Above there are two articles about Roger’s GOAT status. The one is an in depth look at the history of the game, while the other is one where Pete Sampras gets asked about Roger’s head-to-head record against Rafa. Concerning the history of the game, it is not something I am overly interested in. There are some interesting facts in that article and it is of course important to know the history of the game in order to determine a GOAT. But I can’t say that I agree with everything in that article. The argument about the transport problems players had in the past is a little pointless to me, because if the transport was better then there would have been better players at the tournaments as well. So you can’t say just because the transport was bad that a player could have won more majors.
Then there is an argument about the fact that players didn’t play in the majors when they turned pro and that the Australian Open wasn’t really counted as a major back then. Also the fact that guys like Laver, Connors and Borg won many more tournaments then Roger has won so far. What strikes me the most about all these arguments is simply that the game wasn’t nearly as competitive back then then it is now. The game is more competitive now then it has ever been, and the fact that Laver could win something like 199 tournaments is almost laughable. Connors won 109 tournaments, but Roger still has a better tournament winning percentage then Connors. The fact that guys like Laver and Connors could also play competitively until the age that they did, just points once again to the fact that the game was so much less competitive in those days.
Can you imagine players competing at professional level until they are forty nowadays?! These days players retire in their late twenties or early thirties. That gave guys like Laver and Rosewall about twice the amount of time to win tournaments then the players have these days. The way the game is played these days and the fact that there is so much more depth to the tour these days, makes it almost a different sport from the days of Laver, Rosewall, and even Borg and Connors. These days any player can pretty much be beaten by any player inside the top 200 on any given day. The competition is just brutal. I can easily imagine someone like Laver or Rosewall showing up in those days and winning just about every major they played.
People can say what they want but for me it only points to the fact that it was much easier to do in those days. I think in those days if a talented player like Laver came along and decided to dedicate his life to dominating tennis, it was pretty much a given that it would happen. Nowadays it’s virtually impossible, unless you are Roger Federer of course. The way Roger has dominated the game makes it look like we are back in the amateur era again. I think winning the calender year grand slam like Don Budge and Rod Laver did is pretty much impossible these days. Look at Rafa for instance, a lot of people including Andre Agassi, thought he could win all four majors this year. Yet he couldn’t even win the major which was pretty much a lock for him, due to the toll that the modern game took on his body.
It has just become exceptionally difficult. Roger was only a match away from winning the calender year grand slam on two occasions, and once he came within two matches. Yet on those three occasions he had to deal with the clay court GOAT! There is no player who can be the GOAT on all surfaces, it’s just impossible with the specialists on the different surfaces these days. So when someone like Roger loses on three different occasions to the clay court GOAT when he could have won the calendar year grand slam, you pretty much have to assume that it’s impossible. Who knows, maybe Roger can do it next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens, but you have to say thus far Roger has given it his best shot.
This brings us to another important point in the argument for Roger’s GOAT status, which is his head-to-head record with Rafa. Maybe the reason Roger did not win the calender slam yet, is because he didn’t find a way to beat Rafa. It’s like Pete says, it’s a hard one to answer. But now we arrive at the most important point in the GOAT discussion, which is that Roger’s career is not finished yet. I think it’s been unfair that people have started labelling Federer as the GOAT before his career is finished. Of course it is flattering, but it’s not fair. The argument can only truly start when his career is over. Personally I do feel that Rafa’s h2h record against Roger has been over hyped, but I do think Roger has something left to prove.
I think before the match in Madrid Roger has been stubborn when playing against Rafa. I’ve said that for a very long time. I don’t think he has played like the GOAT against Rafa. You see I’m not a blind Federer worshipper. But you can’t say just because of the fact that Roger didn’t play like the GOAT against Rafa in the past, that he is not the GOAT. That would be way too harsh. Roger’s career is not over and judging by what he did to Rafa at Madrid, I predict that Roger will fix his rivalry with Rafa in the future. But lets say that Rafa retires soon, or that he does not make grand slam finals anymore. What then? Well then I would have to say that Roger has turned it around against Rafa in Madrid, and showed that he has figured Rafa out.
But hopefully that won’t happen. Hopefully Rafa can show up in some more grand slam finals, and not just Roland Garros finals! You see what people don’t realize is that of the 6-2 record that Rafa has over Roger in grand slams, half of the meetings were on clay, and the victories from Rafa on grass court and hard court came when Roger was sick and had back problems. Roger is clearly a different player now then he was in 2008 and beginning 2009. So to make it fair Rafa should actually meet Roger four times at the US Open. I have no doubt that Roger would school Rafa at the US Open, but the problem is that Rafa has not been good enough to make it far enough to meet Roger. Why doesn’t people ever say anything about that?
Instead people choose to focus on the four meetings at the French Open, which is of course Roger’s least favorite surface. Yes, GOATS are allowed to have least favorite surfaces! So what is my conclusion? I think both articles that I posted make relevant points. I have called Roger the GOAT before, but I was using the term loosely. I’m not gonna tell you that Roger is the GOAT without a shadow of a doubt, even though that is what you might want to hear. In fact I’m not gonna make any judgement. How can I when Roger’s career is not finished? It wouldn’t make sense. In order to be the GOAT I think there are two important things he has to do. Both have to do with these two articles. The first thing I want him to do is to go on and win many more majors.
It’s hard to put a number on it but it would be great of he can pass 20. This should shut up the historians who claim that guys like Laver and Rosewall would have passed 20 slams was it not for the amateur era. The second thing is that I want him to fix his h2h record with Rafa and Murray, so that people can’t say he didn’t even dominate his own era. If it turns out that Rafa retires or he doesn’t make any more slam finals and semi-finals, then I will give the benefit of the doubt to Roger. He can only beat who is in front of him, and he has shown in Madrid that he is turning things around against Rafa. As you can see, Roger still have many things to achieve in his career if he wants to be the true GOAT.
There are also more records for him to break, like being number one for the most weeks, ending the year at number one the most years, wining the most Master’s Series titles, winning the most Wimbledon titles, winning the most Us Open titles, etc. Those are just some I can think of that would help his case for being the GOAT. I can’t say that there will ever be a real GOAT that everyone will agree upon, but the two things I mentioned above, as well as some of the records I’ve mentioned, would certainly make him the GOAT in my mind. Roger is turning 28 this year, and he now has the most important records behind him. He is now in a great position to really work at his GOAT status. He has plenty of time left to do it and I for one can’t wait to see whether he can do it.