Roger Federer is by a distance the most celebrated male player in the history of tennis. A record 17 Grand Slam titles is but the icing on the cake in a career that has been remarkable not just for style, grace, elegance and dignity, but also for its longevity. Now 31, the Swiss maestro shows no sign of slowing down, hunting down ambitious young turks with a single-mindedness that sets the champion apart from the rest.
Almost as astonishing as his 17 Grand Slam crowns is the fact that between Wimbledon 2004 and Australian Open 2010, Federer reached the semifinals of every single Grand Slam. We are talking 23 consecutive Slams where Federer was in the last four, a testament to his consistency and his ability to adapt to all kinds of surfaces. Robin Soderling, the tall Swede, ended that streak by putting Federer out in the quarterfinals of the French Open in June 2010, but that did little to diminish the aura which surrounds Federer.
In the last couple of years, Novak Djokovic has emerged as the man to beat, Andy Murray is just coming off a breakthrough year that brought him his first Slam title as well as the Olympic Games gold, and Rafael Nadal, when he is fit and untroubled by a dodgy knee that is finally protesting against years of being forced to pound the courts, is a legend in his own right. But when the draw for any tournament involving Federer is made, the lesser lights are left hoping they don’t run into the Swiss surgeon who bleeds opponents dry almost apologetically, with a nick here, a little cut there.