There are, of course, the usual numbers that are all too famous by now: 20 Grand Slams, 303 weeks (and counting) at World No. 1, oldest-ever No. 1 at age 36, 8 Wimbledon titles, 6 season-ending World Tour Final titles, 5 year-end No. 1 rankings, 97 career titles (and counting). Roger Federer is still rewriting many of these records as we speak. He has won three out of the last four Slams he has played since his return to professional tennis after 6 months off in 2016. He has outlasted most of his younger rivals. He has lost only 5 ATP tour matches since his return to tennis 13 months ago. And he is yet to lose a match in 2018.
But there are some alarming numbers – the ones that don’t make it into discussions and debates of GOAT contenders – that distinguish the Swiss legend from the rest. It’s his consistency at the top, or near the top for 14 years now, that has singled him out as better than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic , and Pete Sampras. While he is only 4 majors ahead of Nadal – and this could again become 3 when Nadal wins the French Open in May – it’s the “almost” numbers that have made Federer who he is.
Here are six such records:
1144: Federer has won 82 percent of his singles matches since his pro debut in 1998. He has won an astounding 1144 on the ATP tour and lost just 250 – easily the highest among current male players on the circuit. This will of course end at something like 1240 by the end of his glittering career. Only Jimmy Connors has won more, at 1256 – which is a number Federer might want to chase down next, given that he is also chasing down Connors’ mind-boggling 109 singles titles. Connors did it by playing across tiers and challenges as well as top-level tournaments, while Federer has had to mostly do it in Masters, ATP 500 and Grand Slams over the last decade. Despite his limited schedule now, one wouldn’t bet against Federer to win another 50 matches this season, and perhaps 45 next season, if he continues to be injury-free and smart about his body. And to think, when Federer reached 1000 wins in 2015, many expected him to call it a graceful day.
53: Federer has won 53 “Big Titles” in his storied career. Big titles consist of Grand Slams (4 in a season), ATP 1000 Masters (there are 9 in a season) and the World Tour Finals (1 every season). So Federer has 20 Slams, 27 Masters titles, and 6 WTF titles. Not too long ago, Novak Djokovic was breathing down his neck, in both prize money won (he reached 100 million before Federer, but is now 8-9 million behind) and Big Titles. But Djokovic has stalled on 47 (12 Slams, 30 Masters, 5 WTF), while Nadal has 46 (16 Slams, 30 Masters, 0 WTF). This is a proper modern-day indicator of greatness in an era full of contenders for the “Greatest Ever” tag. While Djokovic and Nadal have traditionally performed better in the ATP 1000 level tournaments, Federer is pulling away solely on basis of his Slam exploits. Yet, once clay court season starts, the gap will again be reduced, thanks to Nadal’s dominance over the Rome, Madrid and Monte Carlo Masters events.
30: Federer has reached 30 Grand Slam Finals since 2003. While many focus on the number 20 – the number he has won – his 30 Finals (at one point he reached 10 in a row) is a staggering achievement. And it’s one that might increase to 32 by the end. Most haven’t won 30 titles totally in their career. To put it into perspective, second is Nadal, who has reached 23 Finals (and won 16), while Djokovic has reached 21 Finals (and won 12). Since 2012 when he won his 17th Slam title only to endure a draught of almost 5 years till he won the Australian Open in 2017, Federer managed to reach 3 Grand Slam Finals (Wimbledon 2014, 2015 and US Open 2015) but lost them all to an inspired Djokovic. He has won his last 3 Finals in a row though, beating Nadal once and Marin Cilic twice.
43, 52: Federer has reached the semifinal of a Grand Slam a stunning 43 times. He has played 72 Grand Slams. Imagine the success rate. Way behind in second are Connors and Djokovic with 31 – a record that’s not likely to be broken. The best conversion rate is Nadal’s – he has reached only 26 semifinals but has reached the final 23 of those times. Federer at one point reached 23 semifinals in a row between 2004 and 2010. Djokovic at his peak reached 14 in a row and 9 in a row.
Federer has reached the quarterfinal stage a stunning 52 times out of 72 Slams. Connors is 41, while Djokovic is 39. Till 2003, in his first 17 Slams, Federer has reached the quarterfinal just once. Do the math. It’s fairly unbelievable. Between 2004 and 2013, till he crashed out in the second round at Wimbledon, Federer had reached an astounding 36 quarterfinals in a row.
332: This is likely to end at 350 or 360, but Federer’s 332 match wins in Grand Slams alone is a record that might never be broken. Djokovic is second with 240. Nadal is on 230. To put it into perspective, every Grand Slam consists of a maximum of 7 consecutive match wins. Just 7. Federer’s 20 titles account for only 140 match wins out of his total of 332. The rest he has won in a Slam-losing cause – probably on his way to his various semifinal and quarterfinal and final records.
72: Federer holds the all-time men’s record for 72 Grand Slam tournaments played. Each year has 4. So he has played 18 years worth of top-level Slams – and he has been ranked in the top 10 for 56 of them. He edged Fabrice Santoro by playing the US Open last year. Federer has never retired due to injury from a Slam. He also holds the record for the maximum Slams played consecutively – 65, between 2000 and 2016. This is one that is on the verge of being broken by Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who has played 64 consecutive Slams since 2002. The French Open could be his 65th, and Wimbledon could be 66. Verdasco is not far behind either, having played 59 consecutive Slams. But neither of them has won even one of the Slams. Federer has won 20.