Roger Federer's longevity his greatest achievement?
Roger Federer has looked impressive at the Australian Open, but he had no answer to Rafael Nadal's dominance.
January 24th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Roger Federer's longevity his greatest achievement?

In defeat there was honor and hope, as well as another record.

Roger Federer may have finished shy of adding to his record 17 grand slam titles, falling to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals in all too familiar fashion, but the 32-year-old tennis great did add to his ever-increasing list of achievements by making his record-breaking 57th consecutive appearance at a grand slam.

While this may not the most glamorous milestone in the history books, in many respects it is one of the most important.

For 14 straight years, the former world No. 1 has managed to remain fit and healthy without interruption, playing seasons that span almost 11 months a year.

What’s more, the majority of the tennis calendar is played on concrete hard courts which are hazardous to a player’s knees and hips.

Most players who rack up long streaks of appearances tend not to be major champions - the one exception being Federer’s current coach Stefan Edberg, who held the record from 1996 until 2004.

The reason for this is that the top tier of players tend to win more, and therefore play more matches throughout the year, have less rest and are more susceptible to injury.

Federer, on the other hand, has consistently played upwards of 70 matches a year throughout his career.

By comparison, Nadal has missed six grand slams in the last decade, Pete Sampras was absent for five during his 15 years, while Andre Agassi missed a whopping 20 majors during his 21-year grand slam career.

This latest record pales in comparison to Federer’s numerous other records and achievements. And yet, many of them may be directly attributable to his consecutive appearances.

When you consider Nadal’s heavily one-sided head-to-head record with Federer (currently at 23-10 in favor of the Spaniard), Roger’s consistent health would account for his all-time leading 302 weeks as world No. 1, in comparison to Nadal’s 119.

Think back to 2009, when then top-ranked Nadal was suffering with tendinitis of his knees.

Despite being written off by many at the time, Federer was healthy and raring to go, capturing the French Open to complete his career grand slam, before going on to win Wimbledon and recapture the No. 1 spot.

This record may not necessarily clinch the case for Federer being the greatest of all time, but it may well be the reason that he is.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Robin Donald deVallon

    When all present greats have gone there only remains one to remember... RF.... Donah..//

    February 5, 2014 at 8:59 am | Reply
  2. Robin Donald deVallon

    It seems improbable:- me – living in the Spanish Canary Islands – being the only commentator for RF.... since feb 5 ´14.... ´Has anybody noticed ?? Donah..// Well.. I´m used to controversy... and:- Thankx CNN !!

    February 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  3. Yash

    What a great analysis. Fitness is one of the most important parameters which is ignored in comparisons to achievements. It reminds me of my school days when attendance was given due weightage in accounting for overall performance of a student besides Academic excellence. Undoubtedly, consistency is a measure of greatness and Federer is greatest of all times, all reasons, logic and parameters point in that direction!!

    March 11, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  4. vijay

    its great to be hear that roger is greateat of all time 17times grand slam winner standing like a great wall of china,
    bigest achivement in sports life,
    great example for sports.

    March 13, 2014 at 11:06 am | Reply
  5. vijay

    roger fedrer vs sachin tendulker of india will be a great to watch, great resect for sporting era,,,,,,,,,,,,thanks to both,,,,,

    March 13, 2014 at 11:10 am | Reply
  6. Sanjay

    Whether or not Nadal equals or surpasses Fed's record of 17 Slams (and unfortunately it seems difficult to imagine, even for a die-hard Fed fan, that he will win another), for me Fed will remain as the Greatest of all time, in spite of his poor record against Nadal. Firstly, Fed's game is beautiful to watch, unlike Nadal's which is like watching a pugilist, reinforced by his frowning and grimacing countenance. I will concede one thing though – that Nadal conquered Fed at Wimbledon when Fed was at the top or near the top of his game, but Fed has been unable to break Nadal's grip at Roland Garros.

    March 26, 2014 at 7:33 am | Reply
    • tfdez

      Sanjay, you got it! There cannot be a question in anyone-who-follows-tennis-closely's mind that what Federer has achieved is just spectacular beyond belief. I'm sorry that Agassi differs. Perhaps he does because he, too, missed so many slams in his career? Roger Federer is, without a doubt, the most amazing tennis player the sport has ever seen, and I sure hope Pete Sampras agrees.... Let history confirm that, when all has been said and done! And here's to our having the pleasure of watching the Swiss maestro for a few more years! Tennis will just not be the same once he decides to retire, and hope that does NOT happen soon.... Win or lose, Roger Federer IS a tennis MASTER, and we are fortunate to have seen him for ALL these years in a row..... Congrats to him and his family for the newest arrival of Leo and Lenny, by the way!

      May 11, 2014 at 7:27 am | Reply
      • Gabriel

        Beside what you said tfdez, Roger won the Master at the end of the season in 6 opportunites. Rafa never did it.

        May 18, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
  7. tfdez

    No doubt: Roger Federer is the greatest of all time. Sorry Agassi doesn't agree, and waiting for Pete's statement!

    Tennis is worth watching in the "slugger era" thanks to the Swiss maestro. To me, tennis became THE beautiful game thanks entirely to him. Genius and style cannot be surpassed, and no one has ever done that. And, sorry, what he has achieved during these 14 years is beyond spectacular...and he has done that without grunts!

    Congrats to Fed and his family for Leo and Lenny, and may we have the pleasure of having him around for years to come!!! Roger Federer IS our GOAT.

    May 11, 2014 at 7:35 am | Reply
  8. Bill

    Expecting Roger to be World No.1 again.

    May 11, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  9. frank frankovich

    Roger is other player has had much style,grace,and class,not to mention his consistency and longevity.

    May 24, 2014 at 1:09 am | Reply

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