This question is raised every time I watch a tennis match on television involving Roger Federer and some experts are willing to award this title of greatest player of all time to Federer.
We can all understand that the press will have to be positive and cater to the ATP, tournament directors and sponsors to get their free passes. However, with this type of comments and reviews, they do a disservice to their public and the sport of tennis, because they do not respect the record or the great past performances of players such as; Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, Björn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, totally ignoring the story.
Recently, at the Australian Open final press conference, Roger Federer admitted that the genius label suits him comfortably. Now;
“I mean look, I think I’m the best tennis player in the world,” Federer said when asked how he reacts to the word genius used to describe him and his sublime game.
“You can call me a genius because I’m beating a lot of my opponents, maybe playing a little different, you know, winning when I’m not playing my best. All of that maybe means a little bit of that. So it’s nice.”
Well, what happened to humility in victory and in sports? That is another question for another article. The aim of this article is to pose the question “Is Roger Federer indeed the greatest player of all time?”, To rest. You could argue that any expert in the world; Television commentators, coaches and others would easily agree that, in tennis, the younger you are, the more difficult it is to beat older opponents. Also the younger players who have won major Grand Slam tournaments in any era, were true prodigies and perhaps, since the word is so loosely applied these days, you can even call them geniuses, so to speak.
Following that guideline, and then looking at the record versus age, the best player of all time is:
1- Björn Borg (SWE) Date of birth: June 6, 56
Between the ages of 17 and 25 years and 4 months old, Björn Borg won (61) individual race titles!
Roger Federer between the ages of 17 and 25 years and 4 months won (45) individual career titles, 16 titles less than those won by Borg!
Borg, won 6 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros on clay, 5 of them consecutive and 6 titles at Wimbledon on grass, 5 of them consecutive.
Roger Federer has won 0 Roland Garros and 4 Wimbledons, 2 Australian Opens, 3 United States Opens.
Borg at age 17 was a finalist in 4 ATP 1973 events: Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, San Francisco, Stockholm!
Roger Federer, at age 17 in 1998, reached the quarterfinals in Toulouse.
1 (tied) – Rod Laver (AUS) DOB: Aug 9, 38
In 1962, Rod Laver, aged 24 to 25, won all four tennis Grand Slam singles titles in the same year, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. In late 1962-1968, when Rod Laver was in his prime, he was banned from playing Grand Slam tournaments because he turned professional.
Rod Laver is the only player in tennis history to have twice won all four tennis Grand Slam singles titles in the same year (Australian Open – French Open – Wimbledon – US Open), first as an amateur in 1962, and then again as a pro in 1969.
Roger Federer (SUI) Date of birth: August 8, 81
Roger, for example, at the age of 25, has not once won all 4 Grand Slams titles in a single calendar year!
Rod Laver has won (39) professional individual career titles as of age 30 (1968)!
If the press can call what Roger Federer is doing today a “genius”, I don’t know what they would have called Rod Laver when he won all 4 Grand Slam titles Australian Open – French Open – Wimbledon – US Open in a single year at the age of 31. old!
Anyway, for me and I hope for you too, with all my respect, the question and speculation of who is or who was the best player of all time is answered. Until someone younger than Bjorn Borg achieves a better record, Björn Borg is the greatest player of all time! This is not to say that he vouches for Borg’s tennis game, which I did not like at all, but his record for a young athlete and for any athlete of any age is absolutely staggering and he is unrivaled among his peers or any player in our ranks! weather!
Was Borg a genius? No, he was an excellent tennis player!
Stay tuned in my next article, I’ll let you know why Roger Federer is winning so easily today and how.
Play without fear!
PS – if you compare the players below Roger Federer I guess you could call them geniuses too!
Ivan Lendl DOB: 7-Mar-60 – INDIVIDUAL CAREER TITLES (94)
18 years old 1978 ATP Rank # 74
19 years 1979 ATP Rank # 21
20 years 1980 Ranked ATP # 6 ATP
Roger Federer (Sui) SINGLES CAREER TITLES (46)
17 years 1998 ATP Rank # 301
18 years ATP Rank # 65
19 years ATP Rank # 29
20 years ATP Rank # 13
Pete Sampras (USA) DOB: Aug 12, 71 SINGLE CAREER TITLES (64)
17 years 1988 ATP Rank # 97
18 Years 1989 ATP Rank # 81
19 years 1990 ATP Rank # 5
20 Years 1991 ATP Rank # 3
Jimmy Connors (USA) DOB: September 2, 52 INDIVIDUAL CAREER TITLES (105)
21 years 1973 ATP Rank # 3
References: ATP website