Roger Federer is a tennis icon who has spearheaded an era of greatness and intense competition. His glowing CV is filled with 20 Grand Slam titles, followed by another 83 ATP titles. 103 ATP titles in total across his 23-year professional career is nothing short of incredible.
But things have somewhat slowed down in terms of success for the great Swiss. Today marks three years since he claimed his 100th tour-level title at the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
On a hot day out in the Middle East, the Swiss legend defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 6-4, ending the Greek star’s winning run of eight matches heading into the ATP tournament. It was a gripping match and it deserved more than just two sets but Federer rolled back the years with his movement and precision hitting on court that his opponent could do nothing to prevent. He did however, have phases as the scoreline showed, but when you catch Federer on a good day, he is near-impossible to defeat.
Federer came out firing on court, earning two break points in the first game of the match with a rifled inside-in forehand before converting on his first opportunity after his opponent slipped up with a cross-court forehand. This set the tempo for proceedings with Federer continuing to cause problems with his forehand to keep Tsitsipas under pressure and to prevent himself from getting pushed back. It was a largely comfortable first set for Federer but Tsitsipas made some alterations for a much tighter contest in the second. He made sure that he was able to hold a lot better at the baseline allowing himself to push forward more to give Federer something to think about, but when needed, one of the greatest of all time saved both break points he faced in the match and didn’t waste his chance to take a 5-4 lead before sealing the historic title.
Three years on and the 41-year-old’s appearances on court are more sporadic, but Father Time doesn’t wait forever, even for the greats. Injury setbacks have been getting better of him in recent years but he stands here now with over 100 titles in the sport he loves, considerably more than Rafael Nadal (91) and Novak Djokovic (86), the two other powerhouses of this generation.
In the build-up to the final, Tsitsipas’ winning streak or the fact that the 20-year-old handed him a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open two months before did not faze him as he reached his first final since October 2018 - when he won his 99th title in Basel. In one of Federer’s masterclasses, he showed the 20-year-old Greek that he still had a lot to learn to become part of the next generation’s elite players.
In Federer’s outstanding display it only took him 69 minutes to wrap up the match and join America’s Jimmy Connors in the ‘Century Club’, further highlighting his status as one of the greatest players to ever grace the courts. He would need another seven titles to eclipse Connors’ staggering total of 109 but with persistent injuries and his body ageing, this challenge would seem a stretch too far for the Swiss superstar.
Nonetheless, when he eventually lays down his racquet, he is going to leave behind an immeasurable legacy that at the very least has helped inspire a new generation of tennis players and supporters. Federer is etched into the very history of this great sport and his achievements will be difficult to replicate.