Federer among sport’s greatest ever: Agassi

By Darren Walton, Darren Walton is a Roar Guru

 , ,

22 Have your say

    When it’s all said and done, Andre Agassi believes tennis superstar Roger Federer must be ranked alongside the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

    As with every rare Federer defeat, the doubters have been quick to relegate the Swiss master to yesterday’s hero following his five-set Australian Open semi-final loss to Andy Murray.

    But just as Murray and world No.1 Novak Djokovic were preparing to meet in a second straight grand slam final, Federer was plotting another successful season, unfazed by those declaring a changing of the guard in men’s tennis.

    “Nothing has changed,” the 17-times grand slam champion and world No.2 said before leaving Australia.

    “I’ve played these guys, what, 60 times? The three guys around me in the rankings.

    “So we know each other really well. We play each other very close very often. Keep on trading wins and losses.

    “Novak has done probably the best job getting more wins than losses. That’s why he’s ranked where he is.

    “I enjoy the matches with Rafa (Nadal), Novak, and also Andy again (on Friday night). It’s nice playing five sets against him. It was tough tennis. I enjoy that.

    “So I go from here with a good feeling for the year. I didn’t play a tournament leading in, so now obviously I know where my level is at.

    “Also knowing I have even more time to work on my game, work on my fitness this year, it’s something I’m excited about.”

    But regardless what the future holds for Federer, Agassi says the 31-year-old’s legacy as a sporting immortal is secure.

    Himself a four-times Australian Open champion like Federer, Agassi said the brilliant Swiss belongs in the conversation with Nicklaus, Jordan and company as one of sport’s greatest ever.

    “I’m biased in a sense that I think that tennis is one of the most comprehensive sports when it comes to endurance, when it comes to athleticism, when it comes to speed, when it comes to eye-hand,” Agassi told AAP.

    “It engages every part of what an athlete needs to be and I think the standard of athlete in tennis is finally now starting to make that recognised by people in other sports.

    “So I am biased with what I think tennis brings to the table and I think what Roger’s done in tennis is as commendable as what we’ve seen with Nicklaus in golf, or what we’ve seen with Jordan in basketball.

    “The guy has single-handedly separated himself from a world-class field year after year after year in a way that’s probably never been done.”

    Agassi, the sport’s oldest-ever world No.1, says he has long given up being surprised about anything Federer achieves and believes even at almost 32 he is at the top of his game.

    “I was ranked No.1 possibly even at 33,” Agassi said.

    “When I was ranked No.1 at that age, I felt better than when I was 25. I felt like I was a better player.

    “Given that, I would assume that Roger probably feels like a better player because he’s smarter.

    “He’s dealing with tougher competition. He might not win like he used to. But he himself (now) would beat himself (from back then).

    “That would be a fair assumption.”

    © AAP 2018

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (22)

    • January 28th 2013 @ 4:05am
      Johnno said | January 28th 2013 @ 4:05am | ! Report

      Feder is an all time great no doubt, but to quote Agassi.
      “The guy has single-handedly separated himself from a world-class field year after year after year in a way that’s probably never been done.” Not true, he had Nadal on his back from 2007 onwards. And Nadal leads 6-2 in grand slam finals.
      Federer was unstoppable from 2003-2007 only 4 years, but never dominated Federer on clay or in the French open, I don’t think he even beat Nadal.
      Sampras it seemed , seemed to be at the top for longer around the 6-7 years mark.

      Jordan was 35 when he won his last NBA title, he was past his prime but still the top goat, Federer is not even the top goat anymore, where as Jordan was top goat when he still retired, and also mind you had 1 and a had years to take up baseball.

      • January 28th 2013 @ 9:47am
        clipper said | January 28th 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        Johnno, we get that you’re not a fan of Federers, but you really need to give him his due, especially for consistency with 35 and counting quarter finals. Sure, Nadal has it over him on clay, but you would expect that from the greatest clay courter of all time – and Federer has beaten Nadal on clay a few times and a couple of his GF loses to him have been tight five setters. Sampras ended the year at number one for 6 years ,but did not hold that No. 1 spot as consistently as Federer and never got to a FO final, let alone have to content with the very best clay courter. Another legacy is that he pushed those behind him to even greater heights so that we may end up with 3 of the 5 best players of all time in this period. The last word is that it is always a pleasure to watch him play.

