There’s been a debate recently over who the greatest male athlete of all-time is, but that conversation had a glaring omission.
Roger Federer is not only the greatest athlete, but in my opinion he is the peRFect athlete, period.
Federer just capped an amazing 12 month renaissance of his already ridiculous career by defending his Australian Open title last weekend to become the first male tennis player to reach 20 Grand Slam singles titles. He is also on the verge of regaining the #1 spot in the rankings, which would make the 36-year-old the oldest top-ranked player by over three years.
Now there are plenty of reasons to consider Federer as the G.O.A.T. in the sports world, and I’ll get to some of those points in a minute, but we really have to talk about his acceptance speech after the Aussie Open:
If that doesn’t get you emotional then I don’t know what will. To see an athlete who has accomplished every single thing that he could possibly ever dream of – and then some – still be so emotionally vested in his achievements and the support from his legions of fans is remarkable. In the past few years, Federer has shown a human side, which has made him even more endearing, beloved, and makes him the absolute peRFect athlete.
The sports landscape is full of self-centered, self-absorbed athletes, along with guys who pick fights on social media and on the actual field of play, but Federer has always been an absolute class act. Fans love to hate the teams and players that constantly win, and it’s really easy when they act like spoiled brats or seem like they believe their shit doesn’t stink like the rest of us. Roger Federer has never demonstrated that quality; in fact, he still sounds humble and truly appreciates everything that happens to him. Which is why the crowd showered him with applause, and that love sprung forth more and more tears and emotion from the best male athlete that these eyes have ever seen.
Like I said, there are several reasons why I firmly believe that statement, and they really have nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been a huge tennis fan for most of my life. The truth is, Federer was never really my favorite tennis player for the same reason that I just mentioned… I really hated the fact that he won so damn much. Watching tennis wasn’t really that fun because the suspense was gone; if Federer was in the tournament he was most likely going to win it. I love rooting for the underdog, and Federer was never one – until the Australian Open in 2017. His 2016 season was a disaster, as he dealt with multiple illnesses, a knee injury that required surgery, a back injury that snapped his record streak of participating in 65 straight Grand Slams, and another knee injury that sidelined him for the last six months including the Summer Olympics. No one thought he had a shot at winning the Aussie Open – not even Federer himself – and his draw was absolutely brutal, yet he pulled off a miraculous win that ended with a shocking comeback in the fifth set against his chief rival, Rafael Nadal, in the final. After witnessing that, I can’t deny that he is the greatest tennis player ever, and just straight up peRFect.
As far as reasons for thinking Federer is the GOAT and the peRFect athlete, it all starts with the sport that he has dominated for nearly 20 years. Federer is playing an individual sport, and his success lies solely on his own shoulders. He doesn’t have a group of teammates that assist in his accomplishments, nor does he have a coach on the sidelines to guide him or make adjustments during his matches. I would love to have someone tell me what I am doing wrong in the middle of a tennis match, but that’s not how the sport works. You have to figure everything out on your own. You call your own plays, make your own shots, and ultimately determine your own outcome.
While Brady and Jordan were undoubtedly the best players on the field/court during every game, they never fully determined the outcome. Brady may make the perfect throw or the perfect decision, but other people have to block for him, catch the ball, and limit the opponent from outscoring Brady’s offense. Jordan relied on his teammates to rebound, defend, and make more than half of the shots in a given contest. Federer depends on only himself, and has to change his tactics constantly to defeat the other top players in the game in every tournament that he enters.
Federer has the confidence and the skill required to defeat every opponent, but the person on the other side of the net also has those talents, so the margin for error could be one shot or one decision in the midst of a five-hour match. The amount of pressure on every shot has to be overwhelming at times, and you can clearly see the result of that pressure when players break down emotionally after a win or a loss.
Tennis is an individual sport, and it is also a year-round sport. There really isn’t much of a break in the tennis schedule, and that time is spent feverishly preparing for the next major tournament, whether it is a Grand Slam or a mandatory Masters event. The Masters events are typically contested within a week or so, with the top finishers often playing three to five matches without a day off to finish the tournament. There is no offseason, as the first Major starts the season in January, and the Tour Finals cap the year in November. While Federer’s schedule has dramatically decreased over the past couple of years, he still hits most of the major events and spends his off time practicing.
The perils of the tennis tour has become even more evident recently, as almost every other big-name male player is either currently injured or in the process of making a comeback from an injury. Nadal got hurt in Australian and has dealt with knee and wrist ailments recently, Novak Djokovic had his elbow injury reoccur and his immediate future is in doubt, Andy Murray is out until at least June after hip surgery, Stan Wawrinka made his return from a knee injury at the Aussie Open but was clearly a shell of himself, and the list continues the further down the rankings you look. And yet somehow, this 36-year-old who could be a dad to some of the up-and-coming stars on the tour just keeps rolling along, winning Grand Slams and looking like he could play into his 40’s. Sounds a lot like another potential G.O.A.T. doesn’t it?
Federer holds records that no one is going to break. No one is going to win two Grand Slams five consecutive seasons (Wimbledon in 2003-2007, US Open in 2004-2008). No one is going to make the quarterfinals for nine straight seasons in every Grand Slam event. No one is going to spend nearly 15 years straight ranked in the Top 4. And no one is going to react in the way Federer did after winning their 20th Grand Slam tournament.
Roger Federer is the greatest male athlete ever. And he is peRFect. Appreciate what we are witnessing, because we may never see greatness like him ever again.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)