Roger Federer has an uncanny gift. The fellow has the ability to do things just the right way. We see this in the impeccable shots he makes, the generous way he interacts with fans, his thoughtful answers in the press room and the way he handles everything else – from his large family and his loyal team to his honored place in the world as considerable commercial brand and an ambassador of goodness.
The 100th title of his career, while not in a Slam or at his beloved Wimbledon, did come in his backyard, so to speak. He has a home in Dubai.
Plus, there was a bookend quality to his triumph. His victim, Stefanos Tsitsipas, is the NextGen’s dreamy answer to Fed. The 20-year-old Greek flows with ease and displays a fluid grace. Like Roger, his one-handed backhand is a bit of a treasure. He’s aggressive, ambitious, smart and a delight to watch. He comes from a non-dominant European country and, like Roger, in his long-ago youth, has flowing locks. He displays an all-court game, and off-court he’s thoughtful and giving.
Never mind that Tsitsipas beat Roger in the fourth round of the Aussie Open. In Dubai the Greek was handed a Federerian lesson. Isn’t there some rule that young kids aren’t supposed to score back-to-back wins over the GOAT? Roger prevailed, as he scored a (can we call it) routine 63-minute 6-4, 6-4 win to gain his first title since the Swiss Indoors in October.
FEDERER ON FEDERER: After his eighth win in Dubai, Roger confided that he once feared he would be the player “with endless talent and no titles.” Young Roger cried after losing an early final. Roger recalled that his fellow Swiss Marc Rosset told him. “’Don’t worry about it, you’ll win some more.’ I’m like, ‘It’s easy for you to say.’” No wonder that Federer said his first ever win, in 2001 in Milan over Frenchman Julien Boutter, was key. At the time the Swiss press said the 19-year-old had a reasonable chance to be a top-50 player.
On court in Dubai, Roger said, “It’s been a long, wonderful journey. It all started when I was a junior world champion. I’ve loved every minute…I wouldn’t do it any differently. We’ll see how much I’ve got left in the tank, but reaching 100 is definitely an absolute dream come true for me.”
When asked about breaking Jimmy Connors’ record of 109 titles, Federer reflected, “We live in a day and age when all the records have to be challenged. Not for me. I’m just happy I’m still healthy. I’m just happy I have such a wonderful team…If I reach milestones like this along the way it’s wonderful, but I’m not out here to shatter all the records…What Jimmy did was an unbelievable achievement. He should be proud of that. I am proud of other things. Tonight was a very special occasion.” Then Roger spoke of Tsitsipas and said, “Seeing the future come up in tennis is part of this whole journey. It’s not about breaking every single record, to be quite honest.”
BY THE NUMBERS: The ATP offered these stats on Roger’s 100 wins. He won in 19 countries. He beat 50 different opponents. Sixty-eight were younger than he was, 57 were in the Top Ten, five were No. 1, 25 are now retired. He came back 15 times after winning the first set and he’s won 31 different events. He won 20 Slams, 6 ATP Finals, 21 Masters 1000’s, 24 ATP 500’s and 23 ATP 250’s. Sixty-nine of Roger’s wins have been on hard courts, which is 13 more than Djokovic. Eighteen have been on grass and 11 on clay.
BLAKE’S BURDEN: Federer has a punishing 10-1 record over James Blake. And even though Blake’s long retired, Roger is still giving the American problems. James tweeted, “Just watched Federer win his 100th title and my daughter asked, ‘How many did you win?’ ‘10’ I responded proudly. ‘How come you only won 10? That’s like none.’ Thanks Roger, for making me look bad in front of my kids. Congrats.” BTW: Andy Roddick’s 3-year-old recently told him – no way, there was no way he could have been a tennis pro.
CONSISTENCY, LONGEVITY AND EXCELLENCE: Roger won his first title when he was a kid – just 19. And he collected a title in 18 of the next 19 years – 2016 was his only dry year. His best year came in 2006 when he won 12 titles – including three Slams. Incredibly, at one point between 2003 and 2005 he won 24 consecutive finals.
WELCOME TO THE CLUB: Jimmy Connors tweeted to Federer: “Welcome to the ‘Triple Digit’ tournament victory club @rogerfederer — I’ve been a bit lonely- glad to have the company!!!”
THE 100 CLUB: Here are some players and the total number of singles tourneys they won: Rod Laver – 200 (54 as an amateur, 72 as a pro, 74 in the Open Era.) Margaret Court 192 (100 as an amateur, 92 in the Open Era), Martina Navratilova 167, Chris Evert 157, Billie Jean King 129 (67 in the Open Era), Jimmy Connors 109, Steffi Graf 107.
FEDERER IS ON HIS BRAIN: After going down to the vastly popular Federer, Tsitsipas confided, “It kind of affects your brain, knowing that everybody [in the crowd] is cheering for him and everybody is supporting him. He earned [their support]…I do understand it. Sometimes it can get a bit too much.”
THE BEST 52,152 MINUTES OF HIS LIFE? The BBC noted that in Roger’s runs to his 100 titles, Federer spent 52,152 minutes on court. He played 548 matches, 83,302 points and hit 4,378 aces. Fifty of his wins were in Europe, 24 were in North America, 18 victories in Asia 8 and Australia. His longest win was his 4:16 triumph over Andy Roddick at the 2009 Wimbledon. His quickest win was over David Goffin in Basel in 2014 – 52 minutes. Other notable ATP title winners include Ivan Lendl – 94, Rafa – 80, McEnroe – 77, Djokovic 73.
ROGER, YOUNG AND CRAZY : When Federer first played in Dubai he was accused of tanking, and the tournament threatened to withhold his prize money. Roger commented, “I was young and crazy…Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.”
GO FIGURE: Federer’s two most famous matches didn’t involve winning a final. His coming-of-age win over Pete Sampras came in 2002, and, in what is considered the most dramatic match of all time, he lost the 2008 Wimbledon final to Nadal.
BY THE WAY: By reaching the Dubai final, Federer became the first player to get to ten finals in five different events…This year’s Dubai women’s and men’s tourneys were won by Swiss players…Belinda Bencic and Federer. The last two players from the same country to sweep Dubai were France’s Fabrice Santoro and Amelie Mauresmo in 2002…Good news: Federer has committed to playing Dubai in 2020.
FINALS STATS: Roger’s lost 52 times in finals, including 14 losses to Nadal and 13 to Djokovic. Roger downed Andy Roddick the most in finals – seven times. He beat Djokovic six times and his own coach, Ivan Ljubicic, four times in finals.
ROCKET ON ROGER: Roger’s idol Rod Laver tweeted Federer: “Heartiest congratulations @rogerfederer. Winning 100 titles during your unbelievable career is a truly mighty achievement. I expect more to come this year and beyond! #RF100. Rocket