I think Roger Federer is amazing. The way he always, always rips a sweet, one-handed backhand winner down the line when his opponent is at the net during the biggest point of the match. Or the way you always have a feeling he’s going to win a match – the same feeling you have when you play tennis – but Federer actually cashes in on the good vibes. Federer is one of the greatest players ever to play tennis.
But excuse me if I’m not quite ready to crown him the king of racquets and fuzzy balls just yet. Yes, he’s won 15 majors. That’s a lot, one more than my boyhood tennis hero, Pete Sampras. Yes, Federer recently completed the career Grand Slam. Well done. And yes, he’s dominated this era like no one has done in any previous era of tennis. Bravo.
For some reason, though, when Federer captured major No. 15 against Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, we all seemed to forget about that one Spaniard who was injured. Yeah, Rafael Nadal, you remember him. The guy who owns Federer. The guy who is 5-2 against Roger in Grand Slam finals. The freak of an athlete who kept Federer from winning the French Open three straight times.
With Nadal out of the fold, Federer won the French, the grand slam after the Australian Open, where Nadal again beat Federer. The Spaniard is 5-2 against Federer in Grand Slam finals.
While Nadal watched Wimbledon, Federer won another Grand Slam, beating Roddick in the legendary final. Federer has had similar success this summer, with Nadal coming back from his injury. Federer recently won the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati for the third time.
We somehow couldn’t remember or didn’t want to mention why Federer hadn’t been sweeping titles like this in previous years. For example, before Nadal, if Federer would have been out for half a year and Roddick somehow would have won two more majors and a few tournaments, everyone would have said, well, wait a minute, Federer is out. It’s not like Roddick is playing that much better, let’s see how he does once Roger returns.
The disclaimer hasn’t existed with Nadal, however, and I’m not sure why.
Federer has stepped up well in Nadal’s absence, reclaiming his No. 1 ranking and dominating the tour like he did before the long-haired, capri-wearing soccer player who looks like a boxer pounced on the court. But until Federer shows he consistently wins at this level with a healthy Nadal, I’m reserving judgment on the media-sponsored “best ever” discussion.
I’m not saying Federer isn’t one of the best ever, if not the best. Let’s just wait for a healthy Nadal to decide the argument.