Federer could be the greatest, ever

By By Jason Peterson and By Jason Peterson

By Jason Peterson

Ask anyone who the most dominant athlete in the world is. Go ahead. You’ll likely get answers involving guys such as Tiger, Kobe or Peyton Manning.

After winning the final match of the U.S. Open on Sunday — his fourth in a row, no less — it’s time to give the man his due.

“The man” these days is Roger Federer. You may have heard the name, but it’s a shame if you haven’t sat down and tuned into any of his matches.

The Swiss-born Federer, who many are starting to believe is the greatest player to pick up a racket, is a living legend. Just once, ignore any reservations you might have against tennis. Watching Federer do what he does best is to witness pure athleticism — pure dominance, even.

Before the start of Federer’s match with U.S. favorite Andy Roddick last week in New York, a reporter talked to each of them in the halls of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The contrasts between both men were almost startling.

Roddick appeared so fired up, he looked as though he had just downed four Red Bulls and a dozen Krispy Kremes. Hands trembling and voice faltering, Roddick would hardly admit he was nervous to face an opponent he’s beaten just once out of 14 attempts.

Federer, lounging just 40 feet behind Roddick, looked composed enough to balance a tennis ball on his head. Outwardly, he acknowledged that he needed to be more aggressive in his first sets. Inwardly, you knew he was thinking, “I’ve got this one in the bag.”

Federer went on to defeat Roddick in three straight sets despite a killer performance from the United States’ favorite son. Roddick fired forehand after blistering forehand, and yet the ball kept coming back to his side of the net. Roddick, and every other opponent for that matter, may as well compete against a wall.

Ever since Federer took Roddick’s ranking as the top ATP player in the world in early 2004, Roddick has suffered all the range of emotions of a reformed alcoholic: denial, anger, helplessness and finally, last Wednesday, acceptance. Roddick told reporters afterward that he had played a certain part of his body off and he would still walk away with his head held high.

He knew that nobody was going to beat “the man.”

To date, Federer, who just turned 26, has claimed 12 Grand Slam titles and remains just two away from tying another unheralded legend, Pete Sampras. Like Federer, Sampras was one of the quiet ones who went about his business and caught opponents off-guard with his unassuming style of play. And it is Federer that Sampras fully endorses to beat his own record. Sampras went so far as to call Federer one of the humble champions who deserves to win.

Granted, Federer isn’t as colorful a character as Andre Agassi or Bjorn Borg or Jimmy Connors, but it’s almost impossible to not like the guy.

He set up a charity, the Roger Federer Foundation, that benefits disadvantaged kids in South Africa. He also pledged to play in as many tournaments as humanly possible to help raise funds for those who were hit by the tsunami in Indonesia. And last year, he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador.

So, the next time you’re watching the tube, do yourself a favor and check out a real professional in action. Pay attention to the single-handed backhand shots he drops on his opponents at ridiculous angles. Pay attention to the classy compliments he leaves to his dejected foes. Pay attention because you might not see another one like him.

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