The number 21 holds all manner of significance in our world: winning blackjack hand, number of spots on a die, drinking age, etc.
If you’re the greatest tennis player who ever lived, it represents yet another milestone. Yes, the GOAT is about to embark on his 21st season of play. Beginning with his play for Team Switzerland just around the corner, Roger Federer will take his inimitable game into near uncharted territory. Who’s lasted longer on the pro tour? Ken Rosewall? Jimmy Connors? The game was worlds different in those days. Words to adequately describe this level of longevity are not easy to come by.
How many of you remember Fed’s very first match back in 1998, in Gstaad, Switzerland, as a mere 16-year-old? I haven’t seen that one, myself. Nevertheless… that’s where it all began, as they say. One wonders what the lad’s aspirations were at that point in time. Could he possibly have imagined that 1,132 match wins on tour lay before him? That he would hold the number one ranking for 302 weeks? That he would win 19 major titles? Those are just for starters.
The Mighty Fed’s expectations for the upcoming season are tempered, at least outwardly. As he moves further along in the tail end of his career, it’s seemingly about dotting I’s and crossing T’s. Those of us who enjoy his play the most would characterize this period as a cherry on top of a 10-foot-thick layer of icing. Particularly after the downturn in 2013 when it looked as if the end was nigh, who could’ve predicted another return to the top of the game? While his younger compatriots are all falling by the wayside, Der Maestro churns onward, building on an already storybook career.
The accolades on Fed’s CV read like something put together by Guinness for a hypothetical amalgamation of brilliant achievements in the game of tennis. Based upon the collective numbers of its top 10 historical stars. One fellow has done it all. At 21, he can legally quaff that stout in a toast to himself.