Race to 21: Roger Federer


Will the Swiss maintain his GOAT status with one more title?

In the first of a three-part series, we look at the current leader of the three tennis greats in the modern men’s game and ask which man will end with the most Grand Slam victories.

race-to-21-roger-federerSince his first grand slam at the age of 21, Roger Federer has been less of a player and more of a sports brand. Winning Wimbledon in 2003, the man known as ‘Fed Ex’ (it’s short for the Federer Express) has become the default answer when anyone asks who the greatest men’s tennis player of all time is.

With the passing of time, however, Federer has amassed a frankly ridiculously good 20 Grand Slam titles, most of them in the leafy suburb of SW19. Somehow, he sits just one ahead of Rafael Nadal and five ahead of Novak Djokovic in the list of all-time Grand Slam wins.

The question we have to ask when it comes to Roger Federer is not about his spirit, which appears to be indomitable 16 years after his first Grand Slam win. Nor, surprisingly, is it really about his fitness, which at the age of 38 is still incredible.

It is the mind of Roger Federer, the current greatest player of all time, that is now in question.

With the passing of time, Federer must have imagined that 20 Grand Slam titles, including wins on all four surfaces – albeit only one at the French, coming in the year he didn’t have to face Rafael Nadal, would have sealed his place at the top. However, with Rafael Nadal only 33 and chasing the Swiss relentlessly, as well as the considerably younger Novak Djokovic just five titles behind at a full six years younger than him, could doubt now be a part of Roger Federer’s make-up?

After crashing out of the U.S. Open this week, a Slam he’s won on no less than five occasions – surprisingly, not since 2008 – Federer seemed despondent. With Novak Djokovic out of the draw and Rafael Nadal not as comfortable on the surface as him, Federer must have thought he had a chance to go 21-18-16 in Slams. Instead, he finds himself just one clear of his bitterest rival.

With no Grand Slam title since the Australian Open at the start of the 2018 season, Roger Federer may have one Grand Slam masterclass left in him before he frames his racket and hangs up his monogrammed jacket.

The trouble for Federer is that he may have to win that 21st Grand Slam to seal his place in tennis history as the best, and that toll on his mind may prove pivotal in the ‘Race to 21’.