In 2006, author and tennis enthusiast David Foster Wallace called Roger Federer "the best tennis player currently alive," and "maybe the best ever," in a long, scholarly love letter to the Swiss ace in The New York Times Magazine. At that point, Federer was only 25, and he had won an impressive eight Grand Slam singles titles. Now almost 31, Federer just won his unparalleled 17th Grand Slam title, beating Scotsman Andy Murray at Wimbledon. The victory was also Federer's seventh Wimbledon win, so he has now tied the record held by Pete Sampras and 19th century player William Renshaw. This week Federer will also tie Sampras for the most weeks spent as the No. 1 men's player in the world: 286. Sunday's final was a hard-fought heartbreaker for Murray — who's now 0-4 in Grand Slam matches — and for Britain, which hasn't had a men's winner at Wimbledon since 1936. But Murray called for "context," saying he'd just lost to "one of the greatest athletes of all time." Is it time to crown Federer the best tennis player ever?
Yes. Roger is without equal: "There really can't be a greatest-player-of-all-time debate anymore," says Douglas Perry at The Oregonian. "It would be silly." A month shy of 31, Federer is supposed to be limping off to the history books like the tennis greats before him when they were approaching 30, but "that script was written for mere mortals." Federer is a tennis deity. Sure, there are other good players — at 26, Rafael Nadal has 11 majors under his belt — but will Nadal or outgoing No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 25, even be playing at 30? Federer's record, whatever it ends up being, looks pretty safe.
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Let's hold off on the coronation: "There's much to like about Federer," and he deserves credit for "grinding (not usually a word we associate with Federer) his way to glory" at Wimbledon, says Ravi Ubha at ESPN, but is he even "the best player on the planet at the moment?... Probably not." This is his first Grand Slam win since the 2010 Australian Open, and one show of impressive "machine-like performance" doesn't erase two years of dominance by Nadal and Djokovic.
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But tennis is more than just numbers: Federer's stats "speak of dominance and longevity," but he's "known as the best-ever player as much for his grace and artistry than the staggering numbers he has assembled," says Bruce Jenkins at Sports Illustrated. That's what stood out Sunday. Murray might even have won if not for the rain, or for the decision to close the roof over Centre Court, as Federer excels indoors. Still, even the Murray-friendly crowd was awed when Federer kicked into high gear. These are tennis fans first and foremost, and "Murray was their man, but Federer was their god."
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