Monday 4 July 2005

The greatest player ever.

There was some discussion on the BBC yesterday about whether Roger Federer was as good as Pete Sampras. My opinion is that Sampras didn't even come close. Even if, ten years from now, Federer ends up having won fewer titles — which, on present form, looks spectacularly unlikely — he will still have been the better player.

Here's why: when you watched Sampras play, you watched to see whether he'd win. He was probably going to win, yes, but there were a handful of players, such as Agassi, who could beat him, so there was always the chance he'd lose. With Federer, you watch knowing that he's going to win. If his opponent manages to take it to four sets, that's practically a victory for them. There simply is no-one in the world right now who even stands a chance against him. Look at yesterday's final: sweat dripping off Andy Roddick as he played his heart out and demonstrated exactly why he was seeded 2, playing a game that would have decimated any other player in the world; Federer hardly appearing to exert himself at all as he pretty much ignored Roddick's brilliance and just stomped all over him. He's so good it's actually funny. Roddick was laughing.

When the big servers first came on the scene, the game got boring for a while as they aced their way through matches. And then along came Agassi, the great returner of serve, and they were buggered. Nowadays, every player can return the big serves, and the game's evened up again. Similarly, sometime in the next few years, a player will come along who has figured out how to beat Federer, and more will follow. And then the whole game is going to make a quantum leap of entertainingness: just imagine two players of Federer's quality battling it out. I can't wait.

The weird thing is that, even though every Federer match is a foregone conclusion, it's still great fun to watch. It's just amazing that anyone is that good. And he's so nice.

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