        • January 28th 2013 @ 9:57am
          Johnno said | January 28th 2013 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          clipper i am a fan of Federer. I just think Nadal is better and his stats vs each other prove it. Clay record is Nadal 12-2. on nasals, best surface. On hardcourt which is federers best surface along with grass it’s Fed 6-5 . And grass Fed 2-1.
          Federer has beaten Nadal 4-0 indoors, but indoors doesn’t count for anything .
          And in grand slam finals nadal 6-2 . And in grand slam matches head to head Nadal 8-2 .
          And Fed has never beaten Nadal on clay at the French open ever in any match final or 1st round.
          Nadal has beaten Fed on grass and hardcourt, more overall too. Fed’s only stat he wins is he has beaten Rafa twice at wimbledon to 1 . And indoors 4-0 but indoor tennis not he carpet is a meaningless useless stat.
          So Fed is one of the all time greats he ranks 3 for mine, but Nadal is better than Fed, has the wood on him in just about every important statistics. And Nadal won and Olympic gold, Federer never has.

          • January 28th 2013 @ 11:55am
            Brian said | January 28th 2013 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            Johnno that is ridiculous. Nadal has a better record because Federer was consistent enough to make a lot of clay court finals when Nadal was at his best. If Federer had lost in the semis of those French Opens or the 3rd rounds like Sampras used to would that make him a better player.

            Is it Federer’s fault that in 2004, 05 and 06 Nadal was not good enough to make the final of Aus, US & Wimbledon and lose to him?

            • January 28th 2013 @ 12:21pm
              matt said | January 28th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              Brian, people tend to get hung up on this logic that if Fed has the greatest record of all time and Nadal owns Fed, therefore Nadal is the greatest of all time. In actual fact Nadal’s game is the absolute perfect mix to be Fed’s kryptonite – most significantly the heavy left handed topspin that goes above the shoulder of Fed’s single handed back hand. Over the years this grew into a ‘monkey’ on Fed’s back, giving Nadal a significant mental advantage as well.

              It’s worth noting the match up can go the other way. I remember one season when Nalbandian absolutely smashed Nadal on a few occasions, because those Nadal shots sat up perfectly for Bandy to punish them.

              Such is the nature of tennis.

              • January 28th 2013 @ 1:06pm
                Brian said | January 28th 2013 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                I’d also say that Djokovic got on top of Nadal way before age allowed him to surpass Federer.

                As an aside I also think Federer was slow to adapt to Nadal. Not so much in later years but back in 2008 when he was still quick enough around the court. He was so dominant in 2006 & 2007 that he appeared to just figure that if he played his way it would work instead of trying to adapt his game to Nadal. I remember watching quite a few battles when Nadal got momentum and Federer didn’t change much. 08 Wimbledon Final and 09 AO Final both come to mind.

            • January 28th 2013 @ 6:48pm
              Johnno said | January 28th 2013 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

              Brian, ridiculous comparison and expectations. Nadal is 5 years younger than Fed. Nadal born in 1986, Fed, in 1981
              Some of the finals you are talking about , Nadal was only 17 or 18, or 19. Fedrer didn’t even make his 1st grand slam final until he was 21 years and 11 months,. SO just 1 month shy of his 22nd birthday in 2003, which was his first grand slam final and win.

              Nadal won his first grand slam in 2005 aged ,when you guessed it, a just turned 19yr old Nadal beat a 23 years and 10 months Rojer Federer .
              On his 19th birthday, Nadal defeated Federer in the 2005 French Open semifinals. And Nadal won the french in 2005. So Nadal was winning a grand slam, afoul 3 years before Fed’s 1st grand slam.

              And Nadal has never lost to Fed at the French Brian. And leads Fed 12-2 on clay.

