Roger Federer tied Pete Sampras on the ATP's all-time win list today. Let's put the Federer obits on hold and celebrate.
While most of us have been busy declaring the Federer era largely over in men's professional tennis, Federer himself has been busy doing what he's always done: racking up wins.
Yesterday, he notched his 762nd ATP victory, tying him with Pete Sampras for seventh on the ATP's all-time win list, and while Federer is clearly not the tennis sovereign that he used to be, today's milestone victory was a reminder that the Federer of today is often unfairly judged against the Federer of the last 10 years.
In other words, yeah, we get it, Federer is not the player he used to be. But let's keep in mind the fact that nobody else is the player that Federer used to be, either. Not even Novak Djokovic, whose current mind-boggling winning streak will need to stretch another twenty wins before it matches Federer's career best. Federer in his heyday reached stratospheric levels of awesomeness, and there's certainly no shame in the fact that he's not able to dazzle the opposition in the same manner these days. And just because the Swiss Maestro has come down a level from his earth-shattering 3-Slam-a-year pace of 2004-2007, does not mean that he's destined for a near-term future as the whipping boy of the young guns of the game.
My point here is that today's achievement by Federer is a nice place for all of us to stop, take a deep breath, look around and fully acknowledge the exquisite brilliance of Federer. Whether he be No. 3 in the world or No. 1, there's no denying that the man is, was, has been and always will be poetry in motion.
As much as we all love to demonstrate our tennis acumen by criticising every flubbed backhand and stubborn decision that the man makes, maybe today we'd all be better off spending a few moments praising Roger for what he has done, and more importantly, what he's still doing. He's approaching 30, still ranked No. 3 in the world, and he's only been beaten by one player thus far in 2011.
As Federer attempts to beat Juan Monaco for career win No. 763 in his next match, I think it's time to give the "Will he ever become No. 1 again?" and "Can he win another Slam?" questions a rest, and just sit back and enjoy the fact that Federer is still here, still hungry to improve, and still highly compelling to watch.
And to top it all off, he's breaking records too.
Maybe the glass that we see as half-empty is actually quite full?
ATP All-Time Win Leaders
1. Jimmy Connors: 1242
2. Ivan Lendl: 1071
3. Guillermo Vilas: 973
4. John McEnroe: 875
5. Andre Agassi: 870
6. Stefan Edberg: 806
7. Roger Federer: 762
7. Pete Sampras: 762