BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Overend
« Previous | Main | Next »

Is Roger Federer playing better than ever?

Post categories:

Jonathan Overend | 08:11 UK time, Monday, 28 November 2011

Before we start, a prediction; you will find below, unless you are the first poster, a rather lively debate. It's going to be argumentative, and it could get a little rough in there, but it's going to be passionate and that's what these pages are all about!

The debate began on the radio last week, leading to a minor stir in the press and replies to @5livetennis in a total twitter-tizzy.

The question is about Roger Federer, the six-time ATP World Tour Finals champion who sealed the 2011 title at the O2 in London with a three set win over brave Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a stirring final on Sunday.

Whether now, at the age of 30 and with a world ranking of three, Federer may actually be a better player than, say, five years ago as the undisputed world number one.

Before you hurl blog-bog in my direction (please, my suit needs to stay fresh for our end of season lunch) remember I am simply posing the question rather than put my neck on the chopping board. For now.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

Can anyone say for certain that Roger Federer is a worse player these days? He may look it, statistically, but as he said the other day; "It's only logical to improve as a player".

So is he actually better? Is there an argument which would stand tall in the court of BBC Blogdom? Either way, I want to hear it.

My first thought on the matter is that it's too easy to base any claim of Federer decline on losing more matches than he used to, or his woeful (!) ranking, or his inconsistency.

He loses more matches because he's got a handy trio - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray - as his nearest rivals. His other losses this year have come to fine talents Tomas Berdych, Tsonga and Richard Gasquet with his defeat to Jurgen Melzer in Monte Carlo the only real shocker.

First Nadal and then Djokovic raised the performance bar, just as Federer did a few years back. That, in part, explains the inconsistency as he can't dominate like a few years back.

But, more importantly, players believe they can beat him now. They don't check out mentally like they used to, therefore comeback wins are more frequent against a Federer perceived as being more fallible.

Should this not always have been the case? Lower-ranked players used to be beaten in the locker room and this invincibility factor unquestionably played a big part in Federer's peak 2004-2007 period.

Now he faces greater belief, harder ball, tougher matches, more losses. Does that make him a weaker player, or not?

What about his game. The serve appears just as good, the slider out to the forehand side of the deuce court particularly effective, but I think he misses more volleys.

His backhand is better. More variety, fewer frames. ("Everyone played into my backhand", he said this week, "so it was always going to get better") He may be a touch slower, that's the common consensus, but has anyone clocked him on sprints lately?

His movement appeared slightly better in his all-conquering pomp yet, again, how do we prove this is not a consequence of a better ball coming at him? Is he just being made to look slower?

And so we come to the area where he has really taken a hit in the last two years; closing out matches from winning positions.

Match points against Djokovic in the US Open, a two set lead over Tsonga at Wimbledon. More got away back in 2010; close matches with Berdych and Monfils spring to mind.

He could, of course, do nothing about the amazing forehand return Djokovic hit in New York, scraping the line in the semi-final, but these are not positions one would have expected the "old" Federer to let slip.

Even on Sunday night at the O2 we saw him blowing a 5-3 lead in the second set and a 5-2 lead in the subsequence tie-break.

Fresh belief of his opponents - Tsonga hit some great shots with his back to the wall, like at Wmbledon - or mental deterioration on Federer's part?

It was interesting to hear him speak about needing to recharge mentally after "doubts" surfaced in the wake of the US Open.

He skipped Asia and has not lost a match (17-0) since his New York defeat. He says he's tired but he looks fresh.

Thanks to Djokovic, the level of men's tennis has hit new heights this year. I remember sitting with Murray, can't remember where, and he said the standard has gone through the roof even in the relatively short time he's been around.

Federer's title success at the ATP Tour Finals, a third trophy in as many tournaments at the end of the season, sets him up perfectly for 2012, a huge year for him with the Olympics and the challenge of ending a two year major drought.

He'd love nothing more than to show the kids he can still improve, can be a better player, and if that happens he wins more majors. His rivals have made him appear in decline but, come the start of the year, they could be looking over their shoulders at the man with the experience, the desire and - still - the talent.


  • Comment number 1.

    I would agree his probably as good as ever right now and I suspect come February he will have added another major to his collection not to mention a streak well in excess of 20 wins. Amazingly he could outlast Rafa as Roger's body seems to be showing no sign of wear and tear maybe Novak as well and therefore he might be limiting the next generation of tennis players major hauls! I for one am delighted he shows no signs of wanting to move on from Tennis, what a joy to watch we should treasure The Greatest there has ever been.

  • Comment number 2.

    This is a very interesting question. I think it's fair to say that Federer's unprecedented dominance and consistency in the Slams has pushed his fellow competitors to unheard of levels of excellence. He raised the bar for what was required to become a world number one and it has taken two truly exceptional players to push him down the rankings. There is certainly a case to be made that he is playing no worse than he used to, and he's right when he says that it is only natural that you improve, particularly as he is a player whose game is built more around precision and technique than it is around speed and power.

    What has changed, thanks to his pushing the game to evolve is that the playing field is totally different now. The top of the men's game is a pretty exclusive club which it is incredibly tough to break into. This will be the fourth year in a row that the same four men have occupied the top 4 spots on the year end rankings and the gap in ranking points down to the fifth player is greater than the 2000 you can earn for winning a slam.

    Whilst there were some fine players about during Roger's days of dominance I personally don't believe that the level of competition was the same then. Sadly by this time Andre Agassi's body could no longer consistently support his sublime talent, Marat Safin had the technique to win numerous Slams but not the focus, the game had already begun to run away from Leyton Hewitt, Roddick was comparatively one dimensional (though it should be noted that that one dimension was more than enough at the time to win a US Open and finish 2003 as world number one so he was still an exceptional talent), Ferrero had lost the pace that was a cornerstone of his game to injury and a still developing Nadal was yet to emerge as a threat on all surfaces.

    I think it would be possible to read too much into Roger's victory at a tournament where Nadal and Djokovic showed up clearly not at their best and Murray withdrew through injury but it is clear that if any of his rivals go backwards or even stand still this year then Roger is perfectly poised to take advantage. I firmly hope that Nadal and Djokovic are just suffering the hangovers of their physically exhausting and mentally taxing seasons rather than embarking on the start of something like a Wilander post 88 decline because both have plenty still to offer the game. I do firmly believe, however, that Federer has more majors left in him and would be delighted to see him add to his total.

  • Comment number 3.

    Let's be clear - we are still talking about the current World number 3, he is hardly a 'has-been', even by his illustrious standards. A Federer 'demise' does much to belittle just how outstanding Djokovic has been this year, not to mention Nadal's talent. I think it is more a case of those two players raising their standards to match Federer than him losing touch - Federer has intimated as much.

    Often a useful barometer to measure such things is the way bookies hedge their bets - you will notice that they never bet against Federer, even when Djokovic and Nadal are in their pomp.

    He still remains for me the most skillful player in the game, and is an absolute wonder to watch. Competition in the top 5 is healthy for the game, and Federer is going nowhere from that berth for the time being, and I'll raise a glass to that.

    One last note - very similar discussions take place over Sachin Tendulkar being a better player now, despite his age. In reality it doesn't matter - the comparison is that regardless of whether they are better or not, they are still at the top of their respective games, and both are the greatest examples of their sport.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is a little like comparing apples and oranges. Is Federer a better player now than he was in 2006? Of course he is, he's had to be to keep pace with all the young players coming through - no sport stands still.

    However, this ignores the greater question - is he slower? Of course he is. How can you compare a player of 30 years old against Murray, Djokovic and Nadal who are all in their tennis prime and peak physical fitness? It's illogical to suggest he cannot be at least half a step slower unless somewho (amongst other astonishing achievements) he's been able to defy the ageing process.

    It just goes to prove how great this man is but more importantly I leave another question to ponder....

    Will Nadal, Djokovic or Murray play tennis like this when they're in their 31st year of age? I'd be very surprised indeed.

  • Comment number 5.

    I saw Federer's demolition of Nadal live last Tuesday, and would agree with Tim Henman's comment that it was the best tennis I have ever seen. I do think the level in the top 4 now is above anything I can remember (and I go back to the start of the professional era). Its really a question how well Federer (or anyone else) can sustain the very top level of performance over a week (Masters tournaments, a fortnight (slams) or a period of time (Djokovic's first three quarters of the year, Murray in Asia, Federer over the last few weeks). It needs to be sustained physically for avoidance of injury, and probably more significantly mentally.

    My impression is that Federer seems to have fewer injuries than the other three, so the question is can he maintain the mental approach to deal with the challenge of grinding out the results to climb above the other (mainly younger) guys on the rankings?

    I think 2012 is very important to him in this, he will have a very serious go at it, and my best guess is that he will win a slam. If he doesn't, and ends next year scrambling a bit to stay above Murray in the rankings, he may wonder whether the hard work is still worth it. If he wins at least one slam and next year's finals, I think the guys can look forward to another couple of years of battling with the classy Swiss.

  • Comment number 6.

    #4, Absolutely agree with your question about the others still playing at the top after 30 - I can't see Nadal with his injury record being there, Murray's ankles have to be a concern and Djokovich's injury record (especially withdrawing from matches) would tell me that he's taking a toll on his body as well.

  • Comment number 7.

    This is what Federer's game does to everyone! It makes your head spin! According to these so called experts Federer is certainly at his best when he loses but his opponents are certainly below their best when he wins!! So when Djokovic lost at RG it was due to Fognini withdrawal - poor Djoko didn't get the much needed match practice! But when Djokovic defeated Federer at FM Federer was playing better than ever! Not just these three but everyone else seems to be playing better than ever! Even Hewitt could beat Federer (finally)! Players who could not ever come closer to Federer before are getting better with age and now beating him! And they say Federer is playing better than ever! This is inherently flawed! If anything, Nadal was a better player in 2008 and early 2009 (when he defeated Federer in 5 setters). Nadal's backhand and running forehand were too good then! Djokovic's win over Nadal in the two finals this year were 4 sets affairs (more due to Djokovic's fault). Through most of the matches Djokovic played to Nadal's backhand and drew errors from him!! Hardly classic material!!! Watch videos of the past and you will know what I am talking!!! And Nadal played wimbledon finals in 2006 and 2007 too! The fact is - Federer has never been the same since 2008 begining and will never be able to achieve that same level again!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with #1: Federer seems to have managed his career well unlike Djokovic and Nadal. That could be because his skill was enough to outpower the opponents without much movement unlike the other two who run all over the court in a match.
    #2 & #3: Yes it is the opponets who have raised their game to beat him. It was only the rise of Nadal that brought some serious competition to him. And then we have Djokovic who joined the duo and in fact surprised them and everyone else by beating them well this year. Sometimes an inspired DelPotro or Tsonga in single match could turn the match - but all in all Federer remained the same or may have even imporved. His early years of dominance speaks more of lack of competition. But this does not make his achievements less illustrious.

