Watching Roger Federer at the US Open the past few years was a big part of my wanting to get back into tennis after about 25 years away from the game.  As a Federer fan, I was overjoyed at his winning the French Open today.  Not only does this tie Sampras’ slam record at 14, it gives Federer the elusive career slam (winning all four major championships over the course of a career).  His record now legitimately begs the question of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).

In a phone interview from LA, Sampras stated, “I’m obviously happy for Roger. Now that he has won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion.”

As a Federer fan, it’s an easy sell for me, although I have to say that the GOAT title is probably shared equally with Rod Laver.  Comparing players across eras is difficult.  Laver won the grand slam (all four majors consecutively in a single year) not once, but twice.  This mind-boggling achievement is made even more so by the recognition that he played some of his best tennis before the Open era.  And, some might note that Federer might have an asterisk beside his title in that he did not defeat Nadal.  I would point out that Federer can only play the matches in front of him.  Besides, who is more dangerous?  Nadal or the person who knocked Nadal (and three other higher-seeded players) out of the tournament?  And, Federer did defeat Nadal at Madrid (on clay).

Tennis in the current era is a physical drain unlike any time in the past.  Players are in tremendous condition and the tour is an unrelenting grind.  Youth is served at a faster pace then ever in the past.  Just look at Del Potro.  Federer blew him away at the Australian (including a double-bagel), then DP took him to five a few months later at the French.  The window for winning slams seems to be a bit smaller every year.  This makes Nadal’s run at the French even more impressive and equally underscores Federer’s slam record.

Personally, I would like to see TMF retire with 15+ slams.  Given the pace at which young players are rising toward slam contention, this would be a monumental achievement, solidifying what is already a strong G.O.A.T argument.

May the Fed Express roll on!hr

You Don’t Always Win

If Nadal lost the French Open, popular opinion was that it would be to Federer/Murray/Djokovic in the final.  Falling to the 23rd seed in the 4th round was simply not in the script.  Now, everyone will have their explanation ranging from all the extra matches he has played since starting this incredible run about a year ago to the pink shirt (my favorite reason).  We saw this happen with Federer and I saw it in a prior generation with Connors, Borg, and McEnroe.  Why would Nadal fans expect anything different?  Despite his extraordinary mental and physical condition, he is (as the agents from The Matrix would say) human.

Perhaps the best explanation is from Jason Statham from the flick Chaos, which I watched over the weekend.   At the end of the movie, he tells the young detective who was his adversary that the detective learned a valuable lesson and it’s good he learned it while he is young.

“You don’t always win.”

Mr. Pink

I woke up on a beautiful Memorial Day morning and fired up the Plasma,  itching to see Roldand Garros in high def.  My eyes were shocked.  In Roland Garros meets Reservoir Dogs, Nadal is Mr. Pink.  I had to blink multiple times to make sure it was true.  Although he went through some tough stretches, he did win in straight sets.  I suppose when you’re the best clay court player of all time and No. 1 in the world, you can wear anything you want.  In the unlikely event that Nadal loses along the way, I’m going to be the first to blame it on that freaking pink shirt!

Nadal’s Numbers on Clay

Well, I was hoping for at least four sets. I got up late, sat down and watched two games in the second. After seeing Federer broken, I told my wife this might be over before I could finish breakfast and morning tea. Federer was clearly off the entire tournament, while Nadal looked unbeatable all the way. His numbers on clay (specifically at the French) are beyond impressive; it now looks like someone could eclipse Borg’s record at the French.