              • January 29th 2013 @ 6:07am
                matt said | January 29th 2013 @ 6:07am | ! Report

                Johnno, not everyone breaks through at 17, or at 21 for that matter

                Brian, totally agree with you

              • January 29th 2013 @ 6:35am
                Johnno said | January 29th 2013 @ 6:35am | ! Report

                Matt my point with Brian, was he was putting up to much expectations on Nadal at too young an age. He is assuming Fed was greater because Nadal could not beat him consistently on all surfaces until he was 22, in 2008. To expect a 17-21 yr old if he fails, to beat a 22-26 yr old costintatly , there for that older player is better, is a silly comparison .
                And the fact he was beating Fed, on clay by 17 on one suffice at least shows, his talent. And Federer was 26 years and 11 months when he lost to Nadal at wimbledon in 2008, hardly past his prime, nor when he lost in Januray 2009 to Nadal at the OZ open final.
                But the reality was Nadal was beating Fed on hardcourt when he was 17 too, not just on clay, and in Fed’s total prime.
                1st match they played ever was in Miami on hardcourt in 2004, Nadal won.
                He beat Fed again in 2005 at Miami, and in Dubai in 2006 , all on hard court in Fed’s prime.

                So Nadal 5 years younger, has been beating Fed since day 1 he has played him, the stats prove it.

              • January 29th 2013 @ 10:06am
                matt said | January 29th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

                The point Brian is making which I agree with is that Fed in his prime never bothered to try and adapt his game to Rafa

          • January 29th 2013 @ 11:54am
            Riccardo said | January 29th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            Why does “indoors count for nothing” Johnno?

            Surely this is the same environment for both players, just as grass/clay/hardcourt are?

            I grew up watching Nastase, Gerulitus, Conners, Borg, McEnroe, then Edburg, Becker, Lendl, Cash and a host of others. Do you remember Gene Mayer? A journeyman who I think was the 1st pro to play 2 hands off both wings. ALL of them had their respective strengths and weaknesses as well as preferred surfaces.

            Anyway the point is our reminiscing and opining remains just that in spite of the ferocity of the argument or statistical imbalance.

            When you hear former players like Laver, Agassi and Sampras complementing Federer the way they do, it may be more from a purist’s perspective rather than just statistical success. The appreciation of the complete game played with a fluid elegance that is not just rare but a joy to behold.

            For the record I too believe that the younger Federer would have beat the current version but I just don’t care. I just want to be mesmorised by his supreme talent and grace.

            Personally, I think the advent of technology has led the game to the point where the counter-punching, heavy-hitting groundstroker has too much advantage over the front-court player and that current audiences are deprived of the Edburgh/Becker game of serve/volley, for example.

            But that’s another argument for another time.


            • January 29th 2013 @ 12:41pm
              Johnno said | January 29th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

              Riccardo the Indoor carpets, of Europe, have been part of the landscape for a long time now. Indoor tennis in Europe has a lot of atmosphere , and has proceed some great matches on the carpets. Becker and Lendl, both loved the indoor carpets of Europe, and so did Nastase and Vilas, and Leconte, and Thomas Muster.
              Federer and Nadal both being European , have grown up with the Indoor carpets of Europe, and i’m sure love them. So I take that back the Indoor carpets of Europe are important and an important part of the tennis landscape. My Dad, RIccardo was on business and watched Boris Becker on the indoor carpets of Europe in Brussels, and loved it.

              • January 29th 2013 @ 1:05pm
                Riccardo said | January 29th 2013 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

                I bet he did Johnno!

                Becker was a showman and on his day almost unbeatable. I have great memories of his battles with Edberg at Wimbledon in particular.

                I still remember when “Boom Boom” won Wimbledon at 17 in 1985 against a stunned Kevin Curren (who had just smashed Connors in the semis courtesy of his monster serve).

                Sadly, Boris never really realised realised his true potential in spite of his success.

                I take my hat off to you Johnno. I have read many of your posts on Rugby and Cricket and now Tennis as well. Your knowledge and passion are a credit to you mate.

