Federer, Woods two of a kind in best-ever debate

BY foxsports • July 7, 2009

Roger Federer is the best tennis player of all time. He clinched this title by winning Wimbledon over the weekend, which is to say that he eliminated the last fair argument against him. And in doing so, Federer established a standard for another weekend winner: Tiger Woods.

What does it mean to be the best ever? We usually measure this in Grand Slam championships; Federer now has 15, one more than Pete Sampras for the most all-time in tennis, and Woods has 14, four behind Jack Nicklaus in golf. But this should not be as simple as simply counting trophies.

Federer is the best ever not just because he has won the most Slams, but because he has played at a consistently higher level than anybody ever, on every surface. Sampras never made the finals of the French Open and only made the semifinals once. Federer has played in the last five French finals, winning one, and has made it to the semifinals of an astounding 21 consecutive Grand Slam events.

Grass, hard court, clay — it doesn't matter. They could play a Grand Slam event on ice and Federer would skate to the final weekend.

He is the best ever. I don't see how anybody can even argue the point now. Yes, Rafael Nadal has a 13-7 career edge over Federer. But 11 of those matches were on clay, Nadal's favorite surface.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash recently told S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated that since Nadal is the better clay-court player and Sampras (in Cash's opinion) was the better grass-court player, it is hard to say Federer is the best ever.

It is an interesting argument, but I don't buy it. Let's switch sports for a moment. I don't think Michael Jordan was the best shooter in basketball history, and he certainly was not the best rebounder or passer, and as great as he was defensively, I don't think he was the best defensive player ever.

But Jordan was the best overall player. He did everything exceptionally well. In an all-time draft of players, most NBA executives would take Jordan No. 1.

Federer and Woods are friends and fellow Nike shills, and for a few years now they have compared career tracks. And if you accept my premise that Federer's all-around dominance and consistency makes him the best tennis player ever, we should then ask if Tiger lives up to the same standard in golf.

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