Sports, like life, is, many tmes, absolutely unpredictable.
Having said that, I can undoubtedly say that there is not a single soul on the planet who foresaw the greatness that Roger Federer has unleashed on his unsuspecting foes and the overall tennis establishment in general.
Federer, a 25-year-old Swiss, is currently the number one ranked player in the world and has been ranked number one since February 2004. As of August 2006, he holds the third-longest consecutive stay as the world’s number one player. Only Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl have had longer unbroken streaks at number one.
Federer started playing tennis at the age of eight and played on the junior circuits until 1998 which is the year he won the Wimbledon Juniors title and the prestigious year-ending Orange Bowl.
Federer joined the ATP tour in July 1998 but finished the year as the ITF World Junior Tennis champion. In 1999, Federer debuted for the Swiss Davis Cup team and finished the year as the youngest player inside the ATP’s top 100.
In 2000, he reached the semi-finals in the Sydney Olympics, but lost the bronze-medal match. In February 2001, Federer won his first ATP tournament in Milan, Italy. He also won three matches for his country in the Davis Cup in a 3-2 victory over the United States and advanced to the quarterfinals in the fourth round and finished the year ranked 13th.
In 2002, Federer had a decent season winning a few tournaments, however, his year was marked by early-round exits at the French Open, Wimbledon (where he lost to Mario Ancic, who is the last man to beat Federer on grass), and U.S. Open. He also lost his long-time Australian coach Peter Carter in a car crash in August.
Federer started 2003 by winning two tournaments in a row in Dubai and Marseille. He also won in Munich without losing a set but exited the French Open again in the first round. On July 6th, 2003, he defeated Mark Philippoussis and won his first Grand Slam title at the Wimbledon Championships, becoming the first Swiss man to do so. Incredibly, Federer dropped only one set during the entire tournament.
He also won four Davis Cup matches during the year to lead Switzerland to the semi-finals of the World Group and finished 2003 by winning the Tennis Masters Cup at Houston and ranking second in the ATP tour race. In December, he parted ways with Peter Lundgren, his coach for four years.
In 2004, Federer had arguably one of the best years in the open era of modern men’s tennis, winning three out of four Grand Slam tournaments. He won his first Australian Open title by defeating Marat Safin in straight sets, defended his Wimbledon title by defeating underachieving American, Andy Roddick, and won his first U.S. Open title by defeating another monumental underachiever, Lleyton Hewitt.
He finished the year by taking the Tennis Masters Cup at Houston for a second consecutive year while posting a win-loss record for the year of 74-6 with 11 titles. Federer’s remarkable year was recognized when he was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year in early 2005, edging out the likes of Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi, Lance Armstrong, and Michael Phelps. He also was named “Player of The Year” by Tennis Magazine.
Throughout 2004 Federer did not have a coach, relying instead on his fitness trainer Pierre Paganini, physiotherapist Pavel Kovac, and a management team composed of his parents, his girlfriend Mirka (also his manager), and a few friends. For 2005, Federer arranged for former Australian tennis player Tony Roche to coach him on a limited basis. Federer reached the 2005 Australian Open semifinal before falling to eventual winner Marat Safin, in a five-set night match that lasted more than four hours, passing midnight in the 4th set.
He then entered the French Open as one of the favorites, but lost in the semifinals in four sets to eventual winner Rafael Nadal. Federer defended his Wimbledon title for the third consecutive year by defeating Roddick in a rematch of the previous year’s final.
Federer also defeated Roddick at the Cincinnati Masters to take his fourth ATP Masters Series title of the year and become the first player in ATP Masters history to win four titles in one season. He also became the first Swiss male champion in Cincinnati’s 107-year history.
Federer dropped only two sets on his way to a defense of his U.S. Open title against Andre Agassi, winning in four sets, to become the first man in the Open Era to win Wimbledon and the US Open back-to-back in consecutive years (2004 and 2005). He failed to defend his Tennis Masters Cup title, however, losing to David Nalbandian of Argentina in a 4 1/2 hour, 5 set match, winning two sets even though he was playing with an ankle injury.
In January 2006, Federer won the Australian Open by defeating surprise finalist Marcos Baghdatis. This win marked Federer’s third win in as many consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. In March, he defended his titles at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters to become the first player ever to win the Indian Wells-Miami double in consecutive years. At the French Open, Federer chased the only Grand Slam he had not yet won as he returned to the clay courts of Roland Garros.
He entered the tournament with the top seed and the goal of winning not only a career Grand Slam, but also to be the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, although he would have done so in a two-year schedule. He made it farther than he ever had before by reaching the final, but fell to defending champion, Rafael Nadal, in four sets.
Although the title eluded him, he accomplished the feat of becoming one of two active players on the tour who reached the finals of all four Grand Slams, the other being Andre Agassi. Federer entered Wimbledon as the number one seed and moved through a draw to reach the final without dropping a set. Federer beat surprise finalist, Nadal, for the Wimbledon Championship, winning his fourth straight Wimbledon title (2003-06), matching the achievement of Pete Sampras (1997-2000).
He is still one behind BjÃ?Â¶rn Borg, who won five straight Wimbledon titles from 1976-80. Incredibly, in 2006, Federer has only four losses, with all four coming in finals against Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Since 2003, Federer has won eight Grand Slam singles titles, and he is also already considered by many to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Federer also co-established the Roger Federer Foundation in December 2003. Its goals include funding projects that benefit disadvantaged children, primarily in South Africa. In January 2005, he encouraged efforts from tennis players for the people affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, saying he would play as many matches as possible in tournaments organized to raise funds for the tsunami victims and auctioned off his autographed rackets to raise funds for UNICEF’s relief operations.
Federer also speaks three languages (German, French, and English) fluently and conducts press conferences in all of them. No matter what language you speak, it is plain to see the Roger Federer is undoubtedly the best player in the game today – and one of the greatest of all-time as well – although no one saw it coming.