And we’re back! I get the feeling that many of you did not very much agree with yesterday’s post. And by “I get the feeling,” I mean that I can read and comprehend comments.
In case you missed it yesterday, here’s the start of my list featuring numbers 19 – 11.
I understand that there are many lines of thought in ranking something like this. Let’s face it, it’s hard to call any victory in a grand slam tournament “Unimpressive.” It’s actually probably impossible. It’s like trying to take 19 puppies and decide which is the least cute.
There’s actually not 19 puppies there. Surprisingly, doing a Google search for “19 cute puppies gif” doesn’t actually bring up any results with 19 puppies. You would think that at this stage of the internet there would be hundreds of gifs of any number of puppies doing anything you could imagine. Come on, internet.
Regardless, here’s the conclusion of our list. Perhaps we’ll agree more today. Probably not, but perhaps.
10. Wimbledon 2004
Seeds defeated: Roddick (2), Grosjean (10), Hewitt (7)
Sets lost: 2
In the second of his eventual 8 wins at Wimbledon, Federer defeated three of the tournament’s top-10 seeds including 2nd-seed Andy Roddick. While unseeded, Ivo Karlovic also offered a tricky matchup.
Despite an itinerary that would have looked somewhat difficult on paper, Federer reinforced his status as the world’s best player with a dominant run throughout the fortnight.
He dropped two sets and initially ran into an inspired Roddick in the final; however, a rain delay had fortuitous timing and Federer was able to shift the momentum and run away with the match afterward. On the way, he also defeated 7th-seed Lleyton Hewitt and 10th-seed Sebastian Grosjean in the quarters and semis respectively.
9. Wimbledon 2012
Seeds defeated: Murray (4), Djokovic (1), Youzhny (26), Benneteau (29)
Sets lost: 5
Another special tournament for Federer as he ended – at the time – the longest gap in his career between grand slam triumphs. More than 2 years removed from his most recent win in Melbourne in 2010, there were few who were tipping the Swiss to lift the trophy. He had been thoroughly beaten by Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open only weeks earlier.
The lack of expectation amplified when Federer found himself in a 2 set deficit to Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the 3rd round; however, he fought himself out of that hole and then played well enough to defeat overmatched opponents in Xavier Malisse and Mikhail Youzhny.
Finally, Federer found his vintage game just in time to take on World Number 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Interestingly, 2012 Wimbledon marks the only time that Federer has defeated a grand slam tournament’s top seed en route to winning the title. That being said, he was the top seed so often that opportunities were limited.
The Swiss took on an inspired Murray in the final. After dropping the first set, Federer produced two magical drop volleys in a row to wrestle the second set away.
Soon after, rain forced the Centre Court roof to be closed and the momentum seemed to change for good with the 6-time champion running away to earn his 7th triumph.
The level of competition that Federer was able to defeat was potent, but he also seemed inconsistent, albeit at times when he had margin for error, against Benneteau and Malisse.
8. Wimbledon 2007
Seeds defeated: Nadal (2), Gasquet (12), Ferrero (20), Safin (26)
Sets lost: 3
The site of arguably his greatest triumph until this year over his arch-nemesis, Federer defeated Rafael Nadal in an epic 5-set final to cap an otherwise solid tournament.
The Swiss matched the legendary achievement of Bjorn Borg in winning his fifth consecutive title at the All-England Club and defeated four seeded players along the way. He did receive a walkover in dodging a potentially tricky match against 13-seed Tommy Haas in the 4th round.
Federer had only one trip-up prior to the final in dropping a set in the quarterfinals to Juan Carlos Ferrero but he otherwise dominated 26-seed Marat Safin and 12-seed Richard Gasquet en route to his battle against Nadal.
In that final, the most grievous of cracks in Federer’s grass court armor were apparent as Nadal’s serve was broken only once in the first 4 sets and the Swiss Maestro’s frustration boiled over in an argument with Chair Umpire Pascal Maria about turning off the Hawkeye Review system. Eventually, Federer found his top-form just in time and won the final four games of the match including playing a stunning return game at 3-2 to earn the crucial first break of the final set.
