Zurich, (Samajweekly) Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer turned 39 on Saturday. The Swiss has been at the top of his sport for nearly two decades, first breaking into the top 10 of the world rankings in October 2002 and becoming number one for the first time in February 2004.
Federer turned professional in 1998 and holds the record for most consecutive weeks spent at the top of the rankings (237) and the most weeks as world no.1 in total (310). He has also won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in history for a male player and holds the record for reaching the most number of Grand Slam finals (31).
He is the most successful player of all time in Wimbledon, having won eight titles at the grass court Grand Slam. He is also one of eight men and one of five in men’s singles to have achieved a Career Grand Slam.
For much of the early 2000’s, Federer’s dominance was almost unquestioned. The entry of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic into the picture led to a rivalry between the three that has continued well into the twilight years of their respective careers. From the 2003 Wimbledon to the 2020 Australian Open, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won 56 out of the 67 Grand Slam titles.
It was in 2016 that Federer dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since entering it after pulling out of the 2016 Rio Olympics and the rest of the season to recover from a knee injury. It came at the back of a drought of four years without a Grand Slam, leading to many to speculate that Federer’s illustrious career may finally be coming to an end.
He only went on to gain a second win the next year, winning the Australian Open after coming into the tournament with a ranking of 17. He beat arch-rival Nadal, who himself was coming back from career-threatening injury troubles, in a five-set final to win his first Major since the 2012 Wimbledon.
He went on to win Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open again in 2018. Federer returned to no.1 in February 2018. He reached his 12th Wimbledon final in 2019 where he lost to a resurgent Djokovic.
The Serb was all praise for Federer after the epic that went on to four hours 57 minutes. “I think this way if not the most exciting or thrilling finals I was ever part of then definitely top two or three,” Djokovic said. “He is one of the greatest players of all time and I respect him a lot. Unfortunately in this kind of a match one of us players have to lose.”
Federer has one French Open title to his name which he won in 2009. He didn’t play the clay court Grand Slam for four years before 2019 in which he reached the semi-final. However, he was no match for Nadal in the match, who has held almost unquestioned dominance on Roland Garros for over a decade.
After this year’s Australian Open, Federer decided to give the 2020 season a miss after a setback in his rehabilitation from a knee surgery that he underwent in February. He said he will return in 2021, thus making 2020 only the second year in his career in which he has not won a title.