    I did think of Sachin Tendulkar when I read the headline of this article and I saw #3 had already spoken of him. Tendulkar was written of as a spent force in mid-2000s as he had tennis-elbow surgery and had some poor performance for a couple of years. People began to talk of Ricky Ponting as Tendulkar asking him to retire. One famous commentator said Tendulkar should look into the mirror and question himself why he was still hanging on? And then the transformation came. He rolled back the years and played as magnificently as he can for which he was acclaimed. He even achieved the barrier of hitting 200 runs in an ODI match and also several hundreds thereafter in Tests and ODIs.

    So this proves that great skillful champions can outlast the competition by their sheer skills unlike some who just hit the peak for few years and then wear off. Federer, Tendulkar and I would put Schumacher also on similar status. These people are legends in their own sport.

  • Comment number 9.

    The intangible effects of 30 can impact Roger's play. Slower courts tend to result in longer points and Roger has to develop a strategy to deal with that and he powerful two-handed backhands.

    Has Roger's game improved? In some ways yes. He has had to adapt to the above challenges. In best-of-five GS tournaments, Roger has to try and wrap up matches in three sets early on and in no more than four in Qtrs & Semis.

    Roger should have won AO 2009 and USO 2009. He threw those matches away. But I think the recent loses and seeing his name at #3, instead of #1 should give him motivation.

    Roger's game will help him overcome the age issues, he is just natural. His mental resilience was displayed after losing the 2nd set to Tsonga. He got broken when serving for match, lost a healthy lead in the tiebreaker and wasted a match point. But he was tenacious in the 3rd. Tsonga felt the pressure since he had more to lose in the 3rd than in the 2nd.

    Long story short ... Roger has the game to win GS. Is he better? Yes for the slow courts. His old game was better, but not for the slower courts. He can't dominate as he did in the past. But seeing how he creamed Nadal last week, he's ready to play more.

  • Comment number 10.

    'It's only logical to improve as a player' - why? This is an adage that is regularly trotted out by players and pundits alike, but there is absolutely no evidence that it is true. Of course it's possible that you steadily improve through more practice or changes in technique, but to view it as an inevitability is simply wrong. When top players talk about improving their game, they almost always mean working to maintain their very high standards, whether they realise it or not.

    Federer is clearly a worse player now than he was about five years ago. It is not just the defeats, but the inexplicable manner of them (especially Tsonga at Wimbledon and Djokovic at the US Open) that show that he has lost some of his edge. He is capable of playing as well as he ever has - for the first two sets against Djokovic at the US Open, and against Nadal in London for example - but he no longer with the metronomic regularity of his most productive period. Seeing him at his infrequent best these days just serves to remind me of how awesome he was at his best and really emphasises his decline.

    I think the single biggest result that underlined how Federer has slipped was the loss to Melzer, who had never taken a set off him previously. Combined with a loss to Gasquet shortly afterwards, who had lost his 10 previous meetings with Federer, it was clear that he is not quite as imperious as he used to be. I see absolutely no evidence to the contrary - he has done nothing this year that he hasn't done before, but has failed to do various things he used to do out of habit (winning Slams being the obvious one, but getting to finals is no longer the given it always used to be). Djokovic clearly did raise his game a level this year, but Nadal didn't, nor in my opinion did Murray, and it should be noted that he didn't have a fit and in-form Del Potro to contend with either, yet he still found himself behind Nadal all year, and even got overtaken by Murray for a brief period.

    As with all great sportsmen whose powers are on the turn, he is still capable of producing his best form, but to pretend that he is somehow better than he was when he was winning 3 Slams a year is absolutely laughable.

  • Comment number 11.

    "I'm not taking anything away from what he did but was Asia the strongest this year?
    "I'm not sure. Novak Djokovic and I were not there and Rafa Nadal lost early in Shanghai."

    These are the words Roger Federer spoke after Murray won three tournaments in a row. So I think its only fair we apply that to Federer last three victories. Basle, Paris and the World Tour Finals were weak tournaments with the rest of the top 3 injured. Therefore there is absolutely no justification in suggesting his results in London (where he struggled to three sets to dispatch Tsonga twice and the tournament whipping boy Fish) can suggest anything other than he is still better, but only just, than the players ranked below him.

    Federer hasn't won a Slam in two years and hasn't won a Master Series Event that counts (applying his own logic) since Cincinnati last year. He is increasingly unable to hold on to leads and serve out victories. There were matches this week where his form deserted him for entire sets. It seems obvious everybody watched this tournament through rose tinted glasses and saw Federer perform in a way that just didn't stand up.

    Its also worth bearing in mind that last year, Federer hammered a fit Murray, Djokovic and Nadal at the Tour Finals and still ended 2011 Slamless. He will not win a Slam next year and will most likely slip out of the top 4.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think he has to be a better player, because he's not as quick as he used to be. A few years ago, he was able to win a lot matches in "defensive" mode. These days, every match he has won, he has had to do it in offensive mode. That's much more difficult. Apart from Isner, he still has the best service game win%. Just look at the SF match in the French Open. It's probably the most brilliant non-physical offensive playing you're ever going to see on a clay court.

    I also find it very funny that all the players that rely on their strenghth and stamina are complaining about the long season while the oldest player, who relies on technique and finesse is the one still standing and not complaining although he's played much longer seasons on mulitiple times. Well, they're getting a season that's two weeks shorter, so bravo to you younger players, you've weakened Fed via the board room. He's also the only the only one who wanted to go back to a best-of-five final in the WTF.

    What I feel has happened, is that, in order to be able to beat him, Federer has forced players who will never develop a technique based on finesse to develop an even more physical game which in turn wears them out over the course of a year. My knees hurt every time I see Nadal or Djokovic slide on a hard court. So yes, with enough rest, these guys will probably be able to pummel Fed into submission during the slams, because I'm afraid Fed's getting too old for a physical battle over 5 sets when Nadal and Djokovic are fit and playing on a high-bouncing court. Fed however never misses a slam because of injury, so the minute the other guys show any sign of wear and tear, he'll be there to pick them off.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with other comments. What's the excuse when Roger creamed Nadal 6-0 in the 2nd set? Possibly that Nadal had not played enough? Roger loses only when he is not really into the match. His biggest problem in 2009 & 2010 was that he got bored at times if he had an early lead and let the opponent get back into the match- especially if it was not in a finals.

    Plus keep in mind that many of the loses have been after he learned he would be a dad and had kids. That is a huge change to deal with mentally. Any parent knows that. It is amazing that Roger has been able to stay in the mix. Look at Hewitt ... he's no where. And Roddick is even worse after getting married, forget about kids!

    I think Roger has learned to deal with parenthood better now. The kids are probably sleeping better at night as well ;)

  • Comment number 14.

    One point that has not been mentioned so far is the amount of Tennis that Roger has been playing since the birth of his children. The Swiss press often report that he is playing less tennis and only entering those tournaments that he sees as a build up to the majors, or his beloved Basel.
    Whilst this is great for him in that he gets to spend more time with his children it means that he is clearly playing less tennis and practicing less. To me this just makes what he is doing even more impressive, just keeping up with the other big three players is a huge achievement!
    I dont know about anyone else but when I heard that and looked at it from that angle it was even more impressive.

  • Comment number 15.

    Federer is playing well, but not anywhere close to his prime. At his peak, 2004 - 2007, sublime and unearthly shots would flow out of his racquet more often than not. Currently, producing such shots on consistent basis is not possible for him, which indicates that either his game has evolved or declined. I believe that his game has evolved as he is serve and volleying more and not resorting to his backcourt bullying of the past. His backhand has changed, hitting the ball earlier than usual, to contend to moon-balls that Nadal effectively designed and exceuted against him. Novak has had a few convincing wins against him, but his level of comfort at his supposed prime is still low against RF, which was seen both at RG and Meadows. One thing noticable is that RF is mentally more fallible when his serve fails or is ambushed as he has begun to rely more on it than the past to get him through matches. Overall, Federer is going to outlast the rest as he continues to evolve, making him the fittest to survive than his peers.

  • Comment number 16.

    Agree with most of the above. Federer exemplifies the sport and his style of play has allowed him to enjoy playing relatively injury free. Other than mono and a couple of small niggles he ha manged to play 10 full seasons at or near the top of the game and has NEVER retired from a match which is amazing.

  • Comment number 17.

    No question that Roger is a better tennis player today than he was when he won Wimbledon in 2003. He wisely hired Paul Annacone who has coached him back into superb form harnessing the best of his game with smarter point strategy. His best clay court tennis came this year at the French Open despite the groin injury he sustained during his match against Monfils in the quarters.

    The difference in Roger's chances of winning today versus his earlier years is based on his ability to focus. He has made the necessary adjustments to his game for shots he cannot command at will any longer and his ability to concentrate as he did when he was younger is perhaps his greatest challenge now.

  • Comment number 18.

    The answer here is I think, technically, he is playing his best ever tennis. But this is the conundrum with tennis, that your best results do not necessarily coincide with when you've become a more complete player. Even Federer is not immune, plenty of others, none as great as the Fed, have been there.

    As wonderful as the older Roger is, I think the younger Roger would have had a greater subconscious belief in his backhand at 5-5 in the fifth. Especially if it's Nadal or Djokovic on the other side of the net. It's those sorts of intangibles that might end up determining if Fed wins another slam, but I suspect that if he does break his drought, there's a decent chance he'll win another half-dozen slams.

  • Comment number 19.

    Federer can only play as well as his opponents allow and this year he has had 3 excellent opponents. He has also had some very good matches against them particularly Djokovic - the FO semi final being a classic, which both players played their part in.

    The alleged lack of speed is compensated to a degree by his ability to read the game better, of course when his offensive game is not firing on all cylinders it can look much worse than the defensive strategies deployed by the others but it is a more economic, less physically demanding game.

    Federer rarely discusses his physical condition during a tournament, wisely choosing not to give his opponents a mental edge.

    Federer is getting closer to Nadal in the rankings and has fewer points to defend in the early part of the new season, so he may challenge for the No 2 spot unless Rafa can turn his game around - personally I think it is fanciful to think he will ever get back to No 1 unless Djokovic suffers a complete loss of form.