A fun fact about this tournament: Federer’s 2nd round opponent was a young Argentinian named Juan Martin del Potro.
7. Wimbledon 2017
Seeds defeated: Cilic (7), Berdych (11), Raonic (6), Dimitrov (13), Zverev (27)
Sets lost: 0
Of all the blasphemy that some might detect in this list, I suspect that his might incite some of the strongest opposition.
That being said, I also think that the tennis world is in a state of awe over Federer’s resurgence this year to the point that it is somewhat blinded by the fact that the Swiss has indeed played much better tournaments than this year’s edition of The Championships.
Every single one of Federer’s chief rivals, aka the Big Four, was defeated by a different opponent and the two highest seeds that the Swiss did have to face down in Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic both played far from their best tennis.
But Federer was still stunning in this tournament, just not as much so as in the top-6 of these rankings. He didn’t drop a single set and at times looked utterly dominant. In particular, the flashbacks that many fans experienced during this fortnight were inspired not only by the eventual result of the tournament, but also by some fearsome Federer forehands with incredible injections of pace.
6. Wimbledon 2005
Seeds defeated: Roddick (2), Hewitt (3), Gonzalez (21), Ferrero (23)
Sets lost: 1
Federer won his third consecutive title at the All-England Club in dominant fashion. The 2005 edition of Wimbledon marked the only time that the Swiss defeated two of the top-3 seeds en route to a grand slam trophy.
The Swiss looked at his imperious best in defeating Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets to finish the tournament. Federer also defeated seeded opponents Fernando Gonzalez and Juan Carlos Ferrero during his dominant run, although were playing on what was likely their worst surface.
The World Number 1 dropped only a single set throughout the tournament and his overall level of play was simply astounding.
5. U.S. Open 2004
Seeds defeated: Hewitt (4), Henman (5), Agassi (6), Pavel (16), Santoro (31)
Sets lost: 3
Federer’s first triumph on the then-green hardcourts of Flushing Meadows was one of the most impressive of the five straight wins that were to come.
Federer defeated three of the tournament’s top-6 seeds in consecutive matches. He dominated 4th-seed Lleyton Hewitt in the final and 5th-seed Tim Henman in the semis. 34-year-old 6th-seed Andre Agassi offered the only real challenge of the tournament in taking Federer to 5 sets.
The Swiss defeated five seeded players overall and was truly in a class of his own as he dropped only three sets (one to Marcos Baghdatis in the 2nd round) en route to his third grand slam title of the season.
4. Australian Open 2004
Seeds defeated: Ferrero (3), Nalbandian (8), Hewitt (15)
Sets lost: 2
Federer’s run through the second week of what would eventually become his first championship in Austrlia featured one of the most difficult quartets in his grand slam career.
Home favorite Lleyton Hewitt was still in his absolute prime at this point despite his ranking having fallen due to both taking a break from the tour and having been upset in the first round of Wimbledon the previous year.
Federer’s next matches saw him take on one of his greatest rivals in the early stages of his career in Argentinean David Nalbandian and then 2003 U.S. Open finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Swiss won all three of those potentially challenging matches in strong fashion, dropping only a single set each to Hewitt and Nalbandian.
The final test was against unseeded Marat Safin. The Russian’s lack of a number next to his name on scoreboards did not affect his powerful run through the draw, defeating Americans James Blake, 1st-seed Andy Roddick, and 4th-seed Andre Agassi in consecutive matches to reach the final.
That run may have tapped Safin’s energy reserves however, as Federer dominated the Russian in straight sets en route to his second major title. The win also elevated the Swiss to the world number 1 ranking for the first time. It would not be until the summer of 2008 that he would have any other number next to his name.
