Roger Federer. What can I say really?
As someone who loves the sport of tennis, I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a better player in my lifetime. Sure Rafa and Novac now have more grand slam titles, but for me the numbers DON’T tell the full story. For those of us lucky enough to live through this amazing time when we had arguably the 3 greatest to ever do it, all competing for the richest prizes against one another over a multi-year spell… I don’t think anyone can argue that the one who played with the most… magic… was the great man from Switzerland. And just like his beloved FC Basel, more often than not when put up against his peers, nobody could touch him.
There’s just something about the way he played the game of tennis. Maybe only Lionel Messi dribbling past opposing players has ever matched the artistry to which Roger Federer played with. Majestic in just about every aspect of his game, like a gazelle at times such was his elegance. And that’s without commenting at all in his dashing good looks, his ultra-nice guy and charming nature… Oh and the fact he won TWENTY majors.
In this blog, I will be looking back at each of those Twenty major titles across the Australian, French and US open championships, and of course the crème de la crème, the place that Roger essentially OWNED for a time, Wimbledon. As well as recounting my personal memories of being able to witness the glorious career of the greatest to ever play his sport. What an honour and a privilege it was to be able to watch the remarkable career of the man called Roger.
Number 1: Wimbledon 2003 (defeated Mark Philippoussis, 7–6(7–5), 6–2, 7–6(7–3))
Given what he went on to achieve at the home of tennis, it’s kind of appropriate that the grand slam collection of Roger Federer began with him winning the storied Gentlemen’s Singles Championship at the All England Club. Whilst not the level of the classic finals Federer would go on to be a part of, it was still one that showed the amazing natural ability he possessed. 5 years prior Federer had won the Wimbledon Junior title, but before this tournament 5 years later he was still looking for his first senior Grand Slam title. His temperament and temper had previously been questioned, by this point though he was becoming polished and in total control of his on-court abilities. This final was unique for Federer in terms of opposition compared to that he had already conquered… Australian Philippoussis was un-seeded and in just his second ever Grand Slam final, but in the semi-finals to get here Federer had defeated pre-tournament favourite and then World Number 1 Andy Roddick. Roger made the most of his golden opportunity here, and with Pete Sampras calling time on his career later in 2003, Wimbledon now had a new King.
Number 2: Australian Open 2004 (defeated Marat Safin, 7–6(7–3), 6–4, 6–2)
In Australia, Federer found himself up against a somewhat drained Marat Safin (whom had dispatched Andy Roddick AND defending Australian Open Champion Andre Agassi en-route) in the final. Safin had also come through three 5-set matches in the tournament, an extraordinary 48 hours more spent on court than Federer leading up to the final. It seemed in the first set Safin gave it his all, but after losing out in the decider of that, it was all Roger after… or so the scoreline may suggest… Roger wasn’t really at his best in this match, he seemed a little over-eager at times to get winning points… but even still this match was only ever being won by one player, as the majestic Federer claimed his second major title.
Number 3: Wimbledon 2004 (defeated Andy Roddick, 4–6, 7–5, 7–6(7–3), 6–4)
For me, this was really where this era of tennis became that of Federer, as opposed to the man he beat in the 2004 Wimbledon Final. Roddick had been widely regarded as the world’s best player for at least a couple of years up to this point, and finally he faced his only real rival in this era on the biggest stage of all. And although Roddick did win the first set, and the other 3 in the match were all relatively tight, it just wasn’t to be his day. It could well be argued he outplayed Roger in the first two sets, but when it mattered it always seemed to be Roger who won the points at the most important stages. I guess that’s what separates the good from the Great…
Number 4: US Open 2004 (defeated Lleyton Hewitt, 6–0, 7–6(7–3), 6–0)
Federer was really starting to ease himself in these grand slam finals by the time he dispatched with Lleyton Hewitt at Arthur Ashe in 2004. He was dominant from start to finish here, and even an almighty effort from Hewitt in the second set proved to be to no avail. 3 of the 4 Grand Slams of 2004 went to a man who was really cementing himself as THE man of tennis. Little did we know just how far that would go on for…
Number 5: Wimbledon 2005 (defeated Andy Roddick, 6–2, 7–6(7–2), 6–4)
Another year, another Wimbledon final win for Roger, and again against the man who at one stage looked to be his biggest rival for the moniker of the world’s best. In the 2005 final here, it was Federer who glided his way to victory. Roddick, between 2002-2005, only lost 3 matches on grass out of 35 played. All 3 of them were to Federer at Wimbledons… Roddick didn’t play badly at all in this final, but such was the supreme qualities of his opposition, he simply was not close to getting his hands on the trophy on this day.
