Never to Be Seen Again

Roger Federer won his 7th Wimbledon title in typical Federer fashion.


The debate of whether Roger Federer is indeed the best tennis player to ever pick up a racquet will inevitably resume, most likely in Roger’s favour, in the coming days. Comparing players across generations often leads to great discussion but it’s a fruitless debate. No one can truly be right. Federer may be the greatest tennis player in the history of the game but we will never know.

What we do know though, or rather, should know, is that Roger Federer is the most unique tennis player anyone has ever witnessed and will ever witness.

His dominance is unique in itself but it’s more the way in which he achieves that very dominance.

Federer makes it look so simple. Too easy. He appears as effortless as you or I do on our couch, with a bag of potato chips watching TV. Sometimes it’s as if he isn’t trying. Roger Federer plays 4 sets in a championship final and doesn’t break a sweat. Heck, sometimes I even break into a sweat on my couch in the summer.

And here we are, 17 major victories later.

Federer dominates but he does it with such ease and fluidity. His movement has the grace of a gazelle yet his power parallels that of a pitcher throwing an effortless 95mph. He is the antithesis of his arch frenemy Rafael Nadal. While Nadal tramples the court to shreds over the course of a match, Federer leaves the ground virtually untouched. Nadal will wheeze like a dying animal at times while Federer stays quiet as a mouse.

Dominance and tennis go together like ice cream and apple pie. Roger Federer is by no means the first to rule the tennis world. However, he is the first and only to do it in such an undemanding manner. Pete Sampras dominated but he did it through the serve and volley. Roger Federer has grinded out points from the baseline for 14 years. Although, I guess his opponents do most of the grinding.

In his prime, pressure wasn’t a part of Federer’s vocabulary. Big serves and big shots during big moments were ho-hum. He responded to clutch situations in a way that might have made Michael Jordan jealous. It’s not just the robotic gracefulness that he brings to every point but it’s his ability to elevate his game when he needs it most and appearing to do it with that same robotic gracefulness. No additional external effort required. At least, it always seemed that way.

He doesn’t really have bad days. 33 straight quarter-finals will tell you that.

Injuries? Forget about it. If he hadn’t gotten mononucleosis that one time, you would probably think the guy is invincible.

It is possible that his effortless dominance is unprecedented across all sports. I mean, has anyone in the history of professional sports made winning look as easy Roger Federer has over his career?

Joe DiMaggio’s elegance earned him the nickname the ‘Yankee Clipper,’ in reference to the new Pan-American airliner in 1939. Canadians will never forget Bobby Orr and the way he seemingly floated across the ice.

Roger Federer, he more than deserves to mentioned in the same air as those effortless greats.

He reminded us all yesterday how good he was during his best days. You couldn’t beat him because he wouldn’t beat himself. 1 month away from his 31st birthday, Federer was in his “not make any unforced errors mode” against Andy Murray. In his prime, that was his default mode.

On the wrong side of 30, it would be, well, wrong of us to expect another major from Fed.

Even in his old(ish) age though, there is one thing that you can always expect from Roger Federer when he steps onto a tennis court. Something we may never see again in the history of the sport.

His unprecedented and unflappable effortlessness.

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22 Responses to Never to Be Seen Again

  1. tophatal says:


    What else has Club Fed got to prove ?

    Not long ago you jumped unto the Djokovic bandwagon acknowledging his three Grand Slam victories in a season . As special as it was that feat had done before by Federer, Rod Laver and Mats Wilander .

    The Swiss Express has been by far the best player ever to grace the game bar none !

    Your thoughts on Mike Rizzo’s insistence that he will shutdown Stephen Strasburg once the player has pitched 160 innings for the season ?

    tophatal ………….

  2. seniledelinquent says:

    Nice Post. For me, the beauty of Federer’s game is it’s seeming effortlessness(but of course that is the product of meticulous and arduous preparation). In the pivotal game in the third set after the roof was closed, Murray slipped three times. I think in the entire tournament I saw Federer slip only once. The reason is that he floats above the court rather than treading on it like mere mortals – it is also the reason for his longevity in the game, whereas his contemporaries are plagued by injuries – I do not envy Rafa his knees, when his career comes to an end, but you get the feeling that Roger will still be walking on clouds long after he has struck his last tennis ball.

