The Roger Federer stat no one will ever beat

The Roger Federer stat no one will ever beat

Roger Federer, in a file photo at Roland Garros (Photo by Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Of all the staggering stats he’s given us the time to examine since Roger Federer announced his retirement, there’s one that says more about his personality and fighting spirit than any other: from his professional debut in 1998 in his last match against Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon 2021. , the Swiss have played 1,526 matches. He won 1,251. He lost 275. He didn’t retire in any of them. There wasn’t a single game in which his body said enough or said it with enough urgency to to prevent his rival from taking advantage of the moment with all the law and no buts to put on.

Zero abandonment throughout a career is already scandalous, but zero retirements in a career spanning over 1,500 games is downright miraculous. Of course, this says a lot about his physical condition and the care of his body. Federer only played when he could play… and if he could play, he played until the end. But I think that says more about his sportsmanship. The Swiss knew what it meant to beat him. He knew what it would feel like to defeat a legend, and he never believed it was worth taking that pleasure away from his opponent.

We’ve seen Federer play with a broken back or a bad knee or a noticeable limp, too stiff to compete…but he still lived by the same code: “If you’re healthy enough to start the game, you’re healthy enough to finish it”. Because otherwise it feels like you’re taking credit from your opponent and that’s something Federer wasn’t ready to do.

A record of this magnitude requires many conditions: knowing how to suffer, having a certain conception of sport… and not sustaining a serious injury. There are those who retire because they don’t want to aggravate an injury, those who retire because their threshold of suffering is rather limited and those who do so because they have no other choice. , see Alexander Zverev when he broke his ankle in the past Roland Garros, who has yet to return to competition. Federer was lucky to never suffer from this last crippling circumstance.

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The data shines even more if we compare it to that of his two great enemies: Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, two top competitors, who fight until the last moment and who have shown that, if they give up, it’s is because there really is no other. The Spaniard has shaken hands with the referee nine times in seventeen years, including three at Grand Slam tournaments. The Serb has done it thirteen times, including six in Grand Slams, and only two (Wimbledon 2017 and US Open 2019) since 2011, while he is supposed to have changed his diet to eliminate gluten and improve his physical endurance.

If one example of Federer’s reluctance to give up a game is to be remembered, none better than the semi-finals he played against Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals. In this Swiss duel, Federer was completely stiff in the back, with a very limited ability to move and a gesture that indicated deep pain after each blow. Everyone was thinking about retirement, even more so against a personal friend and Davis Cup teammate like Wawrinka. Together they had won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in doubles.

However, Federer resisted the pain, discomfort and temptation to withdraw. It is also chivalry. Not only so as not to prevent the other from celebrating a complete score, but to give up giving him the part. He came back from a break in the final set, saved four match points and ended up winning 8-6 in the deciding tie-break. The next day he couldn’t even get on the pitch to face Djokovic, and it was a final.

Because the fact is that Federer never gave up during a match, but there were times when he couldn’t start it. I’ve said before that if it’s good to start, it’s good to finish… but sometimes it’s not even good to dress short. Up to five different rivals were able to pass the round without having to face the champion. Only one of them before Federer was 30. The last, Matteo Berrettini, who was going to be his rival in the round of 16 at Roland Garros 2021. Five reversals in twenty-three years. Another statistic to frame. Yet another example of the extreme competitiveness of this seemingly calm guy.

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