    Whilst he may lack the consistency of old, when he does manage to notch things up a gear his game is awesome. His demolition of an albeit out of sorts Nadal, was simply sublime and on form his game reaches heights the others can only aspire to.

    Most of all he still seems to love the game - Nadal and Murray can look like tortured souls at times and one wonders how long their motivation will last.

  • Comment number 20.

    Interestingly enough, everyone is talking about the great year Djokovic has had but actually it is not as good as Federer of 2005 when he went 81-4
    Djokovic went 75-6 - Played less matches and lost more times!
    Having said that it was still a great year

  • Comment number 21.

    I think the answer to that question will tell us in 2012. For the second year in a row Roger has ended his year on a high in contrast to a somewhat 'average' season by his exceptional standards.
    With Nadal back to the drawing board, Djokovic the new dominant player and Del Potro getting back to full fitness I'm not so sure. Roger has always said and I remember when his 'era' began he is desperate to win gold in London 2012 and probably consider his future. It would be a shame to see the world lose such a mesmerising talent but I hope (if he wins) he sticks to those words rather than carry on playing and being phased out like an Agassi and being beaten consistently by 50+ ranked players.

  • Comment number 22.

    #11 Can't agree that Paris was a weaker event than Murray's Asia run so given that fact we have to agree that he won a Masters series event this year. The season finale has to be approached like a major because of the reflection on the whole season just to qualify so again Federer prepared well in choosing the tournaments that enabled him to win an unprecedented 6th title.
    #20 I believe Novak was 70-6 which given he won 3 majors was outstanding but nowhere near the level of Federer of '05 who was 81-4.
    My prediction for 2012 is that Fed could win 3 again AO, Wim & USO and a Olympic Gold medal.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't think he moves as well, and I don't think his forehand is as good. He used to absolutely dominate matches with his forehand, producing outrageous winners right, left and centre, which we see him doing less of now (the Nadal match being an obvious exception). If you watch the matches he played at the Masters Cup against Nadal in 2006 and 2007, for me his standard of play is clearly higher than he is capable of today.

  • Comment number 24.

    He doesn't move as well, his reflexes have slowed making him a less effective returner and he's lost some of his confidence, becoming a less effective front-runner.

    He's not as good as he used to be, and it really isn't close.

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree that Roger has improved certain aspects of his game in order to still compete. The one area he is weaker somewhat is mentally as he lets leads and winning positions slip much more than he ever used to. Perhaps that is an age related thing. I also feel that the speed of the courts over the last 10 years have become progressively slower and that proves a huge challenge to an all-court player and favours the baseliners like Nadal or the players who hit the ball really hard like Berdych, Tsonga and to an extent Djokovic. Roger's game is more about precision, angles and flare and being able to get to the net when he can and this has been negatively impacted by the slower courts especially at Wimbledon. But I do think he can win another GS if he can play like he has over the last 2 months. And no, I cannot see any of the other top 4 players being able to play like this when they are 30. Long may Roger continue as he is the best player I have ever seen in my 40 years of watching tennis. It's been a privilege.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Swiss Maestro is a tennis legend. His type come around once in 50 years. He has basically thrown most of tennis records to the trash can. He is above 30 and still the only one capable of beating the remarkable Djoko when Djoko is injury free. I want to say boldly that Djoko did not get better, rather Federer became slower due to age. This accounts for Djoko's dominant season. Nadal is too one dimensional. As long as Djoko is fit, Nadal will never defeat him, this is because Djoko's tennis skill set is better than Nadal's. Murray has no real weapon. Federer in my opinion has the best skill set you can think of in tennis history.
    Have you ever wondered about his 23 straight grand slam semi finals?
    Have you thought about his 18/19 final straight Grand Slam Finals?
    Have you reckoned his 237 weeks non-stop as tennis numero uno?
    Have you checked out his 92-5 win loss ratio in his most dominant season (2006) where he entered 16 finals out of 17 tournaments he competed for winning 3 Grand Slams, A finalist at Roland garros, 4 masters. the WTF and four other titles? He played 97 matches that year so do not give me the tired excuse (Nadal (2010) and Djokovic(2011). Federer is a class above all of them. Small wonder he is still challenging those 5 years his younger and in their prime in every tennis tournament. Friends, appreciate this tennis icon while he is still playing cos you will never know how great he was, his records etc until when the Swiss legend retires.

  • Comment number 27.

    The player who performed better this year in the top 4 was Djokovic. It would be a miracle if Federer is not slowing down and getting the tennis equivalent of golfing's yips.

    Federer can still crush players without using brute strength but he will find it ever harder to stay in top 4 - to think otherwise is to credit him with inhuman characteristics. As a competitor he is hardly going to tell people that life is getting harder, but that has to be the reality. I would like him to win another slam but it isn't going to be easy for him. Technically I think that many of his skills are at a high level but his gameplay this year seems to have changed quite markedly so that his aggression is delivered in controlled bursts rather than throughout the whole match.

  • Comment number 28.

    I believe that Roger certainly has improved parts of his game - his backhand is more of a weapon, employing a bigger variety of shots, approaching the net more effectively etc. But at 30, there are things he's doing less well too - more enforced errors, perhaps a step slower, and most obviously, more lapses in his mental game - which are to be expected. Someone very wise once told me that one peaks (in any endeavor) for about 7 years, and if you are in those 7 years, you best take full advantage of it. Roger has had his seven years, but amazingly, he can still find it in him to compete, both physically and mentally, at the highest level. No doubt he will win another major, perhaps sooner than we think. Roger is the Greatest not only because he's won the most majors and hold the most records, but because the length of time he is able to peak will outlast any of his competitors. He's simply the most gifted tennis player who's ever picked up a racquet and that is his trump card.

  • Comment number 29.

    For a person who has won nothing in 2011, it's a bit much to then say that he has improved.

    Plus all those people saying that Federers record in the 2005, 2006 seasons are better than Djokovic''s record this year..I don't believe it is. For one reason only - that the competition DJ faces is much higher than Federer faced in 2005.

    Federer in 2005: lost to Marat Safin, a 19 year old Nadal, Richard Gasquet, David Nalbandian. Two of these were in Slams. He beat Roddick and a 35 year old Andre Agassi in the two slams he won.

    DJ in 2011: lost to Federer in his only lost in a slam, retired twice through injury and then lost three right at the end of the season when he was knackered. He BEAT Federer four times, Murray once, and Nadal a staggering 6 times. He beat Murray, and Nadal (one of the greatest players ever) twice in finals of Grand Slams winning three.

    DJ, has a better record in 2011 than Fed in 2005, taking into account the quality of the opposition and when the losses took place and who he beat in the tournaments that counted and that two of his losses were through injury and two in the one tournament right at the end of the season. Beating Nadal twice in Grand Slam finals takes some doing.

  • Comment number 30.

    Applying the same logic of competition being weak in 2005-2006 it can also be said that Rafa's achievements on clay were due to lack of competition now that Djokovic has beaten him on clay in straight sets? Would really like to know the thoughts on this!!!
    Most of the times this question is put to show Nadal's recent non-clay successes and Djokovic's victories against Federer in bright light! Otherwise how can Nadal and Djokovic be termed as greats if they don't beat Federer (other than clay in case Nadal v Federer) at his best who has been beating everyone else since 2005? (watch videos of 2005-2006 shanghai masters to see what I mean) The set of players from 2005-2011 has largely been the same. Nadal could beat Federer on grass only in 2008 and at AO only in 2009. Djokovic was a one slam wonder at that time! Only in 2011 has Djokovic stepped up his game! And Murray, the lesser said the better till he wins a slam! So if Federer's game has declined then it doesn't reflect well on Rafa's achievements (4 non-clay titles) as he faced the same set of players Roger has faced. Just by beating one more declining player won't make his achievements great! Same goes with Djokovic! Djker fans won't like if it is suggested that Nadal was not at his best in 2011! And Regarding players like Berdych, Tsonga, and Soderling they haven't done anything special to differentiate themselves from the Hewitts, Safins and Roddicks of the past so far! So this whole argument of competetion being better now is absolute rubbish! Before 2011, it was Rafa and Roger all over others! Before 2008, it was Roger all over others on non-clay and Rafa all over others on clay! In 2011, it is Djokovic all over others! So basically, a player's past successes has been used to term him great and when another player starts beating him consistently he is termed greater!! That's why some people are already saying that Djoker is on his way to become the GOAT!!

  • Comment number 31.

    @ The _Dude4242, Djoko is 70-6 this year (2011) with 3 slams and 5 masters title. Fed was 92-5 in 2006 with 3 slams, 1 WTF and 4 masters. End of discussion. Injury is part of the game.

  • Comment number 32.

    @ Vinay Singh, you are spot on with your analysis.

  • Comment number 33.

    The_dude4242 - how are Nadal and Federer greats if they can't beat Djokovic in 2011? Because in the past competition was weak so they can't be greats based on the past achievements right?
    So for their fans, Nadal and Djoker are greats because they could beat Federer consistently but Federer himself is not great because after 2008 he hasn't been able to beat them consistently! Wow!! How convenient!!
    Unfortunately for their fans, Nadal and Djokovic's claims to greatness can never be complete without bringing Federer in to the equation! Like it or not but that's the truth!!
    Unfortunately for Federer's fans, there is no former player to defend him so they have to pitch-in!
    And frankly, if Nadal and Djoker's fans (the non-compatriot ones) had seen Federer in his prime they wouldn't have existed in the first place!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    firstly roger is playing good but not better than ever, its just the top 3 players are not on form, roger is the best player ever, no one plays like him, the elegance the touch and the skill involved with roger are in a another level.

    andy murray technically and skillwise is better than djokovic, backhand goes to murray, forehand if murray uses the forehand aggresively it could be a lethal weapon as of now it goes to djokovic, with murray i feel he will never win a slam but he is by far the best british player since fred perry,
    he won more masters more tournamentsm more grandslams finals but that would not mean anything to him, i feel he needs to play aggresively and move around opponents and finish of the point quickly, and for rafa i think his game needs to improve if he is to sustain the level of good tennis over the years, with him he plays long rallies he needs to finish of a point quickly he runs around too much in a court, dont get me wrong he can finish a poin quick its just he does not apply that alot.

    for djokovic he will not have a year like that as far as people saying djokovic wouldve beaten nadal in fo final, i doubt it with rafa he plays with more motivation in fo

  • Comment number 35.

    Quite simply, no. If Federer was at the same age of Nadal, Djocovic, Murray.. he would wipe the floor with them. It would've been interesting to watch Federer and Nadal battle it out at the same age, but unfortunately we dont have that luxury.