  3. Jay Wallis says:

    Honestly, I loved your strategy toward writing about this fantastic tennis player. Taking the approach to discuss his “uniqueness” is the type of “different perspective” people want to read about in regard to sports. Also, the fact that we both used the word “fluid” to describe his approach shows we see a similar type of play from the Swiss connoisseur. His ability to play tennis with such ease probably has led to his lack of injuries – compare that to Rafa, who seems to always have something strained or pulled. Roger has dominated 3 of the 4 Grand Slams which is simply amazing when you think about it. With this type of control of his body, who knows how much longer he can play at this high level! I suspect it will be much longer than people think. Will he win another major title? I say yes. Again, I really enjoyed this post.

  4. Dan Martin says:

    I like this post a lot. I think Federer is unique in his consistency (the most slams, most slam finals, most consecutive slam finals, most consecutive slam semis, most consecutive slam quarters ….). Rankings look at how well a player performed over a 52 week period, and this generally favors consistency. Patrick Rafter got to #1 in early 99 due to a concentrated period of winning during the summer of 1998, but normally the #1 player for 52 weeks played pretty well for the whole 52 weeks. I guess in ranking careers consistency should also get a look. In one sense, greatest ever titles are intangible and things fans and reporters invent where as the trophy Roger held yesterday was quite real and tangible. The other 16 major trophies also are real and in the record books. Jon Wertheim throws out the idea too that we should trust our eyes. He said something along the lines that Roger of course has many all-time records, but we also see how he plays. Horse sense might say no one has quite played this way. As you pointed out Roger is unique and effortless so your eyes see what Wertheim’s see. I’d say the stats along with the gut feeling of watching Federer’s ease on the court make a good case for him as the best ever. That is an intangible thing and my guess is Roger along with other greats active and retired prefer winning trophies to popularity contests. He has won the most of the big trophies of anyone in history. That may not settle the debates, but it has to count for something. Those are my $.02

  5. Kevin Smith says:

    Could agree more with your post Chris. Such an effortless performance against a guy five years younger. Crazy.

  6. codyjgoodwin says:

    Age might become an issue, yes. But after a performance like we saw yesterday, which followed quite the layoff between Grand Slam titles, it should — keyword: “should” — keep us on our toes. We never know if Federer will whip out a performance like this ever again. Hell, he could pull it out again at the U.S. Open for all we know. We just don’t know. But that’s what makes sports great. He can take a multi-year layoff, and still pull performances like yesterday out of nowhere and surprise us all. It’s magical, really. I wouldn’t say he’s done, but I will say his time is limited.

    Good read, though. I liked it.

  7. Great article Chris, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    I’ve never been a massive fan of Federer, probably because I am a massive fan of Nadal. But these past two weeks were a joy to watch him. His movement around the court against a man 7 years his younger is true testament to his commitment to staying at the top of the game.

    Look forward to reading more of your work.

  8. Poetic grace and coupled with buttery wrists. Roger Federer.

  9. Federer gives the impression of bearing such enormous gifts with such focused ease, it makes him thrilling, not just as a player, but as an example of supreme talent.

    One can’t read into souls, of course; but Federer gives the impression of a man who could go and run UNICEF, say, or be head of state in Switzerland, with the same calming efficiency he brings to his game. I do wonder what he’ll do, finally, when he parts from his career on the court. He would, I’m sure, make an incredible coach. But it’d be fascinating to see him turn to, who knows what.

    Sampras is quoted, I think, as saying Roger may have one or two more titles in him. It may be. Of course this is no longer the sun rising, but the sun setting. But what a blaze of light! Anyway, it would be churlish to deny him the rightful basking in this summer of glory. He is, just now, and yet once more, the champ.

  10. I am more of a Nadal fan, but what you highlighted here – Federer’s elegance – has always held me in awe. Great post!

    • Chris Ross says:

      I’m more of a Nadal fan as well. Became a huge Nadal fan when Federer was just winning every tournament and I wanted someone to be able to beat him. I loved Nadal’s emotion and Federer didn’t have any of it. As Federer has gotten older and less dominant I have become more and more a fan of his because he has shown himself to be a real person with emotions. You could never deny his incredible talent but when you see that he is such a genuinely nice person, it’s impossible to dislike him.

