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Roger Federer won his sixth Australian Open title last Sunday, making him the only men’s tennis player ever to win 20 Grand Slams.

Tennis fans are at a loss for words to describe the greatness of Roger Federer. His abilities on the court have been described as powerful, quick, precise, graceful and elegant. Yet, after winning his sixth Australian Open title by defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3. 3-6. 6-1 last Sunday, Federer can simply be summed up as the most accomplished men’s tennis player of all time.

Federer, seemingly designed in a laboratory, has elite groundstrokes, magnificent volleys, a deadly serve and superb feel. Even an expert scientist could not create a machine comparable to Federer’s skill in the sport. All things, even machines, eventually break down — that is, all things except Federer.

One year ago, few thought Federer would win any more Grand Slams. Then the 17th-ranked player in the world, he was playing in the Australian Open after taking six months off the tour following knee surgery.

Now, no one knows when, or if, his reign will ever end.

Federer just keeps rolling. He has won three of the last five Grand Slams and is now the only man in history to hold 20 Grand Slam titles. His sixth triumph in Melbourne ties for the highest of all time, and makes him just the third player in the Open era to win four slams after turning 30.

But since he already owns about every record in tennis history, Federer is not competing to break them.  At this point, Roger is shattering mostly his own records and extending his lead in major titles, putting Rafael Nadal and others’ chances to catch up simply out of reach. Despite his past success, Sunday’s victory was as sweet as the rest, bringing Federer to exuberant tears as he lifted the trophy.

Three years ago, friends asked me when I thought Federer would retire. He had not won a slam since 2012 and was having trouble competing with a then-dominant Novak Djokovic, as well as simply getting deep in slams. I briefly thought his end was near, so I predicted he would call it quits within three years.

Well, that time has come and Federer is not done. Refreshingly, he is moving quickly and hitting bigger than he has since his mid-2000s prime. He is winning grand slams at age 36, which is ancient in the tennis world, making him the oldest tennis player to win a grand slam since Ken Rosewall in 1972.

Federer’s biggest obstacle in his path to the Australian title was saved for last. After remarkably not dropping a set all tournament, the Swiss went the distance with Cilic, and at times fans worried the Croatian could steal the show. But, like his epic final against Nadal in Melbourne one year ago, Federer found another gear in the fifth set.

Federer displayed his natural ability to rise above the rest when he needed it most. And by the end, the last man standing was the 36-year-old, not his rivals Nadal, Djokovic or Andy Murray, all at least five years younger than Federer.

Wayne Gretzky played until age 38. Michael Jordan played until age 40. But by the end of their careers, neither dominated their sports like Federer, now turning 37. Federer is simply better than the rest, just as he was in 2006, when he won three of the four grand slams.

As ESPN’s Chris Fowler brilliantly said during his commentary of the final, “In tennis, time waits for no one but Federer.”

Last Sunday, the timeless wonder produced excellence yet again.

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One Comment

  1. Yet he has losing records against Djokovic AND Nadal. Not buying it.

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