    Federer is in my opinion the best player to ever live. A rarity, a freak. He is playing superb at the moment but if you think this is the best he has played then you need to look again. What he is doing is just playing very well and winning. Whereas 5 years ago he would of been playing great and destroying everyone. Yes, you could argue that the standard of play has got higher. I think thats obvious. But put Federer 5 years ago into the mix we have now and I think he would still be king of the castle.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think Roger is playing near the top of his personal game: relative to 2007 his backhand and serve placement are improved, and he has a greater variety of shots in his arsenal -- including drop-shots, lobs, kick serve wide and first serve into the body.

    But if you look at the field, other players have caught up to him which is an undeniable fact. Some of it has to do with younger rising talent, the rest has to do with improved racquet and string technology. The hybrid racquets and the new trampoline-like strings (neither of which he uses) are allowing opponent to swing at the tennis ball with reckless abandon. We saw in the US Open finals what Djokovic did, and just yesterday in London Tsonga nearly pulled off the same: when they are cornered by RF, oponnents just started swinging like mad to power their way out of trouble. Tennis has become a much more physical game.

    I think because of this "get out of jail card" offered to players, Federer is under a lot more pressure to close matches out and often he can't fight off the Kamikazes. The fact that the gap between the top players is much closer than before is undeniable. The fact that faced with the power game, Roger no longer has the mental superiority to close out all the matches is also a given.

    net result, 2 more grand slams for RF and hopefully a Davis Cup final appearance is a lot to ask for. I think his records will stand the test of time much longer than Sampras and Laver's.

  • Comment number 37.

    Roger peak age was 24-27 in 2005-2007 and at that time his forehand was much better. His backhand was main reason behind his losses to Nadal in clay court tournaments(he has improved that a lot). This year at US open Novak won not due to his greatness in his best season but due to his risk taking behavior and Federer mistake. Don't consider Nalbadian, Safin as bad player in 2004-2007. Nalbadian can beat any guys at his best like Novak. Now a days Tsonga is playing better and he can beat anyone on any given day. In Wimbledon his serve was nonreturnable in last 3 sets and he can defeat anyone with that kind of serve.

    Tsonga is one player who is capable to defeat anyone. He just need mental toughness and some work on his second serve and backhand.

    Overall Roger was at his best with his forehand in his peak years. He is trying to improve himself with better serve and backhand to compete with Novak, Nadal and Murray.

  • Comment number 38.

    I’d say Federer’s best tennis is better than ever (and certainly a degree or two better than anyone else’s) but he’s more vulnerable these days because (1) Nadal broke his mental dominance and that doesn’t come back easily (witness Tiger Woods) and (2) at 30 he’s probably not quite as physically A1 as when he was 25 and (3) he’s less consistent and (4) the other 3 of the Big 4 are far superior (bar a hot Safin) to any opposition he faced when he was hoovering up.

    Some predictions:

    He’ll play on into his mid-thirties.
    He may get back to number one but only briefly.
    He’ll win a couple more slams (because Djoko surely can’t do this again and I have a feeling Nadal is going to fade).

    And my last one there is why I remain pretty confident on Murray. I see a world number one ranking and at least 3 slams in his future.

  • Comment number 39.

    Am 100% with Tom Parker @10 on this one. Must be a slow day in the office for this to even warrant an article. Henman said it best - Federer's best is still better than anyone else (although I personally don't think his best on clay is better than Nadal's) but the season is all about averages. Let's face it, Federer hasn't looked close to stringing together 7 consistently good matches at the Slams this year. Sure his game is as varied as it has ever been but he's not as mentally strong a player as he was in his pomp. Some of his shot selection has been questionable, I've seen him miss more shots that were there for the taking (especially at the net after forcing his opponent out wide) this year than from 2004-2008 combined. Unquestionably he's slower than when he was 25 but given is gliding style plus his natural feel for where to be on the court at a given time the loss of pace hasn't been much of a hindrance. Biggest of all though is that he can't hit as hard or as consistently as he could 5 years ago on the forehand side. He's lost a good 5mph on his forehand but more importantly his consistency of length is just not what it was when he's hitting big. Just look at the first set of the 2004 US Open final against Hewitt, granted he was playing out of his skin in that set but seriously, the Federer of 2004-2006 would cream all of the top 10 today outside Nadal on the slower surfaces. I'd love to seem him win more slams and I think he can still compete but the days where he could reasonably expect to win at least 3 of the 4 slams are gone and never coming back.

  • Comment number 40.

    PS: Djoko’s year was founded on one thing above all else – he utterly dominated Rafa Nadal (6 finals, 6 wins, all surfaces). He did NOT dominate Federer: Federer beat him in the SF at the French and also (if not for a one in a million fluke) at the US.

  • Comment number 41.

    I feel that fed is still as good as ever and better then the other three on his day. The problem for him is that while all the talent and magic is still in there he doesnt seem able to access it and sustain it for long enough and unfortunately that is probably due to his age.

    Thats why i dont feel he can win another slam he just cant maintain his A game for long enough anymore.

    I sincerely hope im wrong as i feel he is the greatest of all time and certainly the best to watch that ive ever seen and would love to see him take a few more slams and especially Wimbledon. Who knows hopefully hell do the Wimbledon and then Olympics at Wimbledon double.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't consider myself a knowledgeble tennis fan by any means, but Federer seems to be creating as career that I wouldn't compare with Tendulkar (who is nowhere near what he was by a country mile these days)--- but with Muhammed Ali.

    When young, both were so far ahead they could win walking--- but as they got older both suffered hard trials, and shock defeats, and Ali never dominated in the way he had when young--but he found other ways to win for years after his peak, golden era.

    I think that third set against Tsonga is an example of Federer finding 'a way to win' in the same way as the later Ali did.

    The other factor is the the three younger men seem to be blowing their bodies in their efforts to stay at the top...Nadal seems injured in almost every tournement and Djokevic and Murray have already had their share of pulls and twinges... how many tournaments did Federer miss through injury in the period he was 23-27 years of age??

    I do think motivation is a massive factor and like Ali, losing isn't what hurts now, it's losing 'stupid'---if he loses well and keeps that drive alive, I think as the others weaken and even moreso, if no one convincingly breaks through from 5-to-30 in the rankings, or any monster youngsters arrive, that he could win stay winning, and be competitive in his 34th year let alone his 31st.

  • Comment number 43.

    It's all about the competition. Now it's red hot at the top so it's tough for Federer to look as consistently good as he once did, despite technically improving in some areas. I don't buy the physical decline issue. Agassi won his last slam at 33. The mental issue is more significant. It's like golfers and putting. Once your nerve has gone, that's it. So yes, mentally, physically and technically he could be a better player now...but in competitive terms that's a meaningless statement, like comparing players from different eras. What matters is being better than everyone else at a given time and Federer has to win another slam to prove that.

  • Comment number 44.

    I've watched most of Federer's matches in 2011 and I've been following his career with keen interest for the past few years.

    First the positives; In my opinion his movement is as good as ever - his speed, agility and footwork are better than his rivals. He still has the ability to float around the court with the finese of a seasoned ballarino and this aspect of his game will keep Fed healthy and competitive for years to come. I think he'll outlast Nadal by at least three or four years despite being the older of the two.

    His forehand and serve have been consistantly consistant while his backhand (though sharp as a knife this past week) has been spotty at best in 2011. If he continues to hit the backhand well he'll be a major force in Austrailia in 6 weeks time.

    My only major cocern when it comes to Roger's game would be the mental aspect. Most of his losses (that I've witnessed) were not a result of a degradation of skill or from a worn-out body but from a lack of focus. The old Roger (and by that I mean the Roger of Years past) would come out swinging and not relent until the post-match interview. This past season however, I see Roger letting-up after a strong first set and trying to coast through the match.

    His younger opponents are no-longer giving up as they might've before and they're pushing him deeper in to matches (which will usually favor the younger player). Fed needs to regain the tenacity he once had and to finish matches more quickly (especially in majors).

    From a technical standpoint I think Fed's game is still better than any - I see him staying in the top eight (and walking away with nice prize money) for next 5 years. Whether he wins anymore majors will come down to sheer desire.

    Does he want it as much after Breaking Sampras' record is something that remains to be seen. So really it's a tale of two Roger Federer(s) - it's the man who still has the talent to win versus the man who may lack the necessary motivation.

    I think the desire is still there and I am really looking forward to 2012.

  • Comment number 45.

    It's the usual barmy 'Fed is god' debate that the Beeb and all the other Fed sycophants drool over whenever he has a great win

    I actually love Fed's play and he's one of my all time favourites. But if Murray had won this with three of his major rivals even injured or fatigued you can guarantee such a win would have so many caveats by the Murray knockers, that Overend's article would have been a million words in length

    Of course Roger deserves the far greater benefit of the doubt (than Murray) but to state that he's back to his best, when he no longer beats his rivals on a regular basis (Nadal win was the first in goodness knows how long. Nole has beaten something like 3 out of the last 4 times and even 'bottler' Murray in the last two Masters finals they met) is not only disrespectful to those around him - who never get half the praise,.....

    But more importantly, disrespectful of the vintage Federer 2004/5 of which Tennis we will never see again, such was it's beauty

    We'll see, but I think Fed is actually the 4th best player in the world and would have stayed there if, Murray hadn't for the first time in around four years, overplayed himself

    Come the Aus Open , I actually think we'll have a repeat of the 2010 final, though!!

  • Comment number 46.

    @ No. 35

    I actually disagree. Federer was an extremely flaky youngster and I think he could easily have had a Tsonga like career, if he's had the quality of opponents now in comparison to 2002/3 - when Roddick reached No.1 a sure indication as to how shallow the pool was

    Just prior to his Wimbledon win, he was being compared unfavorably, as 'Switzerland's answer to Tim Henman'. Roger's luck was to come just after Sampras and Agassi were past their peak.

    However, to stay where he has is testament to his greatness - but it's often harder to get the first slam

  • Comment number 47.

    thats the whole point, Federer knows now when to take a break, best of the best simple.
    I'd like to see him rattle a couple more slams off take the london olympics gold, retain season end ATP and call it a day! head and shoulders above in all aspects of the game !

  • Comment number 48.

    2 things.

    Hunger: He doesn't have it any more. He's achieved all he can, everything is a bonus now (the second point underlines the reason for this).

    Age: grandfather time catches up with us all, I know this very well, I was a handy athlete in my teens and slowly lost my agility. This here is Federer the man with immaculate (once) movement and positioning. More and more often he is out of position and his volleys are deteriorating due to the lack of agility.

