Andy Murray of Great Britain broke down on Centre Court after losing the Championship final at Wimbledon to Switzerland’s Roger Federer and said, “I am getting closer.” It brought smiles and tears to millions of Britons who were waiting for their first male champion in more than seven decades. Federer, standing 20 feet away and holding his seventh Wimbledon trophy as if his life depended on it, knows what it is to be a loser in a Grand Slam final; he’s been in that position seven times since 2003, mostly ceding the trophy to his bete noire, Rafael Nadal of Spain.
Federer’s seventh win at Wimbledon — his jaw-dropping 17th Grand Slam title — is not just testimony to his determination, but also a tribute to his consistency. He has featured in 24 Grand Slam finals, eight more than Nadal, and six more than American Pete Sampras, both of whom, along with Australia’s Rod Laver, are possibly the only contenders to “The greatest tennis player of all time” tag. His career win-loss percentage is an astounding 81.63 per cent. Only Nadal has a higher career percentage of 82.70.
It is not just his Grand Slam performance that counts. Federer’s influence goes beyond the tennis courts. In 2006, he won the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award for his charity work. In 2011, he was voted the world’s second most trusted human — after South African leader Nelson Mandela — in a worldwide poll. He has won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award seven times since 2004 and the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award for four consecutive years between 2005 and 2008, another record.
However, Federer is only human, an aspect that is more than evident in his losses to lesser tennis players. But it is his superhuman ability to prove the world wrong about his decline that makes him great — or, as some would say, ‘The Greatest. Very few would contest that after Sunday’s final.