Ask any sports fan to name 3 athletes that have dominated their sports completely, and you’ll most likely hear the same 3 names pop up over and over again; Michael Jordan in Basketball, Tiger Woods in golf, and Roger Federer in tennis. All of these men have set the standards in their game that others who come after will try to attain, and most likely fail. Their accomplishments are staggering, but to me at least, it is Federer who stands out as the best. He has maintained a dominance in a sport that, in the modern era at least, sees its brightest and best toppled from the top spot in quick succession as younger, faster, stronger players come along at a staggering rate, equipped with the newest, state of the art equipment to boot.
Born August 8, 1981 in Basel, Switzerland, Federer, like almost all European kids, spent the better part of his childhood playing soccer, but also made time for tennis, a sport he enjoyed watching and one where he naturally excelled. He competed in both sports from the age of 6, and at 12, had to make a decision in which direction to head as he was good enough to turn pro in both. Tennis was his choice, and by the age of 14 he had become the national champion, in all groups, of Switzerland, at which time he was chosen to train at the Swiss national Tennis Center. In his final year as a junior, Federer won the Wimbledon junior title and was voted ITF World Junior of The Year.
In July 1998, Roger turned pro, joining the ATP Tour, but had to wait 2 and a half years before notching his first career pro victory, winning the 2001 Milan Indoor. He also made an impressive run to the quarter-final stages at Wimbledon, knocking off 7 time champion, Pete Sampras in the process. 2002 proved to be somewhat of a disappointment with early round exits in all the majors, plus the personal devastation of losing his long time coach and friend, Peter Carter, who passed away in a car accident.
The next year, 2003, saw the start of his meteoric rise, winning his first career grand slam event at Wimbledon and challenging for the world number 1 spot at the end of the season, a position he would finally claim in 2004, a year that saw him capture 11 titles and end with a win/loss record of 74-6 for the year. In the years that followed, Federer notched 12 more major titles, held the number one spot for 237 weeks, a record that many believe will never be touched, and became virtually unbeatable until his domination was challenged by up and coming star Rafael Nadal. The rivalry that the two men have built up is the stuff of legend in pro sports, having faced one another in no less than 6 major finals.
While many would claim, perhaps rightly so, that Nadal is now the man to beat in the tennis world, it’s still a safe bet to assume that no-one want the, still daunting, task of playing Federer. Just one look at his career record is explanation enough; 57 titles, a win ratio over 80%, and almost $45 million in career earnings, staggering figures in any sport.
Roger has parlayed his on court success to the advertising world where he is the spokesperson for a number of major companies, Nike and Gillette being the most high profile. It was during his time with Gillette that he met, and struck up a close friendship with, Tiger Woods, one of the few other people in the world who could possibly come close to understanding just what it takes to reach the pinnacle of your chosen profession, a height that Federer scaled, and maintained, with class.