    There is really no need for an extended debate, Roger is ageing well, his style of play is physically forgiving, he's been blessed with the genetic makeup and spared the ludicrous training routine of some of his peers (8 hours a day Nadal comes to mind). He is younger than his years suggest but he is a touch slower. The people he is contending with are all several years his juniors, and it shows at times.

    There is nothing left for him to prove, only enjoyment, for him and his family, which I hope he considers us a part of.

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with themanwithnoname's observation "Roger letting-up after a strong first set and trying to coast through the match" but don't understand why. Perhaps an explanation in Roger's statements below.

    "If it's a match like this it's fine as there's enough tennis for the people," he commented. "But if I would have served it [the second set] out, it would have been over in a hurry. I think I almost felt the spectators weren't quite ready for it to end quite yet. Although many would have been happy for me, they would have loved to see more tennis.

    I remember sitting in a room in Shanghai where the players were asked, 'Would you like the year-end final to be five sets or three. Everyone said best-of-three sets. I was the only guy that said five.

    I do care actually. I think it makes for a great year end. Sure, you can see why maybe it's healthier to play best-of-three but I believe the final could be a best-of-five set match."

    It is very nice of Roger to be thinking of the paying fans but I think it is very troubling (for him) if he is thinking of the length of the match for spectators in the middle of his match instead of trying to force a win quickly.

  • Comment number 50.

    you completely missed the point of the article, I suggest you re-read it :)

  • Comment number 51.

    OK Let's compare

    (Note: this is RF vs RF; 'o' below doesn't mean he sucked(s) at it. It just means not as good relative to himself. And it's just my opinion.)

    2006 RF vs current RF

    Forehand x x
    Backhand o x
    movement x o
    Serve o x
    volley o x
    return x o
    intangibles x o

    And no one would argue that his major opponents are better today than 5/6 years ago.
    Nadal is better today than he was five years ago, Djokovic is better today than he was five years ago. Murray, Tsonga are better today.
    And they are better than Hewitt, Safin, Roddick, Nalbandian, etc.

    If 2006 RF were to play in today's game, he'd probably get the same result as current RF.

    The difference is that their mental approaches toward game. Federer 5 years ago was fearless, in a sense he wasn't afraid to go to distance. He didn't care so much about conserving energy. He was fitter.

    RF the the last two years have been more concerned with his longivity and tried to make adjustment to his game so that he doesn't have to go distance. In the process, he got 'lazy' and his movement got worse and fitness got worse as well. Fitness, maybe was due to his age. But there was a dilemma in him there. He was trying to do what Sampras did by changing his game as he got older. But games are different today. He was never willing to hang with Nadal. Nor could he. But Djokovic has proved this year that to beat Nadal you have to hang with him. You have to be at least as fit as him. He was driving Nadal side to side until he goes out of the court, dictating the point from base line, not necessarily coming to the net all the time. Nalbandian used to do that earlier his meeting against Nadal. Ok, i'm going off topic here. Current RF realizes this and therefore beat Nadal 63 60 at O2.

    2012 RF to be successful he needs to be wiser than ever and get his mental approach to the game right. Ok back to the topic, if 2006 RF were to play current RF, I pick current RF because he's wiser now and less ego about his game, and hence less unforced error off his weaker backhand wing.

  • Comment number 52.

    At Wimbledon, when Roger beat Sampras in 2001 there were 254 serve-and-volley points. When Roger beat Roddick in the 2009 final there were only 11.

    Shows how well Roger adapted to the slowing of courts at Wimbledon and elsewhere.

  • Comment number 53.

    I don't think he has got any better - he has just maintained the same level he always has. Difference is, he is older, a bit slower and the mind is not quite as solid as it once was however the backhand IMO has improved with time. The consistency has gone and he now tends to play in bursts, the Nadal match a case in point (a perfromance as good as any I have seen from him). The inability to close out yesterday in 2 shows he is prone to nerves in a way he wasn't a few years ago.

    He has always been a slightly brittle player - brilliance with a prone to UE's and the odd mental walkabout, the AO and USO in 09 were two he should definately have won - however sheer talent, minimal wear and tear, combined with superb fitness has helped to carry him though to play at the top for so long.

    IMO His best major was the AO '10 and he did that at the age of 29 - not bad for a player seemingly over the hill.

    Most tend to fall away after 27. Very few have been able to win GS's over 30, Sampras and Agassi the most recent ones. Can Fed? We shall see...

    Personally I don't think he will add to his GS titles (well, maybe one, US most likely) - I just don't think he can maintain the levels needed anymore in the big ones over 2 weeks - but I don't think his tally of 16 will be beaten now. Maybe Rafa still might but the effort to emulate Fed has taken its toll on him as well as the other two main challengers and Del P has not hit the heights he should have done after the USO 09. Djoko and Murray have too far to go in too short a time frame though Djoko played the tennis of his life this year and looks to have Nadal's number.

    Fed is the best player I have seen play the game, bar none. It will be his matches that will be played in 10-20 years time on ESPN classics. 'Nuff said

  • Comment number 54.

    RFed, to his eternal credit, chose to retool his game in the face of the new boys' skills and talents. He has showed tremendous humility in doing so. Annacone has been instrumental in the retooling of RFed's game. His backhand is so much more versatile and he is moving better TOWARDS the ball (believe it or not!) and playng by far more attacking. Because of his great ability he has been able to adjust a winning game of some years ago. Has there ever been another player to do so? Borg never changed; JConnors neither; Rafa same game which needs a tweak now ... and the list continues.

    Mentally he had to adjust too and he has done it. He does not seem to be 'afraid' of the young Turks. He fights them toe to toe now. Understandably he has some 'moon walks' and I think it is when he reverts unconsciously to his former style when he was pulverising his opposition. He knows he can no longer win like that now.

    This is where I judge RFed to be the best player I have ever seen. He has made important adjustments to his game. He can still go with the best of the younger ones and win titles. May he continue to delight us all for some years to come.

  • Comment number 55.


    At this rate Roger may well win another slam by virtue of being the last man standing - incredible that he has maintained his fitness at that level for so long. If he can cope with family life and tennis, I see no reason why he should not play on - in fact lower expectations may give him greater freedom to play his shots.

    Regarding the US s/f if Roger had put away that match, even if he subsequently lost to Rafa, the year would have taken on a whole different complexion. He is the only player who has offered a real challenge to Djokovic in 2011.

  • Comment number 56.

    @54 trinipriest - Not sure how you can put Nadal in the 'unchanged game' category.
    How many Spaniards have won Wimbledon? Or much else other than Roland Garros?

    He completely altered his game, and his career slam proves it.

  • Comment number 57.


    I recently watched the Sampras/Federer match where the 19 yr old Swiss dethroned Sampras - he showed remarkable coolness that belied his hot head reputation and was clearly destined for great things.

  • Comment number 58.

    @40 - Er, you do realise that Djokovic beat Federer in straight sets at the Aussie Open right?

  • Comment number 59.

    I keep reading people belittling Federer's earlier years and that Murray/Tsonga are stiffer competition than Roddick/Hewitt/Safin were... odd that as the latter three are all Slam winners and Roddick and Hewitt former number 1s (Safin I'm not sure about).
    Fed raised the bar, and a number of players have risen to the challenge, aided by technology, so he can't dominate like he used to from the back of the court. The problem is he is still not attacking enough.
    Age causes more mental weakness than anything else (at least for those that dont rely on being out and out physical). I think it was Navratilova said that despite the victories and experience, you become more fragile mentally because you know how much each victory means, and that it might be your last one.

  • Comment number 60.

    #59, I think you should have another look at the Nadal match from last week - Federer was dominating from the back of the court by playing on the baseline and as #54 says moving in. Nadal was playing about 6 feet behind the baseline and didn't have the time to respond and get particularly his forehand through Federer's returns.

    About the Hewitt/Safin/Roddick era, I do think that all of these guys were less complete players than the current top 4. Hewitt's volleying was seldom seen, Safin found it difficult to sustain a long term challenge and Roddick's success was very largely based on his serve, big forehand and winning breakers. If we were in a bleaker period without the top 4 would we be saying that Ferrer is the greatest player ever - I think not. In fact I feel there is a case for saying Ferrer has similarities with Hewitt at his best, and may be more consistent - I remember watching Hewitt as defending champion in SW19 losing to Carlovic in the first round.

    I still think Federer will win a GS next year - most likely Oz, and I do think that Murray will also win one - most likely USA. If Murray doesn't crack a GS next year the odds begin to stack against him.

  • Comment number 61.

    coats 55

    Yes, he's a very young tennis 30. That Rafa won't win another slam (except maybe one more French), this I feel quite sure about. Not what I want BTW - I find him the most exciting and charismatic player to watch - but I strongly sense he's peaked and is getting progressively more 'worked out' by others. Although not by Murray yet - AM going out to RN in a slam semi has joined death and taxes, hasn't it? But Roger will go on for quite some time (Agassi peaked post 30, as I recall). Zero chance of breaking those Connors records though!

    aarfy 58

    Yes, I know he did. I'm not at all downplaying Djok's year - it was truly amazing - just saying that its foundation was his utter dominance over Nadal, a dominance that was NOT replicated when it came to playing Fed.

  • Comment number 62.

    Federer isn't playing as good as ever - in terms of the long run and over the last season or two. Game by game he has been (e.g. the demolition of Nadal) and some of the shots he has played have still been as mesmerizing.

    Someone asked the question below, will Novak and Nadal still be as good at 31? The answer is most definitely not. Nadal is all based on athleticism and brawn, something which naturally and ultimately leaves us with age. Novak, slightly inbetween Federer and Nadal in terms of brain and brawn. Federer's genius is ever lasting. Against Jo wilfred, who is beyond his mid twenties now so very expereinced, Federer knew what Jo-W was doing before Jo-W knew what he was aboout to do himself.

    It is literally impossible to win every single game someone throws at you - Federer's loses are mere glitches in the best career any tennis player has had. People rave about Novak's year, winning three slams and his losing streak. Federer 6 years ago won over 90 matches and lost only 5. And has won three slams in a year three times in four years!

    Talent is alsonaturally going to rise as the years go on as facilities become better, science becomes limitless and funding rises.

    It is incomparable to compare Federer to Bjorg, Connors, Becker etc too, which a lot of people do. It is like comparing la liga to the premier league in football. la liga is dominated by two teams and two teams only - And only ever has been - Barcelona and Real Madrid. There is no competition for them so individually they win more games, score more goals, win more championships. This is the same as the 70's 80's 90's era. Federer is like the premier league and you could say Man Utd. They have excelled in times of a great average quality of competition and more than just one fellow contender of winning the championship(s) and being number 1. You have liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and now Man City. Would Barcelona last a whole season in the Premier league? I don't think so. Would conneors etc be as prominent today or the last ten years, no way. Could Federer repeat his success in any decade? Maybe not 16 slams but well above anyone else could.