3. Australian Open 2007
Seeds defeated: Gonzalez (10), Roddick (6), Robredo (7), Djokovic (14), Youzhny (25)
Sets lost: 0
This is when the list really starts to get even harder to order. After all, this particular tournament run looks incredible having just listed those two initial line items. Five top-25 players defeated – three in the top-10 – and zero sets lost.
Once again, Federer was on another level from the rest of the field. His wins over Mikhail Youzhny and then-19-year-old Novak Djokovic in the 3rd and 4th rounds were comprehensive and predictable. His ensuing dominance of 7th-seed Tommy Robredo was similarly expected.
It was in the final two rounds of the tournament when Federer played some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen. The straight sets shellacking of Andy Roddick was as one-sided of a major semifinal as I’ve ever seen.
Fernando Gonzalez was on fire coming into the final in Melbourne. He had destroyed three top-12 opponents – Tommy Haas, Rafael Nadal, and James Blake – in a row in straight sets. To his credit, the Chilean did not play poorly in the final, but rather drew out Federer’s top form en route to the Swiss finishing off a dominant fortnight.
2. Australian Open 2017
Seeds defeated: Nadal (9), Wawrinka (4), Nishikori (5), Berdych (10)
Sets lost: 7
Ironically, the major title in which Federer lost the most sets is one of his most impressive triumphs.
A large portion of what makes this tournament earn such a strong place on this list is the fact that it came out of nowhere. After 6 months away from the game and nearly 5 years without a major title, Federer suddenly caught fire in the 3rd round against 10th-seed Tomas Berdych. The Czech himself said afterward that he had never seen Federer play better.
The Swiss defeated four top-10 seeds overall in the tournament and also won three five-setters en route to the title. After his masterclass against Berdych, Federer out-lasted a spirited effort from 5th-seed Kei Nishikori, styled on Mischa Zverev, and won a slugfest over his countryman, 4th-seed Stan Wawrinka to set up one of the most anticipated clashes in tennis history. Overall, it’s certainly arguable that the level of competition that Federer faced in this tournament is the strongest of any of his 19 triumphs.
Federer vs. Nadal in this year’s Australian Open final was one of the most unexpected and incredible spectacles in not just tennis, but all sports. In what was one of his most impressive, unpredictable tournament triumphs, the Swiss had the appropriate final crown jewel to finish the job: Coming back when all looked lost against his arch-nemesis in the 5th set of the final while producing a number of jaw-dropping winners.
1. U.S. Open 2007
Seeds defeated: Djokovic (3), Davydenko (4), Roddick (5)
Sets lost: 2
This might not be the most memorable of Federer’s 19 grand slam wins. It didn’t have the surprise of the 2017 Australian Open, the dominance of the 2007 Australian Open, the record-breaking achievements of Wimbledon in 2007, 2009, or 2017, and it didn’t have the special occasion of 2009 Roland Garros.
But it was the right combination of dominance, very high level of play, and potent competition.
Federer dropped a pair of sets throughout the tournament, but cannot necessarily be faulted for either as one was to serving machine John Isner in a tiebreak and the other was to Spain’s Feliciano Lopez who came out of the gates in their 4th round match on fire. Ironically, Federer’s performance against Lopez may have actually been his best match of the tournament, but that’s not to say that others were poor. The level of play in that match was just off the charts.
In the end, Federer defeated three of the tournament’s top-5 seeds in the quarterfinals, semis, and final and all of them in straight sets. 3rd-seed Novak Djokovic had announced his arrival as a true contender and a solid third player in the world behind Federer and Rafael Nadal earlier in the summer. Indeed this was not the same Djokovic that we saw between 2011 and mid-2016, but he was still a formidable foe who had just beaten Federer weeks earlier. Meanwhile, 5th-seed Andy Roddick was still playing very good tennis and performed admirably in front of his home crowd in the quarterfinals. 4th-seed Nikolay Davydenko was in his prime at this point, but also was unable to slow the Fed Express.
The Swiss swept them all aside en route to what was then his 12th grand slam championship and his fourth consecutive at Flushing Meadows.