game - one shot then you walk, what a waste of time, there is no real time interaction with other players - it's just you and the hole while in tennis oh wow this is where you got to show your real deal skills combined with your quick thinking and physique capabilities, you'll be on the edge of your seat with too much intensity from the players non stop. King Fed just made Tennis look like a simple game to play but in reality everybody is struggling to get at title of their own, have you seen John McEnroe's comment on BBC? Roger you made us look like an average player.

  • Comment number 88.

    The point that Mr Carter is making is not who is the better Sportsman - Tiger or Roger but is the other their biggest rival. Does ones success motivate the other. They are currently the most succesful players in their respective sports and appear to have a strong personal friendship (Shame about poor Thierry but they always say that 3s a crowd).

    So Mr Carters arguement is that Roger is not driven by the thought of a Nadal or a Murray coming along nor Tiger is looking at Phil Mic or Paul Casey as they do not scare them but more a case of one up manship over their mate. Interesting thought - I think that it would be sort of side bet because I personally do not think that Rog and Tiger have that lack of respect for their fellow everyday competitors and if they do then they would be poor champions and not really worthy of the respect and devotion given to them by millions of fans worldwide.

    So its not about who is the greatest because that is unmeasurable but is the success of one the driving factor for the other and in reality the only people who can answer that probably do not have BBC 606 Accounts

  • Comment number 89.

    I think its pathetic that anyone believes in this so called 'friendship'.

  • Comment number 90.

    pointless article, two wonderful sportsmen who are impossible to compare. They have been at the pinnacle of their disciplines for a long time but then the likes of Phelps and Lance Armstrong have to be considered.

  • Comment number 91.

    I agree that you can't really compare competitors from different sports but it's fun trying. All of the arguments are subjective so you just have to go with your gut feeling. Mine is for Tiger..just...i think.

    I would like to make a point though:

    I feel that Tiger has more competition than Roger. Every golf championship has at least 50 players, maybe even more, capable of winning. You pretty much know that most tennis tournaments are going to be won by the same 5-6 players.

    On that same note, how many people around the world play golf and how many play tennis. Tiger's the best out of millions of serious golfers worldwide whereas Roger's the best out of hundreds of thousands of serious tennis players.

  • Comment number 92.

    The dictionary defintion of a sport is:
    'A physical activity that involves skill OR physical prowess'. The keyword there is OR so all the people saying golf (or darts, snooker etc) isn't a sport need to start saying that it 'shouldn't' be a sport - in their opinion.

  • Comment number 93.

    "I feel that Tiger has more competition than Roger. Every golf championship has at least 50 players, maybe even more, capable of winning. You pretty much know that most tennis tournaments are going to be won by the same 5-6 players."

    That is not a valid point. You can't say who is greater on the basis of the rest of the pack being more evenly matched. In fact, your point that any one of 50 can win might even point to there being more luck involved than in other sports, as golf is the only sport I can think of that is that 'open' in terms of possible winners.

  • Comment number 94.

    "On that same note, how many people around the world play golf and how many play tennis. Tiger's the best out of millions of serious golfers worldwide whereas Roger's the best out of hundreds of thousands of serious tennis players."

    And could this not point to the ease of the sport? I know many people who have never played golf, but I'm confident they could be driving down the fairway with a few hours of practice. I'm not sure how many of those people would be able to return a serve, or serve and volley. It's like saying Bolt isn't the fastest runner in the world because there aren't many serious 100m runners out there. In fact, I can't think of a single one.

    I think trying to make this comparison is silly - it's just too different. It's like saying who's better: Muhammed Ali or Picasso?

  • Comment number 95.

    Roger is the greatest.

    I can play golf okay, single figure handicap, sink the odd long putt, a wee bit nifty with a pitching wedge.

    And I can do this the morning after seven pints of fizzy lager and a kebeb with extra chillis.

    I also try and play tennis. If I try to give it laldy on a sundy morning, I come over a wee bit sickly, if you know where I am coming from.

    Both games require you first and foremost to master the mental challenge. But tennis requires you, as a side line, to breathe whilst having a heart rate of 150 for three or four hours. Thats a sport.

  • Comment number 96.

    Firstly, I cannot take Lance Armstrong seriously due to the myriad drug problems in his sport, not accusing him, but if he dominated his sport when all his rivals were using performance enhancing just looks dodgy, that's all I'm saying.

