Roger Federer: Invisible No. 15
by Nima Naderi Nima NaderiSenior Analyst
In most cases, tennis included, winning 15 major championships by any player in any sport should merit the award for best player of a generation, history, or in this case, decade.
But, in a disturbing recent vote by the Associated Press, Roger Federer was placed as the third most successful player of the decade, behind Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong.
Sure, at first I was truly shocked to see R-Fed ranked third on the list: Let's be honest here, Federer was utterly dominant during the last 10 years.
And before I continue, I want to make it very clear that what Tiger and Armstrong accomplished were commendable and outstanding achievements in their sports.
However, what was irritating, and down right troublesome to get by the was the lack of respect shown by the AP towards the game of tennis.
There is no question that golf is an uber-popular sport: The ratings and coverage significantly eclipse that of tennis.
In terms of Armstrong's No. 2 spot, it's easy to see how his perseverance through cancer and ability to capture seven Tour de France titles deserved its fare share of votes.
But when talking about the best, shouldn't the best be ranked at the top?
Federer's 10 years of domination—10 years in which he captured all four majors while breaking Pete Sampras' all-time record—should have received much more recognition.
Golf is, by every definition, a sport which battles the elements more than any other adversary. An opponent is not the greatest obstacle for a golfer; the wind, and the depth of the course are the greatest roadblocks.
Even though the margin for error of a tennis players is by no means as difficult as the day-to-day grind a golfer must face, the exact same climate concerns that golfers endure are matched by tennis players, with the addition of an opponent standing in their way.
Regardless of the grueling nature of cycling, its participants are challenged for only one month a year; one time a year.
With tennis' schedule spanning over 11-months, Federer's consistency and resilience throughout the past 10 years was both emphatic and commendable.
Dealing with constant court changes, new up-and-coming stars, no coaching, no golf caddy, and no pit stop attendant to aid with hydration, Federer's lonely, but successful trek to tennis' immortal realm should have been deemed with greater respect.
I'm not quite sure what the criteria was for picking the decade's best athlete, but when speaking of numbers alone, Federer's 15 majors clearly out-shined Woods' 12 and Armstrong's seven.
Some possible factors that should have been taken into account before overlooking Federer's mark as the decade's best athlete could have been the following:
Durability—Throughout the past 10 years, Federer never succumbed to any significant injury. His professionalism and commitment to keeping his body in tip-top shape was a testament to his dedication to continued success.
Winning percentage—In an era which saw the competition on tour reach fierce heights, Federer recorded an 80.8 winning percentage during his 839 matches (678-161). Winning over 80 percent of his matches, a stat that took Federer to five year-end No. 1 finishes, displayed his utter dominance against his opponents.
Independence—As documented, Federer's ability to travel and function throughout the decade without a permanent "full-time" must be reiterated.
The Swiss' mental fortitude and independence throughout his tenure at the top was perhaps his greatest accolade. Showing the innate ability to deal with the immense pressures of the sport, with no consistent coach, Federer exemplified his position as one of sport's most mentally strong competitors.
The numbers don't lie in Federer's favor, and when putting forth the remaining variables which encompass the three players at the top of decade's best, nothing short of sheer perplexity comes forth when attempting the figure out the Associated Press' decision.
I've always thought of tennis as a sport which exhausts every fiber of a player's being. The demanding week-to-week independence of the game is like no other in sport.
But when taking into account the variables that constitute the decade's best athlete, Federer clearly proved that he exhausted every resource at his disposal to ensure a consistent optimal output.
Woods and Armstrong certainly put forth substantial runs throughout the decade, shattering and creating new benchmarks for their respective sports.
However, when listing or creating the criteria for the decade's best athlete, Federer's rank (rip off) at No. 3 should have been reconsidered.
If anything, the AP should disclose a viable criteria for their voting process. A process which takes into account the records, the difficulty, season, and athleticism of the sport in question.
When those variables are taken into account, it's clear to me, anyways, that Federer deserves top honors.