The Roger Federer Retrospective: The Top 8 Moments Of The Great’s Career | Men's Health Magazine Australia

The Roger Federer Retrospective: The Top 8 Moments Of The Great’s Career

As rumours of retirement continue to follow the Swiss, we look back on his greatest moments in the sport he’s come to dominate.

It’s hard to perceive a time where the tennis world wasn’t dominated by Roger Federer. Certainly, talent housed in the defensive work of Novak Djokovic or physical stamina of Nadal have come to maintain top spot in the men’s competition for seasons at a time, but even so Federer has remained right up there, merely a sniff away from victory. And when he has cemented his place atop the leader board, his winning streaks are exhausting, seemingly-endless, such a certainty that it seems defeat meets his opponents before they’ve even stepped foot on court. With 20 Grand Slam titles and 310 weeks ranked number one, it’s hard not to label Federer the Greatest of All Time. 

But though 2021 should have been a big year for Federer, March marked 13 months since Federer had taken to the court due to a lingering knee injury. With Federer set to turn 40 this year, many have come to the realisation that time is not on his side. He may have defied the odds when he clambered up the ranks at a relatively more mature age than most of his counterparts, but having gone through significant strain with his recent injury, it seems likely that retirement is on the cards for Federer – sooner, rather than later. 

You forget though, that this is a man who has made a career out of the improbable. His athleticism seems other-worldly, shots he returns and wins seem so unlikely as to go in his favour that it led writer David Foster Wallace to liken the joy of watching Federer play tennis to a “religious experience”. This is a man who won his last Grand Slam title at 36, who became the oldest player to win Wimbledon at 35-years-old, and the oldest to reach the number one ATP ranking at 36, too. If anyone can forge a comeback, it’s Federer. But whether he does or doesn’t will have little standing on the incredible legacy he has already carved. Here, we take a look back at his eight greatest moments in the sport. 

Wimbledon, 2003

Few moments are as significant as a young star’s first Grand Slam title, let alone winning Wimbledon. If every young athlete dreams of competing at the Olympics, every young tennis player dreams of winning Wimbledon. Though Federer had stunned crowds in 2001 with the defeat of Sampras, it wasn’t until this victory that he cemented his greatness, having spent two years fine-tuning his craft. Besting Mark Philippoussis in the final, Federer held the trophy aloft and a legend was made. 


No. 1 Ranking, 2004

Though some can only dream of being the best in the world, even fewer will achieve it (and maintain the position). If ever there was a dispute about Federer’s greatness, you need only consider that in 2004 with his victory at the Australian Open after defeating Marat Safin, Federer secured the No.1 ranking for the first time in his career. He remained there for a record-breaking 237 consecutive weeks and in his career, has spent a staggering 310 weeks in the spot. 


His coming-of-age victory against Pete Sampras, 2001

Everyone loves an underdog story, and Federer’s match-up with Pete Sampras in 2001 had all the trappings of a classic story. Then, Sampras was one of the greatest players in history, taking on a young, but nevertheless, talented star. Having dominated the court, many thought Sampras would claim an easy victory but Federer proved the fighter he is on court, clinching the win with 7-5 in the fifth set. In many ways, this was a passing of the baton as Federer looked to his idol and began his own promising career. 


Fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, 2007

As a spectator, you can never guarantee who you’ll see in the final of any tournament but when names like Federer and Nadal enter the arena, you are certain to see a passionate display of athleticism and skill. It was a nail-biter – these matches always are between the pair – but in clinching victory, Federer won Wimbledon in 2007 to join Bjorn Borg as the only player in the Open Era to win the All England Club in five straight years. 


Wimbledon loss to Rafael Nadal, 2008

Sport isn’t just about the highs, it’s also about the lows and how you handle them and when you look to any time Federer has lost, you see not only his vulnerability and deep emotion, but also his class and the respect he has towards his opponents. This match will go down as one of the greatest in tennis history, with the pair facing off in incredible fashion. Federer was ever the fighter, crawling out of a two-set deficit after winning the third and fourth sets in tiebreak fashion. Sadly, Nadal ended up taking the fifth set 9-7.


French Open title at Roland Garros, 2009

Roland Garros is Nadal’s domain, everyone else is just there for the ride. Having been beaten by the Spaniard in the French Open semifinals in 2005, then the finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Federer finally caught a break in 2009 when Nadal went out early to Robin Soderling in the fourth round – his first ever loss at the French Open. In the final, Federer and Soderling faced off in a gripping four sets which saw Federer claim his first French Open title, giving him his 14th major title in his career.

World-breaking 15th major at Wimbledon, 2009

2009 was an impressive year for Federer, but few matches will top this one. Just weeks after his Roland Garros victory, he then held up the trophy at Wimbledon after beating Andy Roddick in what will go down as one of the greatest matches of all time, and the one where Federer was truly tested. Roddick put up an incredible fight, and Federer only nabbed victory in the fifth set, 16-14. It saw him pass Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major titles as he held up his 15th Grand Slam singles win. 


Return to World No.1, 2012

Though Federer has dominated the sport of tennis for much of his career, he’s also had to contend with the likes of Djokovic and Nadal. He relinquished his position atop the leaderboard in 2010 when Nadal took the French Open title, with Federer being just one week short of Sampras’ record of 286 weeks spent at the top of the rankings. But from 2011, he went on to win seven titles from September to May, capping off with his 17th major title at Wimbledon. His first Grand Slam win in more than two years saw Federer return to the world No.1 spot.

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By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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