Number 6: US Open 2005 (defeated Andre Agassi, 6–3, 2–6, 7–6(7–1), 6–1)
“I think Roger is the best I’ve played against”. That was what the great Andre Agassi had to say after he was on the receiving end of another Federer major final win. Even though Agassi was 4-2 up in the 3rd set, Federer was able to turn that around. The final set was somewhat of a formality for Roger as he reigned as the King of Arthur Ashe for a second consecutive year.
Number 7: Australian Open 2006 (defeated Marcos Baghdatis, 5–7, 7–5, 6–0, 6–2)
Federer’s dominance continued into 2006 as he overcame two very even and hard sets against his Cypriot opponent. With this win, he became only the second man in the previous 37 years to win 3 successive slams.
Number 8: Wimbledon 2006 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 6–0, 7–6(7–5), 6–7(2–7), 6–3)
It appeared now, for maybe the first time, Federer had a genuine rival. After losing the final at Roland Garros a few months prior, the man stood on the opposing side of the net was once again the young Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal. And having been stopped once again from completing his own personal set last time out, Federer came back with a vengeance in this Final… But a dominant first set was followed by a much tougher second set, but the result was still another one on the board for the Swiss-man. And although Nadal did get one set back after, Federer proved that the Grass of Wimbledon was still HIS domain.
Number 9: US Open 2006 (defeated Andy Roddick, 6–2, 4–6, 7–5, 6–1)
Just as it seemed a new rival was emerging in Nadal, the first challenger to King Roger returned on his own home court. Andy Roddick remerged to challenge here in the US Open Final, but Arthur Ashe in this time belonged to one man. A man who here won his third straight US Open, and a match that did go to 4 sets, but it was always Roger’s to go and win. It capped off a quite extraordinary year, one where he went oh so close to perfection. Federer in 2006 went 27-1 across the 4 major tournaments, but for the great man it still was not enough…
Number 10: Australian Open 2007 (defeated Fernando Gonzalez, 7–6(7–2), 6–4, 6–4)
The scoreboard will tell you it was one sided, and against a new foe this time in the form of Chilean Fernando Gonzalez it was near perfect for Federer’s magic number 10. In fact, in this tournament, he became the first man in 27 years to go through a full major tournament without dropping a single set. Unstoppable.
Number 11: Wimbledon 2007 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 7–6(7–3), 2–6, 6–2)
Once again Federer came into a Wimbledon having won in Australia and lost in the final in Paris, and once again he would have chance for immediate revenge against the Spainard in the biggest match of the year. And for the first (but absolutely not the last) time, the two best ever served up an absolute classic final. Federer remained the King of Centre Court… for now… (I LOVE that shot of Roger with the trophy by the way… just look at the figure out of focus in the background… looking on, waiting for his time…)
Number 12: US Open 2007 (defeated Novac Djokovic, 7–6(7–4), 7–6(7–2), 6–4)
In the first major final meeting between Federer and the only OTHER serious contender to his GOAT status, it was a relatively straight forward route to a 12th major final win against the superb Serbian. He in the process became the first ever man in the open era to win 4 straight US Open titles… But he would now have to be wary of his opponent on this day for the future… Just like Nadal, Djokovic would come again… Looking on and waiting for it to be HIS time…
Number 13: US Open 2008 (defeated Andy Murray, 6–2, 7–5, 6–2)
So, you’ll notice a bit of a gap since his last major win… Indeed, Federer was (at this point) no longer the world’s best player. For so long was he the pretender who could only reign in… Paris… but wins in London (we may get to that one later) and at Rolland Garros for Nadal, coupled with Novac Djokovic breaking his major duck in Australia, and Roger Federer was waiting a full year to win number 13… which he did in relatively straight forward fashion. His opponent this time was still 4 years away from his first major final win, in fact this was his first Grand Slam Final full stop and became the 13th victim of a player who now had to fight to reclaim his throne. I should also point out Between the 2005 Wimbledon and the 2007 US Open, Federer made it to the final of every single Grand Slam tournament. During that incredible run, he won all but two of them (losing the French Open finals of 2006 and again in 2007 to Rafael Nadal).
Number 14: French Open 2009 (defeated Robin Soderling, 6–1, 7–6(7–1), 6–4)
FINALLY! The set was completed with his maiden French Open final win… and as incredible an achievement as it is to win all 4 major titles in a career, the story of the 2009 French Open is surely all about Robin Soderling. Sadly for him, his greatest ever win against a GOD of this tournament (Soderling knocked out Rafa Nadal en-route to the final) could not be followed up with taking home the trophy. Federer finally had the last remaining prize. GOAT status confirmed.