    So back to the original point, is Federer playing better than ever? He is definitely better than ever, but not just playing to that standard 99% of the time. He has different priorities in life now and although being a pace slower or a breath unfitter, he is still fitter than most 'in peak' tennis players. Doesnt make a grunt, doesnt break a sweat and doesnt ever look sloppy. The only one thing is prominently different is a few more unforced errors.

    You could say Federer is beating himself rather than the opposition beating him.

  • Comment number 63.

    Normally for attacking tennis players, they seem to lose their edge a bit sooner than their baseline counter-punching compatriots. That's been the most noticeable part of Federer's game to show some decline in efficiency. He does not seem to able to win as many points at the net as in his prime. But, on the other hand, his baseline game is definitely getting better. Especially his backhand. But would still expect him to lose more points to baseline specialists like Djoker and Nadal if Fed gets bogged down back there. If tournament organizers would stop catering to baseliners when commissioning court surfaces think Fed would have a better record vs the other top guns (Tsonga too).
    Will be interesting to see how this shakes out in 2012. Neither Djoker/Nadal/Murray are as durable as Federer has been thru his career. For this reason alone, would have to give Fed a shot at winning at least one slam next year.
    Hard to argue with the sustained excellence Federer has shown for a decade now. Will we see another one like him again? Doubt it.

  • Comment number 64.

    Federer has evolved to stay close to the top of the game of tennis - competing with the best - on a regular basis. He's avoided being plagued with injury for the majority of his career. He's done everything with an air of effortlessness. This great talent for timing, poise and accuracy has been what has helped him from everything from his fitness, form to forehand. But now his form has seen him miss a Grand Slam since AU '10. The reality is, he is older - his mind may lack motivation after overturning Sampras' GS record haul, but let's face it - many other players may have burnt out much quicker after achieving such a feat - it is to Federer's credit he's evolved his game to keep with the additional physical "beat 'em off the court" gameplay that has emerged within the last few years.

    However, Federer needs his succinct sense of timing now more than ever. While he could have a few more "good" years left in him, I feel at ATP tour level, he runs a real risk of, the longer he plays tennis (paradoxically) the higher his chances of slipping into further decline more rapidly. This will obviously be due to the effects both physically and psychologically - of aging. He needs to set himself the target of 1 or 2 more Grand Slams next year and go for the singles event Olympic gold at London 2012. Then bow out gracefully, leave on a high, end curtain.

    This sense of timing he has kept throughout his whole career so far has not failed him as yet... I believe knowing when to stop playing will be his biggest challenge; for all his niceties there is still an ego there (justified!) but this could be damaging.

    And if nothing else, must we be faced with the prospect of reading in a couple of years time: "Federer Through the Ages: 2013 vs. 2011" - "well he's lost this ability but really refined this one"...

    No thanks?!

  • Comment number 65.

    do not compare multiple grand slam winners with some overrated and over hyped brit.

  • Comment number 66.

    Oh and one more thing! As other commenters have...commented: It's to Federer's absolute credit that he's managed to stay so close to the top of the men's game whilst having recently started a family. It does make his continued level of tennis all the more impressive.

    Rather than playing to 35 however, if he focused himself so that all his best tennis wasn't spread sporadically over the next 5 years, but were condensed into one or maybe 2 more years (winning major titles again on the way)...then that would almost certainly solidify his increasingly irrefutable claim to this godly animal of...the GOAT.

  • Comment number 67.

    This occasion merits a showing of the reords again:

    Most GS titles
    1. Roger Federer 16
    2. Pete Sampras 14
    3. Björn Borg 11
    4. Rafael Nadal 10
    5. Jimmy Connors 8
    = Ivan Lendl 8
    = Andre Agassi 8
    8. John McEnroe 7
    = Mats Wilander 7
    10. Stefan Edberg 6
    Boris Becker 6

    GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 19
    3. Pete Sampras 18
    4. Björn Borg 16
    5. Jimmy Connors 15
    = Andre Agassi 15
    7. Rafael Nadal 14
    8. John McEnroe 11
    = Mats Wilander 11
    = Stefan Edberg 11

    Consecutive GS finals
    1. Roger Federer 10
    2. Roger Federer 8
    3. Andre Agassi 4
    = Rod Laver 4
    5. Jimmy Connors 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Björn Borg 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Ivan Lendl 3
    = Mats Wilander 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Jim Courier 3
    = Pete Sampras 3
    = Rafael Nadal 3

    GS semi-finals
    1. Jimmy Connors 31
    2. Roger Federer 29
    3. Ivan Lendl 28
    4. Andre Agassi 26
    5. Pete Sampras 23
    6. John McEnroe 19
    = Stefan Edberg 19
    8. Boris Becker 18
    9. Björn Borg 17
    10. Rafael Nadal 15

    Consecutive GS semi-finals
    1. Roger Federer 23
    2. Ivan Lendl 10
    3. Ivan Lendl 6
    = Novak Djokovic 6
    5. Novak Djokovic 5
    = Boris Becker 5
    = Nadal 5
    8. Rod Laver 4
    9. Tony Roche 4
    = John McEnroe 4
    = Andre Agassi 4
    = Jim Courer 4

    All Four Slams Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969

    Three Slams Per Year
    Jimmy Connors 1974
    Mats Wilander 1988
    Roger Federer 2004
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Rafael Nadal 2010
    Novak Djokovic 2011

    All Four Finals Per Year
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rod Laver 1969

    All Four Semi-finals Per Year
    Rod Laver 1969
    Ivan Lendl 1987
    Roger Federer 2005
    Roger Federer 2006
    Roger Federer 2007
    Roger Federer 2008
    Roger Federer 2009
    Rafael Nadal 2008
    Novak Djokovic 2011
    Andy Murray 2011

    Most consecutive matches won at one Grand Slam event:
    1. Björn Borg (Wimbledon), 41
    2. Roger Federer (Wimbledon), 40
    = Roger Federer (US Open), 40
    4. Pete Sampras (Wimbledon), 31
    = Rafael Nadal (French Open), 31

    Most consecutive Slams played:
    1. Wayne Ferreira 56
    2. Roger Federer 48
    3. Feliciano Lopez 39
    4. David Ferrer 37
    5. Fernando Verdasco 34
    6. Tomas Berdych 33
    7. Albert Montanes 21
    8. Philipp Kohlschreiber 29
    9. Nicolas Almagro 28
    10. Novak D

  • Comment number 68.

    Most Grand Slam match wins
    1. Jimmy Connors 233 wins
    2. Roger Federer 228
    3. Andre Agassi 224 wins
    4. Ivan Lendl 222 wins
    5. Pete Sampras 204 wins[/quote]

    Other Stuff:

    Year-End Championships
    1. Roger Federer 6
    2. Ivan Lendl 5
    = Pete Sampras 5
    4. Ilie Nastase 3
    = John McEnroe 3
    = Boris Becker 3

    Most Weeks at #1
    1. Pete Sampras 286
    2. Roger Federer 285
    3. Ivan Lendl 270
    4. Jimmy Connors 268
    5. John McEnroe 170
    6. Björn Borg 109
    7. Rafael Nadal 102
    8. Andre Agassi 101
    9. Lleyton Hewitt 80
    10. Stefan Edberg 72

    Consecutive Weeks at #1
    1. Roger Federer (1) 237
    2. Jimmy Connors (1) 160
    3. Ivan Lendl (1) 157
    4. Pete Sampras (1) 102
    5. Jimmy Connors (2) 84
    6. Pete Sampras (2) 82
    7. Ivan Lendl (2) 80
    8. Lleyton Hewitt (1) 75
    9. John McEnroe (1) 58
    10. Rafael Nadal (1) 56

    Year End #1
    1. Sampras 6
    2. Federer 5
    3. Borg 4
    4. Connors 3
    = Lendl 3
    = McEnroe 3

    Highest Season Winning Percentage
    1. John McEnroe (1984) .965 82–3
    2. Jimmy Connors (1974) .959 93–4
    3. Roger Federer (2005) .953 81–4
    4. Roger Federer (2006) .948 92–5
    5. Björn Borg (1979) .933 84–6
    6. Ivan Lendl (1986) .925 74–6
    7. Roger Federer (2004) .925 74–6
    8. Ivan Lendl (1985) .923 84–7
    9. Ivan Lendl (1982) .922 106–9
    10. Björn Borg (1980) .921 70–6
    = Novak Djokovic (2011) 0.921 70-6

    Props to TMF from TT for the compilation.

  • Comment number 69.

    Congratulations to the ATP World Tour Finals champion Roger Federer. He has been playing his usual game. The Swiss has been consistent. His worthy challengers have not been able to display their top stuff due to factors beyond their control. After all experience counts and Roger is the most experienced and decorated among the whole lot. All the best to Roger and his challengers in the new season ahead and thanks for the wonderful moments in 2011.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 70.

    67 and 68 - have you actually read the blog? The purpose of this piece is not to judge whether Roger Federer is a great player or not - no-one would dispute that, and his achievements speak for themselves. The question is whether he is better now than he was when he was achieving many of the feats you have regurgitated for us.

  • Comment number 71.

    @70 if you read the comments you will see I commented on the blog.

  • Comment number 72.

    It is a simple question but the underlying reason for my answer is very complicated. NO, he is NOT better now than he was. Downward factors are: killer instinct, speed of court surfaces, racquet size and strings, consistency of serve and forehand, footspeed, quickness, hand-eye coordination and reflexes, obdurateness, focus and motivation. Where he has improved is the backhand by using both defensive and offensive slice and adding a drop shot as a useful tactical weapon to compensate losses in the other elements. He used to think of the drop shot as a tool of desperation but he now finds it quite useful in constructing a point from the baseline.

    Killer instinct: check his record up to 2007 when he wins the first set and when he wins the first two sets. May have been the greatest front-runner in the history of tennis.

    Court speed: From tennis players of yore, all say that Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open have all been slowed down; AO probably the slowest of the three now. All because serve and volley is in disfavor as boring; and yet, predictable baseline rallies of simply bashing the ball is more boring. Combined with larger racquet heads and high-tech strings of those across the net, slower surfaces have reduced Federer's effective weaponry - serve less effective by giving opponent a fraction of a second more to react and a chance to make a good return, hence fewer serve and volley forays, fewer magical half volleys, fewer net rushes, thus Federer is forced to try to win from the baseline. The improved backhand (more use of the various slices) and drop shot were developed from the need to survive and win from the baseline.

