German tennis great Boris Becker reckons that Roger Federer has now joined the ranks of Pele, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali as the greatest sportspersons in history. The 35-year-old Federer won Grand Slam No. 18 earlier this year when he beat arch rival Rafael Nadal in a classic five-set final at the Australian Open.
“I would compare Federer with the likes of Pele, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. He has transcended to a different level. He does something that was called impossible. He attracts millions of new fans who understand what it feels like to get older. He changes the clock. He plays like a 25-year-old and looks like a 25-year-old, but in his passport it says 35. It’s a beautiful thing," Becker told The Sun in an interview.
After losing to Milos Raonic in the semi-finals of last year's Wimbledon, Federer took a lengthy, six-month break from the sport to rehab from the arthroscopic knee surgery he underwent last February. At the time, many analysts felt Federer lacked the conditioning needed to survive the rigours of a Grand Slam tournament, essentially writing him off as a threat to beat the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. However, Federer has made a rollicking start to 2017, rising from World No. 17 to World No. 4 in quick time.
Boris Becker feels the Big Four will dominate tennis again
Becker was admittedly surprised when Federer captured the 2017 Australian Open. Typically, players require at least a few months to regain rhythm after making a comeback from a lengthy break. “Everybody starts the year fresh, at zero. You need the first two tournaments to get your confidence back and your feeling for the court. In Roger’s case he is full of it, while Andy and Novak haven’t yet delivered this year. It’s much easier to play tennis when you are full of confidence. It’s always a challenge trying to stay at No 1, but it’s especially dangerous if it’s someone who has done it before," added Becker, hinting that Federer and Nadal are still capable of beating the younger and faster duo of Djokovic and Nadal.
With Federer wisely picking-and-choosing events from the packed ATP calendar, the Swiss master could easily play at a high level for another few years. “Roger knows how to pace himself, he knows how to schedule. And I wouldn’t completely write off the man from Spain, Rafa. He also had a fantastic beginning of the year and his time is coming now. We are back to the golden era of the Big Four competing against each other, the comeback of the Big Four. Everybody starts the year fresh, at zero. You need the first two tournaments to get your confidence back and you are feeling for the court," said Becker, who won six Grand Slams during his illustrious career.
Roger Federer, who turns 36 this August, became the oldest Grand Slam winner in 45 years when he captured the 2017 Australian Open. A few months later, he became the oldest player to win an ATP Masters 1000 title when he overcame Stan Wawrinka during the Indian Wells finals. Ken Roswell of Australia (37 years and 2 months) remains the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era. Federer would need to win a Grand Slam in early 2019 to break Roswell's 45-year-old record? Could he actually pull it off?