          • March 24th 2013 @ 12:23pm
            Sam said | March 24th 2013 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

            Why indoor hard court does not count? How about clay court does not count?

            Why you want to forget about indoor hard court? Because Federer won 6 championships and Nadal had none? Because Nadal’s winning percentage is less than 50% against the best players in the world?

            Even if it is true when you say that because Nadal beat Federer, he is the best. Nadal can never be remotely called the GOAT. He has 102 weeks at number one and Federer has over 300 weeks at number one. Nadal can be called the GSAT (greatest second ranked of all-time). He set the record for 241 weeks at number two all by himself.

            “And Nadal has never lost to Fed at the French Brian. And leads Fed 12-2 on clay.”
            Nadal has never lost to Fed at the U.S. Open too, it is Federer of Nadal’s deficiency? From 2004-2009, Federer won 5 consecutive U.S. Open titles and in the final of 2009.

            Federer was not in 4 of the 25 Grand Slams finals from 2004 to 2010’s Australian Open. Where was Nadal?

            Nadal won his first hard court titles in 2.5 years because of the luck of the draw, from 25 to 27, do you consider Nadal at his prime? His records on courts other than on clay never improved since he beat Federer as a teenager. He won a total of 15 titles outside of clay.

            Federer has 66 titles outside of clay courts.
            Nadal has 15.

    • January 28th 2013 @ 10:06am
      matt said | January 28th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Nadal at his best might just be GOAT. But Nadal at his best is not sustainable, he damages his body in order to win. This is good for winning 1 match, but not for trying to win 1,000 matches. Nadal cannot sustain the level. Fed now has 250+ Slam wins and 300 looks a shoe-in. Nadal has 160+ and 200 seems a long, long way away.

      You know that scene in Mad Max where he leaves that guy a hacksaw? The car is about to explode and if he tries to saw through the chain it will take too long. If he saws through his leg he will get away in time. Well, Nadal would saw through his leg just to win a slam final. This quality may make hi GOAT for some but not for me.

      As for MJ at 35…well look at the team he had around him. Every time he got tired he could sit on the bench and drink Gatorade while the likes of Pippen, Rodman and Co would tear it up. There is no where to hide for a tennis player, no chance to sit on the bench, and thus you cannot compare the two sports or athletes in this sense.

      I disagree with Agassi on one key point. Fed 6/7 years ago would have dominated the 2013 version.

      • January 28th 2013 @ 10:15am
        Johnno said | January 28th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Nadal is 5 years younger than Fed too Matt. Fed born in 1981, Nadal born in 1986. But yes Fed plays a more bruising game, but what bit players have packed in is remarkable. Look at my top 10 Matt in the column a few stories down, on Novak winning the titles. Nadal has great stats,. But so does Fed. Nadal’s court coverage is superior, Novak’s is even better than Nadal. And Nadal’s power game and superior fitness in a match exceeds Fed’s. Look at all those 5 sets marathons they both have had with Nadal winning most of them. The man has a big motor. And Novak’s it seems is even better. Novak has been beating Nadal since 2011, and is only 1 year younger, so Nadal at 25 was hardly past it when he started losing to Novak.

        • January 28th 2013 @ 11:34am
          matt said | January 28th 2013 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          @Johnno – can’t quite see which column you are referring to. As for age diff I would not get too hung up on this – in tennis years Nadal is almost as old as Fed and perhaps, given the uncertain state of his body, he is much older. He has been whoopin Fed’s back side since he 1st beat him at the Age of 17 – and he started the heavy pounding of those knee’s a year prior. So in tennis years, given the stress on his body, Nadal is a pensioner. All that and he only has 11 slams to his name. He owns RG and so actually owns only 4 other slam titles.

          Fed is eye balling the next Olympics. Personally I doubt he will win another slam. The question is, how many more can Nadal win? The upside for Nadal, should he stay healthy (which is a massive IF in my book) – is that there is NO young talent coming through the ranks. (I’ll wait at least one more year before passing judgement on Tomic).

