WARNING: NOT FOR DIE-HARD FED-FANATICS!
It’s barely been a month since Roger Federer won the Australian Open and it already feels like we’ve had too much Federer. Albeit there’s A LOT to say about the guy, I want to steer away from him for at least this blog and try to give credit to the other players of the Federer Era.
Federer has won a record 16 major singles titles and and has reached a record of 22 major finals overall since only 2003 (7 years in real time is like 14 years in Federer time). That’s a whopping 55% of majors that Federer’s won dating back to the 2003 Australian Open (76% for just finals). Unreal, unprecedented, probably ever-lasting.
While Federer completely deserves to over-shadow his competition, it also causes people to greatly overlook how particularly good his competition is. So what I’ve done is gone through all 22 of the major finals Federer has been in and taken him out. To keep things simple, I assumed that whoever Federer beat in the semifinals would’ve reached the final.
2003 Wimbledon, Andy Roddick vs Mark Philippoussis: How Philippoussis even made this final is beyond me but I definitely think Roddick gets his first slam here. Roddick, like Federer, was young and hungry and had a lot more game than Philippoussis. Fun fact: This was the only slam final where Federer didn’t even face a break point. I have no doubt Roddick would’ve won this match.
2004 Australian Open, Juan Carlos Ferrero vs Marat Safin: Safin was the big story of this Oz Open and I think he would’ve had his fairy tale ending against Ferrero. Safin may have been physically more tired but he was playing some great tennis and would’ve been able to edge out Ferrero, who was about to hit a long slump.
2004 Wimbledon, Sebastien Grosjean vs Andy Roddick: Considering how well Roddick played against Federer that year, I’d fully expect him to repeat his 03 effort and defend his title. Grosjean knows how to play on grass but Roddick was playing much better.
2004 US Open, Tim Henman vs Lleyton Hewitt: This would’ve been Henman’s first and only slam final and he would’ve lost. Hewitt has owned Henman throughout his career and despite what Federer may have done to Hewitt, Hewitt was playing some great tennis and would’ve gotten his second US Open here.
2005 Wimbledon, Lleyton Hewitt vs Andy Roddick: This is interesting because by this point, they’d both have won the last 3 Wimbledon titles but Hewitt also had a great record against Roddick. Hewitt was also playing some of his best tennis in 05 so I’d have to pick him to come out in this one.
2005 US Open, Lleyton Hewitt vs Andre Agassi: Agassi played fantastic tennis throughout this event, including the final. And if he was up 4-2 against Hewitt, I don’t think he would’ve blown it. Hewitt is a fighter but if Agassi could find a way to click for three sets, he would’ve won… probably in another five-setter.
2006 Australian Open, Nicolas Kiefer vs Marcos Baghdatis: Like Safin, Baghdatis was the story in 06 and the guy played brilliant tennis in reaching his first slam final. Kiefer got to the semi with a pretty easy draw and would’ve been completely outclassed by Baghdatis in the final.
*2006 French Open, David Nalbandian vs Rafael Nadal: This is perhaps the toughest one to call of all. If Nalbandian wasn’t injured, then I think he would’ve been able to beat Nadal. But if he was, Nadal would’ve come out victorious. But if I really have to make one pick, it’s got to be the defending champ.
2006 Wimbledon, Jonas Bjorkman vs Rafael Nadal: Nadal would’ve destroyed Bjorkman almost as bad as Federer had. Bjorkman was too old and too just-happy-to-be-there. Even though Nadal wasn’t that great on grass yet, he wsa great enough to beat an old Bjorkman.
2006 US Open, Nikolay Davydenko vs Andy Roddick: Roddick has owned Davydenko and Davydenko would’ve been too nervous to derail Roddick’s resurgent run. Roddick wasn’t far from getting a two sets to one lead over Federer, no question he would’ve beaten Davydenko.
2007 Australian Open, Andy Roddick vs Fernando Gonzalez: Gonzalez showed just this year that when he’s on, he can beat Roddick, and he was never more on than at the 07 Oz Open. Roddick wouldn’t have caved in but I’d expect Gonzo to clinch his own fairy tale ending.