    Racquet size and strings: string technology enables the wicked spins that a Nadal can impart on the ball, giving him offense from the baseline; racquet size give taller, bigger players (e.g. del Potro, Djokovic, Berdych, Tsonga, etc.) extra power; slower court surfaces allows them to get to more balls in positions to hit well and with power. A net rush has to be preceded by an almost perfect approach to ensure winning the point at the net.

    Consistency of serve and forehand: since 2008, these lethal weapons could take a walkabout at any moment. Illness, minor injuries, reduced practice time, focus all affect the level at which these weapons are delivered. The mono at AO2008 started it all - less strong, less movement (quickness and footspeed), slower reflexes; back injury affecting serve most of all; infection from the twins - all conspire to undermine confidence as body does not respond as it once did.

    Movement (quickness and footspeed) - see above; it took a long time to come close to where he once was but father time eroded muscle power. I separate quickness because it is important in changes of direction. Anyone should be able to see that he is not as quick as he once was.

    Hand-eye coordination and reflexes: still good at the baseline BUT not as surefire at it was at the net, probably because of highly reduced use, being pinned at the baseline more - weapons less deployed because of the slower court speed.

    Obdurateness - for a long time (to 2007), Federer had a tendency to play to his opponents strengths as if to show that he could win against the best the opponents had to offer, and he usually won. When he was suffering the effects of mono, he was ill-equipped to adjust his game in 2008 to 1st half 2009, believing that the old approach would still be good enough. In a way, the success at USOpen 2008, RG2009, Wimbly2009 and AO2010 reinforced this in his mind but lack of practice time from being shelved by the infection from the twins after AO2010 started the two-year drought in the majors, as his younger rivals improved. Anacone's engagement as a coach was an acknowledgement that the past approach's failure to deliver has gone on long enough and it was time to change. All you have to do is replay the RG matches he played against Nadal - no change in tactics, tried to beat Nadal from the baseline with the shots he uses in faster surfaces.

    Focus - during matches, he has not been able to sustain it as long as he used to.

    Motivation - the drive to work on a new approach and practice, then play that way in matches even when losing. Working with his coaches, particularly Anacone, he needed to change his approach to match against the top opponents but keep it within the constraints of the new reality: court speed, high-tech strings, etc. So, he had to learn to play aggressively from the baseline and do so in matches until his confidence returns, even as he lost more often. Invest for the future, if he wanted to win the big ones again. It took time to train and regain both physical fitness and confidence. This run helps his confidence while confirming fitness. But of course, his physical capabilities have been eroded by father time, though not dramatically.

    If he regains sustained focus during matches as he used to have, he will indeed be a force in the coming year, albeit a lesser Federer overall but a better player from the baseline.

  • Comment number 73.

    #60 - We are talking about 2008-2011 and not just 2011. Djokovic was a one slam wonder before 2011 like Roddick/Safin/Hewitt. Murray isn't even close to them at the moment! What makes you think that the current lot is better than Hewitt/Safin/Roddick? You are judging them based on Federer's supermacy over them, aren't you? And then you want to judge Federer based on their lack of competency! Does this not sound convenient to you? If Federer@30 is still beating these players what makes you think that he wouldn't have beaten them @25 in a sport as physically demanding as Tennis. This is not Golf or chess after all!!

  • Comment number 74.

    #56. Yes, you can say Nadal didn't have to alter his game because all the faster courts were slowed down. On all these surfaces which used to be fast, Federer and all court players would serve and volley when they were fast. Nadal tried to adjust and it was slow progress, until the court surfaces were slowed down. Notice that he doesn't sever and volley? Neither do most of the players now, in fact, because of the slow speed of the surface - you get passed so easily if you serve and volley, unless you make a perfect serve.

  • Comment number 75.

    Roger Federer is the greatest tennis Player. Roger won 3 Grand slam in a year three times 2005,2006 and 2007 Consecutive year. If you people talked about 2011 Novak beat Federer few times, and win 3 slams in a year, But in 2011 Federer now 30 years of age and he was not in his best specially in GS, But he beat Novak in French open semis. If you see the Federer past Novak was still there at that time when Federer was in his peak form, nobody came near to Federer, Federer beat Novak in 2007 US open final 2008 and 2009 US open Semis and more I remembered yet, It doesn't mean at that time Novak didn't play good and other players at that time, But at that time Federer Played at his best tennis and compete those players. In 2011 Federer lost not only from Djokovic but lost to other players like Tsonga, Berdych, Hewit etc. These loses came When Federer was not at his best this could may be of his age. But still currently Roger is Playing best tennis and he still capable to beat those kind of players. He proved in Atp world tour 2011 and competed top 8 players. Tsonga is playing great tennis now a days he beat Roger in Wimbledon after that Roger beat Tsonga in a few times specially if you saw the Atp final Tsonga played great tennis but Roger showed his class and strong determination. Now currently Roger is playing best tennis and he can beat everyone. I don't think so any other player play like this at the age of 30's. Thats why Federer still is in the heart of people due to his skills, grace, and look so beautiful in the court. every shot in his book. Winning the Atp world tour 6 times is a great achievement to compete 6 times world top 8 players. Roger Federer is still currently playing good tennis and remember that he won the 16 GrandSlams Champion any one else. For me Roger Federer is the Greatest.

  • Comment number 76.

    73: Hewitt won Wimbledon and USOpen. Safin won US Open and Australian Open. Roddick has only one USOpen. All three spent some time at #1. Hewitt and Safin had notable wins at the US Open, each one pulled a straight set victory against Sampras in the final, if I remember correctly.

  • Comment number 77.

    Fed could be as good as he was. He changed tactics a few years ago. He became more of a baseliner. And that was not good. Now, he's shown signs of returning to his all-court game. He must to win. He's still the greatest of all time. Prediction: on the distaff side, Kvitova will become the greatest of all time.

  • Comment number 78.

    I have been a Federer fan for many years and have watched most of his wins throughout what has been an incredible career. He is still fantastic but in my mind not as good as he was 5 or 6 years ago. His mental toughness is now questionable on occasions and he has lost that invincibility factor. It is true that there are other players who have raised their game but to say that Feds at 30 is as good as he was just isn't true. It just goes to show how amazing this guy is that in the twilight of his career he can still beat the best in the world. I'd like to see him bow out at the top with a couple more slams. He is the greatest of all time.

  • Comment number 79.

    Ref to comment no. 11-
    I do agree with the assessment and was about to make a similar comment until I read this. Yes. RF did win 3 tournaments in a row but all of them were either marred by injuries to or withdrawals of the ‘Other 3’. With the exception of the drubbing of Rafa last week, signs of him taking it up a few notches were a rarity. If a fit Novak/Nadal/Murray was in the lineup, perhaps the results would’ve been different. I feel that his domination of the competition in last year’s event was much better to watch than this year’s beating of the decimated field. Yes. Sometimes, a lot of luck needs to go your way in order to squeeze out these high level tournaments – your fiercest opponents have an off day and lose early which helps open up the draw. To go on and classify that as the best tennis he is has ever played is an exaggerated conclusion.
    Players on the other side of the draw used to have doubts in their own ability and God forbid, if they had to meet him earlier in the tournament. Ever since Guilermo Canas beat him in back to back Masters’ Events a couple of years ago, there is a belief in the locker room that Goliath can be tamed. Took some time for the players to figure that out but the evidence was presented this year by a few of them that finally achieved the distinction of coming back from insurmountable positions to taste victory against the ‘Greatest player ever’.
    His genius stems from the fact that he has managed to stay injury free all these years and hopefully will remain that way till retirement beckons. Look forward to the AO next year to see if this form and fitness truly carries over. That said, I would love to see him win a couple more Slams and the elusive Olympic Gold. Best of Luck.

  • Comment number 80.

    Unfortunately the discussion here is somewhat being sabotaged by the same talking points used in the GOAT debates (the bogus "weak competition" slogan).

    There are roughly three types of fans here.

    1) There are Roger fans (like me)
    2) There are neutral readers (if any)

    These people can answer the question posed in this blog "Is Roger Federer playing better than ever?" as they are not intent on diminishing his accomplishments in the first place.

    3) Then there are fans of Roger's opponents who may want to undermine his accomplishments or others who may not care for Roger (if any). These people have a hard time focusing on the question.

    The weak competition argument has no factual merit whatsoever and is purely a biased opinion.

    When Laver won two grandslams you can call him clearly a better player than others or you can say his competition was weak. It is purely a glass half full/empty argument.

    Similarily, when Sampras won 7 Wimbledons in 8 years clearly his competition was weak if you don't like Sampras. Otherwise you will see that Sampras was dominating on grass in those years.

    Similarily, when Nadal wins 7 straight Monte Carlos, and 7 out of 8 Roland Garros' you can choose to say that Nadal has no competition/weak competition/inferior competion on clay. Or you see the fact that Nadal may be the most complete/consistent player ever on clay.

    Same thing with Roger. No one has ever won three slams in a year thrice, reached five finals in all four slams, reached 30 consecutive quarter finals/23 consecutive semi-finals. You can continue to argue in vain that his competition has been perennially weak or you can see the facts that Roger is the most complete/consistent player ever in grandslam history.

    When a player comes along that has much better skills/game/mind than the others, he dominates the field and domination by definition means the field is relatively weak. But it does not take away anything from the player who has specialized skills.
    Attempting to do so only shows ones negative bias toward that player.

    I request that we focus on the question posed here.

  • Comment number 81.

    #73. I've got two simple answers to why I think Djoko/Nadal/Murray are stronger opponents than Hewitt et al.

    1 I have watched them all both live and on TV and that's my considered opinion.

    2 If you look at the rankings data for the earlier part of the 2000s, there is not the large gap between the top one/few and the rest of the top 10/15 that there is today. They did not stand out from their peers to the same extent, and exactly the same group did not occupy the top places for a number of years as we have now.

    So you have ny view, and the data which supports it. You may try to produce yours and that's your prerogative - don't try to deny the same right to others.

  • Comment number 82.

    Roger's understanding of matches is definitely getting better and more superior than anyone else. His weakness is more psychological as he had doubt about his game and his strength, but I think that he regained a lot of belief after won the third set 6:3 last Sunday. If he maintains this mental strength, he will prevail in 2012 again. It is just silly to think that his win is less impressive because he did not beat Djoko or Nadal (whom he actually beat in the robin round) in the final. Those two were in the tournment but were well beaten by the better players. In any sports, it is purely foolish if you don't take advantage of your opponents' downfall.