  11. Jin says:

    Cool site! Nice post too. Really deep and detailed.
    I also wrote a post on my blog about the Wimbledon 2012 Finals.
    Please check it out!

  12. SportChick says:

    In amongst this Roger Federer love-in – of which I’m a part – don’t get me wrong, the man just glides across the court, I’d like to state the case for one Mr Andrew Murray winning at least one Grand Slam…

    I firmly believe Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam. In his career lifetime he’s been up against three of the top players who have ever lived, each one peaking when the others fade. They are extreme examples of blasting into tennis consciousness and into the annals of history without a backward glance. There are those, however, who reach their goal step by step. Murray has reached three finals before and not won a set. Sunday’s final, he won the first set, should have won the second, and if he had, may have gone on to win. He’s getting closer, and with Ivan Lendl on his side, the man who displays no emotion whatsoever – not even while watching apparently! – who can help Murray further with his penchance for exhausting body-language expressions alongside a little bit of luck, Murray can do it.

    Also, following on from your comment about Murray feeling the pressure, absolutely he feels the pressure, particularly at Wimbledon. What he has that none of the other three have is a ‘home’ Grand Slam. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic don’t know, and never will know, what ‘home’ pressure feels like. Equally they won’t ever feel that extra euphoria that comes from winning a Grand Slam in front of a home crowd – something I believe Murray will experience sooner rather than later.

    See the emotional speeches from both men following the match on my website.

  13. Mohan Mali says:

    Hi Chris, Liked you post. Couldn’t agree more. You have nailed this one.

    Very rarely do we see Federer stretched. I always had a feeling that if he did try little harder he would have at least 5 more titles under his belt.

    As far as the title of the post goes ‘Never To Be Seen Again’, I would be happy to see you proven wrong. I would like to see a lot more of this Federer in coming days and months. I am sure you will agree.

  14. Hi Chris, Great Post.
    I’ve worshipped Federer as a sporting god for years. His class oozes out of him. His swing is effortless and when his backhand is firing it is a thing of beauty. I expected Federer to get one major when he won his last one 2 and a half years ago and I’m delighted he has won another with his twins able to see him to do so. As a Scot I really hope Murray can win a Slam one day.

  15. Another thing about Rog, CR, and I can call him Rog because he and I are on a first name basis, is that over his entire career, he’s had the support of the fans.

    I mean, Andy Murray is Wimbledon’s countrymen. It would have been his first major ever and STILL, people were rooting for Federer.

    Think about some of the great champions of the recent past. Fans always had a love/hate relationship with McEnroe. Same with Connors. They would have liked Lendl had he been at all exciting. And even Sampras. Little flash, just steady.

    As you suggest, Federer’s impressive run has looked effortless but to dominate, for so long, and be so revered, is equally as impressive.

  16. Cheers for visiting my site Chris.
    I think it’s very easy to take sporting greats for granted. We come to judge in terms of titles won or rankings achieved rather than looking at the mechanics that actually make them great. You are right to highlight the effortlessness and grace that Federer displays on court. His movements have an natural economy that give him a durability the others do not share. He also has an instinctive ability to read and assilimilate a situation before selecting the correct shot, and all, of course, in a fraction of a second. He intimidates through his aura rather than his physical stature. We also have to view him within the context of his era. This is a golden age for men’s tennis and the contributions of Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have forced him to constantly raise his game. That he has been equal to that places him, in my opinion, above all of the others who have gone before.
    Enjoyed your blog. Always good to discover fellow sports bloggers trying to write intelligently about subjects, however essentially trivial, that mean so much to so many people. Interesting to note the variation in the sports we are covering. I suppose we are divided by a pretty large ocean after all!

  17. Great article, man. He really does make it look easy out there.

  18. chocbutton says:

    Good post. I agree that Roger has to be one of the best, if not the best, tennis players in history. His style of playing is quite graceful, and it is more about use of clever shots that win him the titles, which really shows that he puts a lot of thinking behind his playing. He could easily stay at the top of the men’s game for another 5 years or so!

  19. Jin says:

    Hey Dan.
    I’ve just posted a crazy story on my blog that has to do with PEDs and what it has to do with tennis.
    The content that I wrote is pretty lunatic, and many people may hate me for this, but I would like to have your opinion on what you think.

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