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Roger Federer shows off his hardware after winning the 2009 French Open, completing a career grand slam (winning all four tennis major tournaments).

14 Grand Slam singles titles for Roger Federer, tying Pete Sampras's record
19 Slam finals, tying Ivan Lendl's mark
6 Players have won all four Slams: Don Budge, Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and Federer
$48M Career prize money (U.S.)
4 Serves, all aces, in second-set tiebreaker

'Now that he's won in Paris (it) solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game.' - Pete Sampras on Roger Federer

Jun 08, 2009 04:30 AM

Garth Woolsey

Welcome, officially, to the pantheon of the greatest of the great, Roger Federer. It is an exclusive club, if there ever was one – tougher to get into than, even, the NHL (Ontario division).

The greatest tennis player ever? Congratulations, with yesterday's French Open triumph, you are The One And Only. No one, it seems, wishes to dispute that notion any longer.

For those keeping score – and, why not, it's what competition is all about – the question now becomes who's the greatest of the current greatest, Federer or his buddy, Tiger Woods?

Aren't we lucky to even be able to ask such a question? These are special times. All this and Roy Halladay, too. Plus, the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, is coming to town this week.

Comparing golf and tennis is an apples-and-oranges, dimples-and-fuzzballs issue. But are Federer's accomplishments within his sport greater than Woods' in his?

Right now, yes, it is Federer's glory that outshines all others. Woods, for all of his accomplishments (and that includes, yes, another routine PGA Tour `W,' his career 67th, yesterday), still is five major tournament triumphs away from surpassing Jack Nicklaus's 18. For his part, Federer has tied Pete Sampras for the most tennis majors wins, 14, but has the distinction of having now won on all four surfaces while Sampras never won clay's toughest, the French.

Come Wimbledon and it may well be Roger, No. 15, over and out.

"Now that he's won in Paris (it) solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game," Sampras said graciously yesterday.

Federer is 27 and while it seemed at times in recent months that he'd lost a certain something – and that Rafael Nadal had his number – more than likely he will continue to add to his lifetime collection. Woods is 33 and there are genuine concerns that his surgically oft-repaired left knee may put a limp in his chase of Nicklaus.

Certainly, Woods looked good yesterday, putting on a signature Sunday charge in Nicklaus's own signature tournament, the Memorial at Dublin, Ohio. He started the final round four shots off the lead but won with a spectacular round of seven under. He's back.

Woods may well already be the greatest ever – never mind the majors total – but he'd leave no doubt about if he plays, and wins, into his 40s or 50s. But plenty more golfers have hit an invisible wall in their early 30s than have gone on to excel consistently and long after they reach the age of 33.

Gradually, life throws up more and more distractions and championships become more and more elusive. Be it tennis, golf or any other sport, the competition gets forever more numerous, bigger, tougher, stronger, better equipped.

Federer can be a killer on court but is consistently a gentleman away from it and loves his privacy. Back home in Switzerland, he is able to live a relatively mundane life. His countrymen treat him with all due respect but, according to one theory, the Swiss have never had a king so they are leery of placing anyone on a regal plane, regardless of their worldwide accomplishments. They are above hero worship – so to speak – and that might be a bonus for Federer.

He said modestly of his own status yesterday: "Now the question is, am I the greatest of all time? We don't know, but I definitely have many things going for me because I've finally won all four Grand Slams and I'm particularly happy reaching Pete's 14."

As for The Greatest, Period, there was only one of those – Muhammad Ali. Because he said so, repeatedly, and backed it up, repeatedly: "I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was."

And: "If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize."

Which is not to suggest that dreams do not come true.

TheStar.com | Tennis | No doubt, Federer is the greatest

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