How Great are Fed’s Accomplishments?
Most of us in the US tend to compare Fed with Sampras and typically they are similar in most things (e.g. Sampras was 12-2 in Slams just like Fed, Sampras had been #1 for almost the exact same number of weeks as Fed at the same age (Fed is behind by just one week).
But the “density” of accomplishments in the last 4 years was something Sampras never reached. As TP has put it, Fed has compressed a lot into these last 4 years. So that, if Fed simply saunters into a few Slams over the next many years, he would have successfully stormed Sampras’ fortress…
But has this kind of dense domination never been done before? Before we get too carried away by Fed vs Sampras, let’s take a quick peep into Open Era history. It shows that actually most of Fed’s achievements have been matched before. Let’s look at the key barometers, weeks #1 and Slams:
* Connors was #1 for all but one of 245 weeks (losing it after 160 wks for a single week to Borg and then reclaiming it for 84 more weeks)
* Fed is at 194 consecutive weeks. Yes it is more than 160 but 244 of 245 has got to be better than 194 straight: it’s a year more.
* Fed is now reached the last 10 Slam Finals, but is 10 for 12). Fed has won 8 of those Slams.
* Borg reached the Finals of 11 of 12 consecutive Slams contested from 1978-81, winning 7 of those. Borg skipped skipped AO: it was during the Christmas holidays; Connors, McEnroe used to regularly skip AO, and it was a 64-man draw in those days.
* Connors also reached the Finals of 11 of 12 consecutive Slams contested from 1974-78. This was over 5 years, but Connors did not compete at all at RG (where they banned him in 74 depriving him of the chance of a GS), and many AO. Connors won 5 of those Finals.
* Lendl did not reach that kind of density either, and was more like Sampras. He retired with the longest weeks #1, the most # of Slam Finals and took down so many records that it is a wonder people rarely talk about him. However Lendl reached a remarkable 8 consecutive USO Finals (winning 3) and 9 consecutive Year-End Masters Finals (winning 5).
Win percentage during dominant period:
Connors, Borg and Lendl had amazing win percentage (wins to total matches played). Fed took longer to mature and had a lot more losses in his early years and this will affect his final career win %. But in terms of win % during the peak period, without getting into the gory numbers, I believe Fed is the best at 93% over the last 4 years, with only Lendl coming close.
So where does this leave Fed?
In very good company! Fed matches:
* Borg’s density in Slam Finals and Wins from 78-81
* Sampras’ Slam win percentage at his peak (thru 14th Slam)
* Connors’ continuous stretch at ATP #1 (Fed still has a year to go but his streak is unbroken to-date)
* The best win percentage as #1
Recentl Fed has been talking about continuing Sampras-like for a few more years and then on into his 30s like Agassi or Connors. Want to know what that will look like when he is finished??
Consider this: Connors’ peak was no doubt 1974-78 (11 of 12 Slam Finals with 5 titles). But from 1974-85, this freak never even played all four Slams in a year and yet contested 33 Slams with 8W, 7F, 13SF, 4QF and one R16 !!!!! He was good for any SF for *11* years including a second wind at age 30-31 that got him 3 additional Slams.
To be honest, it is not hard to see Fed reaching most Slam SF through age 35. And he will no doubt have opportunities to take titles including RG in other’s eras.
Still, without at least one Grand Slam in his name, he will forever be deemed behind Laver. So, he needs to seal the GOAT, and he needs to do it NOW, i.e. in 2008. Then continue Sampras-like (through 2012?!), and then sustain a Agassi/Connors-like career into his mid-30s, finishing with a last hurrah Wimbledon title in 2016 perhaps…
The man has a chance to be not just the GOAT of tennis, but the GOAL (Greatest of All Legends) :).