    In 2012, the most important win for Roger is probably the Olympic single gold. I reckon it is within reach. I have no doubt that Roger will win more Slams and regain the No 1 spot before he retires from the sports. He is such a pride and competitive person, and I think that is his goal and why he still plays and works on his game by hiring Paul Annacone.

  • Comment number 83.

    Re 'Goat': in the open era (Laver not counted) there's only one player you can make a decent case for, other than Federer, and that's Borg. The Aussie didn't really count as a slam back then (many didn't even play it); knocking that out of the stats you get Fed 12 slams vs Borg's 11. Borg was both King of Clay AND of Wimbledon - this trumps Fed - and also he retired in his mid-twenties. Little doubt he would have gone past 12 otherwise. Then again, Roger may well add to his tally, he beats Borg on time at number one, and Borg never won the US. So I'd go Fed first and Borg a close second. Then Sampras. Nadal isn't Goat top 3 as of now but, depending how his career goes from here, he could end up being in there.

  • Comment number 84.

    #83: this is off topic but I find the Borg-Federer comparison rather illogical. Let's see now, Borg never won the USOpen and did play the Australian Open when he was a teenager, then skipped it after that every time he lost the USOpen, which was all the time (it was held in December at that time). Borg has 6 French and 5 Wimbledon titles; Federer has 6 Wimbledon, 5 USOpen and 1 French. Both had five straight wins in a major, except Federer did it in two majors. Let's give credit to Borg for winning the FO and Wimbly in the same year 3 straight years; Federer did Wimbly and USOpen same year, four straight. And then there's the consecutive times they appeared in major tournament SFs and F. Is a win on clay more valuable than a win on hard court? Or, clay over grass?

    And, by the way, Federer has 4 Australian Opens as well. Your memory is rather short about the Australian Open. There was a time when the Australians dominated tennis so that at least half of the seeded players were from that country and for a long time it was the French Open which was the least of the four majors. When Don Budge won all four in the same year, it was called a Grand Slam. Among the men, Laver is the only who did it twice, once as an amateur and once after tennis entered the Open era. Just because Borg did not return to Australia when he could no longer complete the Grand Slam (winning all four in one year - that is the real meaning of the term, not the way it is used today by everyone), doesn't mean the Australian Open was not a major.

    Since you put Borg in the conversation because of his record on two different surfaces, then Sampras certainly should be as well because of his record on grass and hard courts. As for Laver, he won on all surfaces. against all comers of his time.

  • Comment number 85.

    #83: one more thing: before the professionals were allowed to play in the major tournaments again (yes, the top amateurs turned professional to make a living, unlike today when a bunch of them make millions in their careers), all of the best players were professionals. That's how Roy Emerson won so much - he was a good player but not among the best, he stayed an amateur and won 13 majors. Strictly speculative but how many more majors would Laver have won in the five years of his prime that he was not allowed to play in them - that is twenty chances for a many in his prime and dominating the pros in three of those year?

  • Comment number 86.

    You might argue Federer has got better or maintained (more or less) his level relative to the competition. My belief is it is the later. Federer has many components to his game that have allowed him to compensate for the inevitable slowing with age. There is always the hanging question about how much he wants to keep winning, the past week seem to put that to bed at least until the New Year. I believe Federer has more elements of the game under control which he uses to defeat his opponents. Nadal and Djokovic differentiate themselves mostly with power and intensity, ratchett that down or strip that away and they would (and do) look relatively ordinary. Without being a great fan, I appreciate the Fed's tennis enormously. He is where you would send anyone to show them how the game can be played because he does everything well. I would say he's understandably slower but has worked on technical elements of his game that were or are perceived as relatively week. We have seen him this year being a tick less tougher mentally on a number of occasions. My conclusion is that overall he is maintaining his relative level and will do until his legs or head decide otherwise.

  • Comment number 87.

    @74 Whilst it is true that courts such as Wimbledon are slower, it still required a major shift in playing style.

    Again, you are right in saying that hardly anyone approaches the net anymore, but that also has something to do with the fact that player hit the ball harder and with more spin. Would you want to try and volley a Nadal forehand?

  • Comment number 88.

    Regarding the GOAT argument, you can only judge by the statistics - if a player retires early or only shines for a couple of years this may make them memorable but does not qualify them for GOAT status.

    At the moment Federer is the GOAT and it does not matter how good or weak the opposition was - we can only judge on the facts. A year ago Nadal looked all set to overthrow this record but now I would not rule out Federer adding to his tally, as sadly Nadal appears to have gone off the boil.

    The striking thing in the post match interviews was Federer saying how much he loved playing tennis - Nadal needs to rekindle his love affair with the game to mount a serious challenge to be GOAT.

  • Comment number 89.

    My one issue with labelling Federer the GOAT is it seems a bit contradictory given his losing record to Nadal.

    I'm not suggesting Nadal should be GOAT (yet), but when he clearly has a mental and tactical advantage over him - most of the time - does that not mean he is better than Federer?

  • Comment number 90.

    @89 - you could say the same for John McEnroe having Borg's number in '81, possibly (

  • Comment number 91.

    What just happened?! I wrote a big message, where is it!!

  • Comment number 92.

    Right, I'll go again:

    @89 - regarding your point, could say the same to refute Borg's shout at GOAT due to McEnroe having Borg's number and arguably (POSSIBLY) being the reason Borg quit tennis when he had a rival he reckoned he could no longer beat.

    Secondly, with Djokovic now having Nadal's number on clay (weren't half of their finals he beat Nadal in this year on clay?) it is getting increasingly difficult to even call Nadal the best clay-courter by your logic (although it still remains to be seen whether he'll be overthrown at Roland Garros yet).

    Ok hopefully this all gets posted rather than just the first sentence!

  • Comment number 93.

    @92 Thought you'd say that - Djokovic has clearly given Nadal a good mental scarring this year, but iit would be much more worrying (from the Spaniard's point of view) if he were to continue this superiority next season.

    Djokovic has only lost about 6 times this year, so I'd say he's got a pretty good record over most.

  • Comment number 94.

    @89: head to head is so misleading. Nadal's is 12-2 against Federer on clay; 5-7 on all other surfaces. Since most of these records were built when Nadal ascended to #2, it means they met mostly in the finals of whatever tournament was involved - there were a few semis, etc. Certainly, on clay, Nadal was the one always waiting in the finals, except their first encounter at FO, which was in the semis. This should tell you that Federer almost always met him in the finals on clay, rather a compliment to his game: beating everyone else except Nadal on clay. Where was Nadal when Federer was dominating Wimbledon and the USOpen in his straight 5-year runs as well as in the other hardcourt tournaments? On those surfaces, it wasn't until 2008 when he began to beat Federer. His lopsided losses to Nadal on clay tells you that Federer did better than Nadal against the entire field who kept losing to others much earlier in tournaments on other surfaces than the final, so on balance then, who was the better player? It is the unintentional Federer avoidance coefficient that tilts the argument in Federer's favor every time.

  • Comment number 95.


    Laver, yes indeed - but I was considering just the 'open era' and so we lose most of Rocket Rod's career. Otherwise he's a genuine Goat contender, along with Federer, Borg and Sampras (my top 3 in order).

    I'm not dissing the Australian Open (it long ago regained its high status) but it's a fact that for a while (and certainly including Borg's time) it was a poor relation and many of the top players didn't bother. So we can, as I did, remove Roger's 4 Aussies when doing a comparison to Borg. Gives the 12 vs 11. Fed shades it - more than shades it, maybe, if you bring in his time at number one and that he's not only won the US Open (which BB didn't) but has done so 5 times (and counting?).

    Sampras v Borg? Which of these 'one weak surface' guys gets Goat runner-up? Well Borg was a lot better on hard court than Sampras was on clay - so I'd say it's Borg.

    1. Swiss maestro.
    2. Iceman.
    3. Pistol P.

  • Comment number 96.


    It just means they peaked at different times. The 5 year age difference should give Nadal more of an advantage as Federer gets older but I am not sure whether he will capitalise on it.

  • Comment number 97.

    @94 Nadal steadily improved in 3 Wimbledon finals against Federer, finally toppling him in '08 (Age 21?). Federer won his 5-slam streaks in his prime, whereas Nadal was relatively new to the scene.

  • Comment number 98.

    Fed is obviously the GOAT. There are many measures to be the GOAT. Statistics, regularity, longevity, when at your best you are above others at their best.
    6 Masters, 16 GMs, huge number of contiguous GM semi-final appearances.
    Fed has such a repertoire of strokes that if with age, he has to forgo a stroke, he can replace it with another while maintaining his level. Grass has slowed so it became more difficult for Fed but he came back with an aswer and won again on grass. He has won Masters as well as AO which means he can be at the top throughout the year. Check-out Nadal's record in the 4Q of any year.
    Watch out for Fed in the 1Q 2012. I hope we can relish is seeing the GOAT at his best.

  • Comment number 99.

    81 - So how did you watch them on TV? Playing alone against a wall or playing against a player? What if their opponents didn't allow them to play their A game? And did it ever occur to you that may be all of them were very good players with not much separating them there by reflecting on the rankings? And you don't buy Roger's ranking in 2005-2006 and yet use those same rankings to prove your point. Your thoughts please!
    And do you agree that by the same logic Nadal too had it easy on clay? There wasn't any competetion at all? Would like to know the answer to that!
    And finally did you see Roger playing in 2005-2006 Live?

    You are entitled to your opinion but I am sorry this is not any opinion poll!! Provide some more stats like better serve %age, more average Forehand/backhand winner speed, more aces, hitting the lines more often etc. to prove your point!

  • Comment number 100.

    Five reasons why Federer is playing better than ever -
    Federer@25 only had his serve, one of the best forehands (Gonzalez had the best I think) , a pretty good backhand and he was a good student of the game!

    Federer@30 has added five more shots to his repertoire (some of them due to his friendship with other sportpersons) -
    1. Drag Flick (so dangerous that even Hockey folks are thinking of abandoning it)

    2. He Bends it like a combo of Beckham and Carlos (see football videos)

    3. Swing of Tiger Woods (Whatever that means!)

    4. Magic Johnson Jump (He now returns balls that otherwise ended up in high stands)

    5. The Throw shot (whenever he can't reach he simply throws his racquet at the ball resulting in an instant winner)

    So enjoy the latest Complan Man - Federer@30 - the latest milk energy drink ad. sensation - Taller, Stronger and Sharper!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.