With so many records already achieved, what is left for Federer to chase?
Roger Federer is the best male tennis player of all-time.
There really isn’t an argument to be made otherwise. Three or four years ago, when the tennis world thought his career might be finished, the arguments for Nadal, Djokovic, and others resurfaced. But he has stormed back at the ripe old age of 35, winning three more slams and returning to the world No.1 ranking. He is simply unmatched in his career.
Nothing should be taken from Nadal, Djokovic, Sampras, Connors, Laver, and all of the greats who have played the game. Federer has simply outplayed, outlasted, and outperformed all of them. The discussion for the second-best of all time is far more interesting.
Federer holds the record for Grand Slam singles titles, a feat that is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of an illustrious career. It is the metric that defines a tennis player’s legacy. No other ATP title, ranking, or record can outweigh the glory of a Grand Slam title.
He does, however, hold an obscene number of other records in his career, highlighted by all-time records for weeks spent as the No. 1 ranked player on the tour
(308). This includes a 237-week stint in the mid-2000’s that is far and away the longest consecutive streak. He also holds the record for the most matches won in the history of the game, a whopping 1,149.
Federer certainly has nothing left to prove. Whether he retired today or three years from now, it wouldn’t change his legacy. But why would he retire today when he is still so dominant? He started the 2018 season 17-0, his best start to any season of his career. He’s shown no real signs of regression and is preserving his game by skipping the clay season. Everything still seems to be working for the Swiss phenom.
As long as he is still playing like Federer, he might as well tack on a few more records to his list of achievements. Below are some of the big ones he can still accomplish.
Federer’s Grand Slam singles title record currently sits at 20, eight Wimbledon, six US Open, five Australian Open, and a single French Open. While this feat is why so many people consider him the best of all time, the ATP has subsequent levels of tournaments below Grand Slams as well.
The World Tour Final is held at the end of the year where the top eight ranked players go for the year-end crown. It is considered to be the next level of prestige below a Slam. Then there are the Masters 1000, a series of nine tournaments throughout the year that slot in right below Slams and the World Tour Final. Below that are the ATP 500 Series and the ATP 250 series.
Federer’s title records are 20 Grand Slams, six World Tour Final Titles, 27 Masters 1000, 20 ATP 500, and 24 ATP 250. That’s 97 ATP titles in his career. That’s a hefty total, only bested by one other player: Jimmy Connors, who sits at 109 titles. Connors, however, played in the World Tennis Championship tour (WTC) before the ATP was established in 1990. He played in the Grand Prix Super Series, for example, which are now branded as the Masters 1000. Technically, Federer already holds the titles record for the “ATP-era”, but shooting for the all-time record would be an even greater accomplishment.
Here’s how many of each tournament are held in a calendar year:
|ATP Tour Finals||1|
|ATP 500 Series||13|
|ATP 250 Series||37|
A lot of big players don’t play the 250 tournaments very often, trying to focus more on higher level tournaments. It would be surprising to see Federer play in anything lower than an ATP 500, and even those he doesn’t play often. Since he will skip the clay-court season, he has about a dozen chances in a year for a title. He did win two of the ATP 500 titles last year, along with two Grand Slams, and three Masters 1000 titles. He needs just 13 more titles to take the all-time record, and accomplished more than half of that last year. If he can sustain his level of play, he has a pretty good shot.
A subset of that 97 are his Masters 1000 titles. His 27 titles ranks second to the 30 held by Nadal and Djokovic. Again, if he keeps it up he could easily win another four to take the record, assuming Nadal and Djokovic don’t win any more. However, since three of the Masters are on clay (Monte-Carlo, Madrid, and Italy) the feat becomes a bit tougher. Nadal will surely win one or more of these clay tournaments, meaning Federer is likely chasing a growing record.
Two Career Grand Slams
With only one French Open title, he subsequently only has one career Grand Slam. While clay is his weakest surface, he is by no means a bad player on clay. He made it to at least the quarterfinal of the French Open for nine straight years. He’s faced Nadal in four finals, losing all four. His only title came in 2009, when Nadal was knocked out in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. If Nadal were not the “King of Clay,” Federer might have three or four career slams.
Rod Laver and Roy Emerson are the only men to achieve two career Grand slam in singles. Nadal could do it with another Australian Open, while Djokovic could do it with another French Open. Federer won’t play the clay season this year to likely save himself for Wimbledon just a few weeks later. He may not have interest in another French Open, but it is likely more to do with endurance. Clay is by far the most taxing surface on the body. He skips the season to keep fresh for the rest of the year.
It is unlikely he’ll attempt this feat, and maybe more unlikely he’d achieve it. But should Nadal or Djokovic surpass him, it would be a symbolic shot at his legacy. It wouldn’t change much, but it remains one of those feats he was never really able to dominate like the rest of his game.
Head-To-Head Record Versus The Big Four
One of the few players that Federer has a losing record against is Nadal, sitting at 15-23. Nadal’s dominance in this statistic is disproportionately due to clay court matches. Federer bests Nadal 11-9 on hard courts and 2-1 on grass courts, but Nadal has a 13-2 record on clay courts. It’s not likely that the two will face enough times in the remainder of their careers for Federer to take the record, but he could certainly chip away at it.
Djokovic also has a winning record against Federer, but just one match at 23-22. The two will almost surely play at least a few more matches to decide the winner of this rivalry. Murray, however sits at 11-14 in Federer’s favor. Still, it is a record that Roger will have to defend moving forward should the two meet again.
Most Grass-Court Wins
With eight Wimbledon titles, he is considered one of the best grass-court players in history. While Nadal is dubbed the “King of Clay”, Federer is the “King of Grass”. Surprisingly, he still doesn’t hold the record for match wins on grass. Connors holds the record at 107, while Federer sits at 91.
Two titles at Wimbledon (14 wins) wouldn’t quite tie the record, so he’d need another year for the record. He already holds this record for hard-court, but Nadal has a significant lead on clay courts.
Stand-Alone Slam Records
Federer shares the record for most US Open titles at five with Sampras and Connors. He also shares the record with Australian Open titles at six with Djokovic. One more of each would let him stand alone with these records. Last year, he won his eighth Wimbledon title, moving him ahead of Sampras to hold the record. Standing alone with three of the four Slam title records would be a unbelievable accomplishment. Being that he would need 10 French Open titles to break Nadal’s record, he will probably have to settle for the three.
It’s hard to tell how much longer Federer will continue to play, or what new records he will actually achieve. His longevity is unprecedented in the sport, so this is uncharted territory, even for him. Regardless of what he does in the remainder of his career, Federer is one of the most dominant forces in the history of any sport. He has set a bar so high that it’s likely no player will ever reach it.
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