A Man for All Seasons


At 36, Roger Federer is a player who’s stood the test of time, says Arlene Mathew

As Roger Federer faced Marin Cilic in the finals of the Australian Open this January, many in the crowd seemed to sense there was history in the making. Despite a feisty and at times commanding performance by Cilic that frustrated Federer and made him tetchy at times, the champion did not let down his fans. He won his 20th Grand-Slam title in style, the most any male player has in the history of tennis.

With his 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Marin Cilic at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne Park, Federer also clinched his sixth Australian Open title. The Swiss star admitted to having been nervous at certain points of the game. The game, which stretched a little over three hours, was an emotional rollercoaster for Federer and ended up with him breaking down in tears at the end of the courtside presentation.

A master of his game, critically acclaimed and known as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Roger is one of the most iconic figures in the field of sports. His age-defying techniques and boundless grace on the court have attracted millions of fans from around the world and have inspired books like Fedegraphica: A Graphic Biography of the Genius of Roger Federer and Federer and Me: A Story of Obsession.

The past decade has been a heady one for men’s tennis and has witnessed intense competition between a raft of incredible players such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal. But Roger Federer stands out for both his consistency and perseverance. Federer has been defying expectations over the past 16 years, his achievements only increasing with age. Experts have praised him for his technique and finesse and continue to be amazed at his sheer talent.

Roger Federer has spent a whopping 237 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings, breaking the record of the legendary Pete Sampras who stayed on top for 160 consecutive weeks in total. Rod Laver, who watched the final match at the stadium named after him, described Federer as “the greatest player that has ever come along”.

“He’s stood the test of time. That’s probably the one thing that puts you in that category of the best ever. It is just unusual to see a wonderful champion like that be able to win at age 36 after seven tough matches,” said Rod Laver, after the finals. Rod Laver is the only tennis player in history to have won all the Grand Slam titles in a single calendar year twice, in 1962 and 1969.

“It’s a combination of how many grand slams have you won, how many tournaments you have, how many years you were number one and he’s got all those,” says the famous nine-time Wimbledon women’s singles champion Martina Navratilova.

Federer broke the previous all-time record held by Pete Sampras (14 grand slams) in 2009 and is the first and one of only two male players (other being Rafael Nadal) to win more than 15 Grand Slam singles titles in men’s tennis history. (For the record lover, Margaret Court, Serena Williams and Steffi Graf have won 24, 23 and 20 Grand Slam titles respectively in the women’s-singles game).

The amazing thing about Federer is that despite the number of wins he has notched up, and the number of records he has broken, he continues to play with the same passion that was evident when he began.

With his latest win, Roger Federer has yet again set a fine example of talking with your racquet and playing with your heart.

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