What Makes Roger Federer So Good?

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Since coming to the forefront of Men’s tennis in the early 2000s, Roger Federer has received widespread acclaim as one of the greatest players of all time—if not the greatest. Debates about his greatness seem to crop up on a regular basis. Some argue that while he is undoubtedly very good, it’s just too early to crown Federer as the greatest. On the other hand, others compare watching him play to a religious experience—like watching something that is truly magical unfold.

Every tennis fan has had what author David Foster Wallace called “Federer Moments”—that is, those moments when you’re watching tennis on TV and Federer suddenly does something so seemingly impossible that you can’t believe what you’ve just seen. Whether it’s an off-balance, between-the-legs shot for the point or a Superman-like cross-court dive to reach an impossible ball, Federer has a knack for getting to the ball no matter what it takes, and he always seems to deliver the ball in a way that confounds his opponents. If this isn’t the definition of tennis greatness, then what is?

But it’s not just Federer’s flare for the dramatic. It’s his overall game, and his amazing ability to make dominance look easy. He takes his fluid style to all types of courts and is known for his ability to play from either the baseline or the net without sacrificing anything. Although men’s tennis goes far too quickly for the players to stop and think about anything, Federer’s game unfolds with the deliberation of a chess match. He’s capable of making a brilliant strategic position in a fraction of a second.

And then there’s the spectator element. If professional sports fandom is about watching incredibly talented people perform at levels that most of us can only dream of, Roger Federer delivers in a big way. Sure, he doesn’t have the big gestures and fiery persona of other players, but he has something much more valuable: a quiet confidence. He knows that his game is impressive enough and needs no embellishments. When this quiet confidence is mixed with an obvious love for the game, it’s a pleasure to watch. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a strong humanitarian bent off the court.

If this doesn’t convince you, we can always resort to statistics: For starters, Federer has been ranked #1 in the world for more consecutive weeks than anyone in history, he has a record 16 Grand Slam titles, and he also has the record for most consecutive finals appeared in. That’s not too shabby for someone who won’t be 30 for two more years.

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