2007 Wimbledon, Richard Gasquet vs Rafael Nadal: As talented as Gasquet is, he’s never beaten Nadal and he also has a tendency to bail out mentally. Nadal would be the defending champion and would repeat over a nervous Gasquet.
*2007 French Open, Nikolay Davydenko vs Rafael Nadal: Davydenko in another major final? Wow. Who would’ve thunk it? But no way would he beat Nadal at Roland Garros. He can push Nadal, but not at this particular court.
2007 US Open, Nikolay Davydenko vs Novak Djokovic: Djokovic played like a real champ at this event and he would’ve beaten Davydenko in this final. Djokovic played some of his very best tennis and had it not been for nerves, he may have even beaten Federer. But Davydenko is no Federer, especially in the mental department.
*2008 French Open, Gael Monfils vs Rafael Nadal: Nadal was playing like a beast that year and no way could a nervous and thoughtless French player would be able to beat Nadal on his best surface.
*2008 Wimbledon, Marat Safin vs Rafael Nadal: By 08, Nadal was a pretty great grass court player and he would’ve also been the two-time defending champion. I was ecstatic when Safin made the semis and had he made the final, I would’ve been in bliss. But would he have beaten Nadal? Unfortunately, no. Safin never quite mastered the grass and Nadal also has a tendency to break down Safin from serve to drop shot.
2008 US Open, Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray: This would still have been Murray’s first slam final and he still would’ve been nervous. Djokovic would’ve been the defending champ and a two-time slam champ by now. Djokovic would’ve won this match in pretty straight foward fashion (although maybe Murray would’ve gotten a set this time).
*2009 Australian Open, Andy Roddick vs Rafael Nadal: Nadal. Nadal was playing spectacular tennis and Roddick might have been able to make a classic out of it, but there’s just no way he anyone could’ve beaten Nadal.
2009 French Open, Juan Martin del Potro vs Robin Soderling: This match is particularly interesting because del Potro showed he has what it takes against Federer in the semis but Soderling was playing the tournament of his life. Fitness issues would’ve hurt del Potro but I also feel like this match would’ve been a lot like their match in London; Soderling should win but del Potro would snatch the victory in the last minute.
2009 Wimbledon, Tommy Haas vs Andy Roddick: Considering how well Roddick played against Murray and Federer, there’s no way he would’ve lost to Haas. Haas has a game that has often troubled Roddick, but Roddick did beat him on clay in Madrid just weeks before. Roddick would’ve added to a pretty hefty Wimbledon collection.
*2009 US Open, Novak Djokovic vs Juan Martin del Potro: Assuming Djokovic was still going through his slump, there’s no reason why del Potro wouldn’t have been able to dethrone a two-time defending champion (considering he de-throned a five-time champ in reality). Perhaps a different kind of classic, but I think this match would’ve also gone five sets.
2010 Australian Open, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Andy Murray: Tsonga has beaten Murray in Melbourne before but since then, it’s been the Scot who’s had more success. Murray has more variety and better court sense than Tsonga. And even though they’re both prone to mental lapses, Tsonga sucks at getting out of them. Murray would’ve won this tournament in dominating fashion.
*Denotes finals Federer lost.
Players who’d have more slams without Federer: Agassi (9), Nadal (8), Roddick (5), Hewitt (4), Djokovic (3), Safin(3), Del Potro (2), Murray (1), Gonzalez (1), and Baghdatis (1).
Of course tennis is more complicated than that and I think Roddick was affected the most by Federer’s dominance. Five slams he may have won if he wasn’t facing Roger, but also think about how many slumps Roddick fell into because he kept getting shut down by Federer. With more confidence and belief, Roddick may have had close to 10 slams by now.
The point of this is to really show how great Federer’s rivals are. And it also shows just how great Federer has been to be able to deny great players slams they would’ve otherwise won. (Honestly, only Federer can beat Gonzalez in straight sets while the guy is playing the best tennis of his life). But this whole alternate reality is just for fun and it doesn’t mean that I want Federer out of the picture (if anything, I wish Federer was 22-0 in slam finals).
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