    Secondly, in certain sports you can continue with serious injuries such as Tigers knee, see Hendry winning the world championship one year with a fractured elbow.

    Thirdly, I cannot recall when Tiger won his first major, but it was in the nineties when Federer was a novice. Federer won his first in 2003, how many had Tiger won by then?

    Fourthly, what is their conversion rate? Federer has played in a lot less Grand Slam events than Woods has played Majors. His success ratio must be much higher.

    Fifthly, as for Nadals record against him, we know Nadal is totally dominant on clay, if Nadal hadn't burst on the scene when he did Federer would have won at least three by now. On other surfaces it is two Grand Slam Finals wins each, hardly domination by Nadal is it, 50-50?

    Sixthly, if Fed lets his form drop he is out. Woods has three other days to get it right and in some of his major wins he had at least one bad day. Plus he is playing himself and the course, Fed is playing himself, the court and a very determined opponent.

    Seventhly, how can Fed losing the #1 spot and regaining it be a bad thing. Mohammed Ali lost his title and then won it back. He is, probably correctly, named by most as the greatest sportsman of all time, yet no-one says he failed by getting beaten, but that he was a legend for getting it back. Fed lost it, he now has it back, he has won 3 of the last four Slams and been second in the other. There are lots of reasons a tennis player can lose the #1 spot, a loss of motivation, illness (we know he had glandular fever), increased competition (Djokovic, Murray and a resurgent Roddick lie in wait even if Nadal cannot overcome his injuries.)

    Eigthly, One of Woods huge advantages is his length off the tee, couple this with three of the majors being in the US, being designed for US players and getting increasingly longer you have to say he has had an advantage Federer has not had, tennis courts haven't been redesigned to give Fed a leg up.

    Ninthly, Woods plays a sport that is one of the most popular in the US. One the US has always excelled at, whereas how many Swiss tennis legends can you name? That makes his acheivements even greater.

    Fed for me, but I'd love to see him, Laver, Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Connors, Lendl etc play each other on a level playing field. Of course it not possible, but what a tourney that would be!

    Ditto Woods, Trevino, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player etc all with the same clubs and at their peak.

    Still it's all conjecture.

  • Comment number 97.

    (Shame about poor Thierry but they always say that 3s a crowd).

    What you mean FA Cup winner, Premership winner, Copa Del Ray winner, La Liga Winner, Champions League winner, Confederations Cup winner, European Championship winner, World Cup winner, Footballer of the Year winner Thierry Henry.

    Oh yeah, he's done nothing!!

  • Comment number 98.

    #92 I think your definition means welding can be called a sport. I imagine there is an element of competition involved as well.

    As for comparisons between Golf and Tennis, I think they're pointless as each one requires different abilities to play at the top level. Most people can hit a tennis ball with a racket but it's a lot harder to hit a golf ball straight with a club (except a putter).

    There again, it's very difficult to impart spin on a tennis ball and hit it just over the net whilst it's relatively easy to putt a ball into the hole in a few shots.

    Federer has to cope with a few different surfaces (three I think) but beyond that his playing arena is basically the same in every match. Woods has to cope with an arena where no two holes are exactly the same and the weather conditions can vary tremendously.

    Federer has to be supremely fit to succeed, but I imagine Woods has to use more mental energy in the course of a 4 or 5 hour round of golf.

    Personally I just recognise that Federer and Woods are the supreme exponents of their respective skills, just as Phil Taylor is of his. Beyond that I don't really care who is considered the 'greater' sportsman.

  • Comment number 99.

    Golf requires the most skill out of any sport to be the best at. It is the highest skilled sport by some distance. Tennis hadly requires the skill that a golfer needs. With such a fine margin for error for a golfer. For this reason Tiger Woods is the greatest out of the two for me.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'm glad to see that I am not the first to pull the rug out from under this journalistic claptrap.
    to compare federer with any of the tennis champions of other eras - rosewall, borg, laver, perry - is misguided, to use the most generous description. other commentators have given enough justification of the spurious nature of this fruitless exercise.
    to engage in this lightheaded foray into federer:woods smells of the desperation of someone struggling desperately to find something else to write about the fed's achievements.
    can we expect a similar piece about federer:schumacher or federer:ali or federer:wg grace, and why not federer:connolly or navratilova or lenglen? and why have we not had one already?


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