          Whilst Joker and Murray are only slightly younger in age to Nadal, physically they are many years his junior (as per above comments). They are really the only guys who can stop Nadal in the next 2-3 years.

          At the end of the day it comes down to his knees.

    • January 28th 2013 @ 12:26pm
      Seano said | January 28th 2013 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

      Sampras should never be mentioned amongst the greats, he never won the French! If you can’t win all 4 at least once in your career your not a great full stop. Same with lender and Wimbledon! federer is second all time to Rosewall, seriously if it wasn’t for the open era issues he would have won 30 majors!!!!!

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

    • January 28th 2013 @ 5:25pm
      Steele said | January 28th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

      I actually believe that both Novak and Rafa are better players than the Fed. Federer got a lot of slams before the other two were on the scene, he then was at his peak while they were still honing their skills. This explains why it took nadal 3 goes at beating him at Wimbledon. If the big four were all the same age and didn’t suffer injuries, it would be a different story altogether.

    • January 29th 2013 @ 10:37am
      Rory said | January 29th 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      In this whole debate about whether Federer is the greatest, there one aspect that the “no” camp don’t get. It’s not only about stats, although the Grand Slam record speaks for itself despite head to head figures. There are other things Federer brings that are more aesthetic than measurable. The grace, the classicism, the longevity, the dignity, the respect for the history of the game. He understands that tennis didn’t begin with the advent of the carbon graphite racquet. Whilst I admire Nadal’s determination to chase every single ball like it is his last one bouncing towards the river, and his everpresent humility, he is a different beast. Djokovic’s astounds me with his ability to play amazing shots on match point, and to hit backhand drives sliding on the back foot from way off court. He is clearly the best in the world at the moment, playing probably as well as anyone has ever played, but he hasn’t yet reached the place where Federer lives.

    • January 29th 2013 @ 2:14pm
      Steele said | January 29th 2013 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

      I don’t understand your point exactly? Are you saying because federer plays gracefully and respects the game, he therefore is on another level to Nadal? Nadal may not look aesthetically as pleasing but he too has a respect for the game and as you point out is as humble as they come. Federers stylishness wins many people over, but the hard facts suggest he had his prime in a less competitive era to the younger members of the the big four. Federer is now the fourth best player out of the quartet and I dont believe it’s because he’s declined, it’s because the other three have reached their potential. Nadal got there the quickest but Novak is playing at an unprecedented level and now Murray is getting stronger mentally.

      • January 29th 2013 @ 3:52pm
        Rory said | January 29th 2013 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        The whole thing goes around in circles, doesn’t it? It’s true that right at this moment he would be the 4th best of the 4, but in saying that he hasn’t declined, are you really implying that Murray is a better player than Federer ever was, and therefore you would only rate him the 4th best player since 2000? I presume not but it could logically follow from what you are saying. I’d suggest that the level of play the these guys have reached is largely because of the benchmark Federer set. I also think that if Novak didn’t freakishly hit the line on match points two years in a row at the US open then the record would show that Federer still has him covered. Yet Noval has Nadal’s number. These are some of the reason’s that the head to head approach just doesn’t hold water to my mind.

        Ok I’ll give 2 clear reason’s why I rate Fed higher. First, the other three from time to time go out early in a major, and I think they will continue to do so every now and then for whatever reason. It’s normal and every great champion in the history of the game has had these losses and periods of form loss. Have a serious look at Federer’s major record over the last 10 years. That’s a long time don’t you think? No one is even close to it. And it’s not because of a “less competitive era”.
        Second reason is partly about aesthetics. The range of his strokemaking ability is larger than the others, if you don’t mind I’ll take that as self evident, and coupled with the fact that he has a traditional style that would have suited any era, this makes him unique and a pleasure to watch. There’s one caveat, and that is that the others, especially Dkokovic, have taken defensive shots to a new level. Where once players under attack accepted that they might just get a racquet to the ball and maybe scrape a lob back, Novak actually can hit a winner. Regularly. That is where things have changed.

    , ,