Number 15: Wimbledon 2009 (defeated Andy Roddick, 5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14)
Of all of his major final triumphs, I think this is my favourite. An old rivalry renewed this time against Andy Roddick, and with Nadal missing the tournament due to injury it really was all set for Federer to continue a renaissance year of sorts. He did in fact reach all 4 major finals in 2009 (he lost to Nadal in Australia and would lose the US Open final to Juan Martin Del Potro the following September, a loss which ended Federer’s streak at Arthur Ashe where he went into the 2009 tournament as FIVE TIME defending champion), but this match may have been his toughest of the entire year. A quite brilliant contest that could have gone either way, but it was another tail of so close so far for Roddick, and glorious glory for Roger.
Number 16: Australian Open 2010 (defeated Andy Murray, 6–3, 6–4, 7–6(13–11))
Again, this was a tournament where Nadal was denied by injury (he retired in the Quarters against Murray), again it was the great white shark of Switzerland lying in wait… The brave brit Murray was still a level below the very best and was swept aside by the great man here. Totally in control all match, only really being pushed in the 3rd set, but by the time Murray came even close to getting a set on the board it already appeared a matter of when not if we would see number 16. And so, it was. Some could argue this was the last win of the real period of dominance for Federer… Around this time Nadal was elite, but Novac Djokovic too was starting to state his claim to be the best of the best. So much so that this would be Federer’s last Grand Slam final appearance for over a year… and he wouldn’t win Number 17 for another year plus after that… which brings us to…
Number 17: Wimbledon 2012 (defeated Andy Murray, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4)
History may not look too kindly on Roger Federer’s role in the 2012 Wimbledon Final, as if there was ever a scenario that would’ve seen the crowd prefer the opponent to win in a match against the great ruler of SW19, it would be the day we at long last got another British man in the final. And although the heroic Murray took the first set, Federer simply proved too strong. Tears for Murray followed, whose time would very, very soon come, but after a gap of 3 years we witnessed another Wimbledon trophy be added to the collection of the great Swiss.
Number 18: Australian Open 2017 (defeated Rafael Nadal, 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3)
Given the utter dominance of Novac Djokovic, the continual injury-defying run of Rafa Nadal, or the emergence of Andy Murray as a serious Major winning player, and a litany of others in that time, it maybe isn’t as much a shock as it looks on paper that it took another 5 years nearly for Federer to add to his Major collection. But it was a case of history repeating in the 2017 Australian Open Final, with Roger winning a 5 set final against his greatest rival. Roger appeared in every single major from 1999 up until 2015, such was his exemplary physical conditioning and injury record. But in 2016 he missed 2, 1 each in 2017 and 18, and eventually 2 each in 2020 and 21… So, the appearances were becoming less frequent, but at this point in early 2017, Federer was not done adding to his collection just yet…
Number 19: Wimbledon 2017 (defeated Marin Čilić, 6–3, 6–1, 6–4)
Back home and back winning… Roger Federer capped off a sublime tournament with victory in the final. Murray and Djokovic both fell in the quarters, and Nadal even earlier than that. Federer though kept his cool and had an incredible tournament, winning every set he played (the first player to achieve such a feat since 1976 and only the second player in Open Era history) culminating in a record eighth title at the All England Club. This also marked the 5th year that Nadal won the French Open, followed by a Federer win at Wimbledon. Totally unparalleled.
Number 20: Australian Open 2018 (defeated Marin Čilić, 6–2, 6–7(5–7), 6–3, 3–6, 6–1)
All good things come to an end. And it was very fitting that the final major triumph of the greatest Tennis player of all time ends with a 5 set win. Cilic was again a worthy challenger, but this was proven to be the last dance. Federer said after his 20th Grand Slam final win ““Winning is an absolute dream come true”… Well, if that is indeed the case, Federer lived the greatest dream of them all.
I would be remise if I wrote a blog about Roger Federer and didn’t discuss THE match. One that he lost, in a major final, but my word, if this isn’t the single greatest tennis match that has ever been played, I have absolutely no idea what is. This was an absolute thing of beauty, a love letter to the great sport of tennis. So, to finish this blog off… grab yourself a snack and a drink and enjoy the 2008 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final between FIVE-time defending Champion Roger Federer, and a man looking to finally win his first title at the home of tennis (having lost the two previous finals to the same opponent), Rafael Nadal.
Thank You Roger.