Federer and the question of greatness | Pakistan Today

Federer and the question of greatness

Novak Djokovic has catapulted himself on to the apex of the tennis world courtesy his first ever appearance in the final at SW19. The new world number one will play Rafael Nadal, the man he supplanted from the summit, in a lip smacking Wimbledon final today. Rafa annihilated Andy Murray, whose Wimbledon campaigns are rhythmically following a Henman-esque symphony, in the second semi final on Friday.
The ‘Muhammad Ali’ of tennis, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was on the receiving end of a ‘floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee’ act, at the hands of No-Djo in the first semi final. The Nadal-Djokovic era is truly up and running, but things look bleak for the 16-time major champion Roger Federer.
The phrase ‘Greatest of all-time’ is used synonymously with the Swiss man, and the numbers ostensibly back the claim. A record 16 majors, 285 weeks at the top, 17 ATP Masters 1000 titles – the figures are intimidating. However, a little situational perspective depicts the ‘Federer era’ under a different torchlight. The Federer era (2004-2007), was a one-man regime that saw unchallenged domination.
The record of 237 consecutive weeks as the world number one divulges everything. While there is no doubt about the unparalleled prowess and stroke-making that made Federer the sculpture of invincibility, the fact of the matter is that it’s easier to appear indestructible when the competition is zip. Evidently, the flipside is that Federer was so good that he made his contemporaries look sheepish. However the juxtaposition of eras reveals an interesting tale. Consider the example of Andy Roddick who was the year-ending number one in 2003 and a regular feature in the top 3 during Federer’s epoch – the same Andy Roddick whose backhand was non-existent and had a quaint excuse for a volley. Roddick has prodigiously enhanced his repertoire from what it was back in 2003-2006 but has still plunged out of the top 10 – apt demonstration of the prodigious disparity in competition with the present day.
Another indicator of the aridity of that era is the ease with which an adolescent clay courter managed to cement himself as the undisputed number 2 for a record 160 consecutive weeks, before eventually dismantling the king himself.
The Federer era was sandwiched between the Sampras-Agassi era and what might be revered in the future as the Nadal-Djokovic era. By contrasting the regular top five players from each era, one can present the case of Federer being a flat-track bully, whose graph plummeted as soon as Nadal approached his peak and players like Murray and Djokovic came to the fore.
The fact remains that the only majors Federer has managed to win since 2007 have been the ones in which another man has taken care of Nadal. The often eulogised Nadal-Federer rivalry is essentially a disingenuously one-sided affair, which has seen Federer lose 17 of his 25 matches versus the Spaniard. An appalling head-to-head against one of his peers should mutilate his credentials as the best of his time, let alone of all-time. Initially Nadal’s statistical upper hand was alluded to as an anomaly but the tennis world gradually came to terms with the fact that Nadal has had Federer’s number. While Nadal’s dominance is often cited as deceiving due to his hegemony on clay, another losing head-to-head versus Andy Murray (6-8) gives fuel to the fire of skepticism. Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to grace the sport, however 285 weeks as the number one and 16 majors flatter to deceive. Federer’s glittering assortment of stats is more of a quantitative array than a qualitative one.
Man United quick off the blocks in transfer window: Having been given the quintessential football tutorial by Catalonian instructors at Wembley, Manchester United are expeditiously on their way towards rectification. Amongst the traditional heavyweights of English football, the Red Devils have been the most active in stuffing their shopping bags from the Transfer Market. Three impressive signings; and the Old Trafford devotees have every reason to be sanguine. Phil Jones was the first acquisition, valued at a reported 16.5 million pounds. The former Blackburn Rovers defender is a paradigm of adaptability. Generally classified as a centre-back, the 6 ft. tall English talent is equally at home as a full-back and adroit as a defensive midfielder. Quick, competent in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet, the Under-21 International has the complete catalog for a modern day defender. The Ferdinand-Vidic partnership being the preferred central defensive pairing and Smalling giving an unyielding account of himself as their under study connotes that Phil Jones’ first season will be a stern test of his aptitude for versatility – a trait Sir Alex has always prized.
David de Gea has been earmarked by Sir Alex Ferguson as the man to fill the boots of Edwin Van der Saar – a man twice his age. The retirement of Peter Schmeichel in 1999 was followed by a flood of goalkeeping howlers till Van Der Saar stood up to the mantle. A mist of apprehension engulfs the club as the fans dread an analogous repetition.
The 18 million pound former Atletico Madrid man has quite often been depicted as “cool and calm”.
The 6 ft 4 in. tall Spanish prodigy played behind one of the most tumultuous backlines in La Liga – life will be different behind a robust Manchester United defense. De Gea’s real ordeal will be handling the pressure of the big stage. The fact that his finest performances last season were versus Real and Barca, and that he had a vital hand in Atletico’s UEFA Cup triumph in 2010, the juvenile Spaniard appears more unflappable than his age might suggest.
Ashley Young arrives at Old Trafford with a highly esteemed repute. The former Watford wunderkind cultivated into one of England’s most alluring attacking players at Aston Villa. This is the decisive step in Young’s career, one which habitually differentiates aces from prima donnas. In Sir Alex Ferguson, the 25 year old has an institute that has nurtured multitudinous aspirants into world beaters.
Young is another versatile option. He can be deployed as the second striker, in the hole or on either wing. Fleet footed and penetrative, the former Villa man knows how to pick a pass as well. Attributable to his first-rate set-pieces and superlative crossing, Young is second only to Cesc Fabregas in the number of assists chart over the past 5 years.
Young is also a live wire off the ball. His industrious work ethic and conscientious progress define his ambition, and at Old Trafford he has the arena, the personnel and the means to justify his endeavors. The final piece in the English Champions’ jigsaw is the playmaker to replace Scholes. Names like Sneijder, Modric and Nasri are being peddled. Samir Nasri is probably the most appealing, as his contract expiry looms. Nasri was indubitably the best player in the Premier League during the first half of last season, when he filled in for Fabregas as the central playmaker.

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