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Retired but not forgotten: 20 years ago, Roger Federer ascended to the pinnacle of tennis and his legacy lives on

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5th February, 2024

Twenty years ago, legendary Swiss maestro, Roger Federer achieved tennis’s peak.

In 2003, Federer was ranked second in the world, only behind American superstar Andy Roddick.

No one in the tennis world could have predicted the path that Federer was about to take, but it would forever alter the sport.

Straight sets win over Marat Safin clinched Roger his maiden Australian Open title in 2004, cementing his place in tennis lore.

Not only did Roger become world number one on that day, but it also signalled the start of his road to twenty Grand Slam victories. 

Thanks to his incredible variety of expertly executed shots, flawless footwork, and unmatched versatility on all surfaces, Federer rose to the status of tennis master.

Still, as champion on eight occasions, Federer’s true home is on Wimbledon’s grass. The archetypal purist Grand Slam, he became its shining light.


Beyond his tennis career, Federer will have a legacy that will endure. Being one of the greatest of all time, he broke a Grand Slam singles record with twenty wins.

Roger Federer of Switzerland after winning the 2017 Australian Open.

Roger Federer won the 2017 Australian Open. (Photo by Recep Sakar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

No tennis player has, it would seem, maintained the public’s adoration as Roger has. The Swiss master has an aura that has not been replicated in the present circuit.

During the 2010s, when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic were at the height of their rivalries, the “Big Three” dominated.

Played on the most illustrious stages of the sport, their matches created some of the most memorable moments in tennis history.

The transcendence of Federer’s play outside the realm of tennis enthralled fans of aesthetics and sports alike.

Observing him play was like being an observer at an art gallery.


Roger’s reputation took off outside of the court too. The brands of Wilson, Nike Tennis, and Uniqlo were thrust into the limelight by his long-term partnerships with each of them. Federer’s $300 million deal with Uniqlo expanded their reach globally.

According to a 2011 study by the Reputable Institute, Roger ranks as one of the world’s most trusted, respected, and admired people on the planet.

Ranking second, only after Nelson Mandela, and ahead of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey; Roger was loved and admired by all.

While Federer was still a player, new facets of his post-tennis legacy began to emerge and the Swiss superstar has a strong commitment to charitable work.

Since its establishment in 2003, the Roger Federer Foundation has supported educational programmes in many countries, benefiting almost 2.7 million children.

As he gracefully retired from professional tennis in the years after his peak, Federer’s humility and passion for the game shone through.


His performance on the court was curbed by injuries, but it didn’t diminish his stature as an iconic athlete on a global scale.

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Australians admire and follow Federer’s athletic career just as much as our own homegrown talent – to the extent that many of us adopted him as our own.

A man we all have grown to admire and respect, he serves as an example for us to follow.

The world number one ranking was only the beginning – and his legacy will no doubt endure for many years to come.