Roger Federer: One of the All-Time Greats?

As Roger Federer lifted the champion's trophy above his head after picking-up yet another grand slam title, the tennis fans around the world resumed the debate that is dominating the sport: Is Roger Federer the best player to ever swing a racket?

Sports are filled with superstars, but legends are few and far between. The title of "best ever" is even rarer.

Players like basketball's Michael Jordan and hockey's Wayne Gretzky hold those unofficial all-time honors. Tiger Woods is now up there with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer on most best-golfer lists. But tennis is a sport that has seen many dominate throughout different eras.

There was Don Budge, the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles in a single year, 1937. He dominated the sport in the 1930s and '40s.

The '50s belonged to Australians Ken Roswall and Rod Laver.

Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors dominated the 1970s.

The early '80s belonged to Bjorn Borg, before a young upstart named John McEnroe changed the way tennis was played.

And in the '90s, American Pete Sampras revolutionized the game again, winning a record 14 Grand Slam titles in the process.

Still, while the torch has been passed from generation to generation, Cindy Shmerler, broadcaster for the Tennis Channel and contributing editor of Tennis magazine, said Federer is now untouchable, and that he is making his own run at the "best-ever" title.

"Not only is he so dominating on every surface," said Shmerler. "I don't see anybody that can beat him in any way, shape or form."

From Champion-in-Waiting to the Best Ever

Federer's come a long way, according to Shmerler, who's been covering tennis for nearly 30 years. In a 2003 article for Tennis magazine, Shmerler wrote about him as a 21-year-old newcomer who she described as a "champion-in-waiting," despite his inconsistent and rocky record.

Nearly four years later, at just 25, Federer has already racked up quite a long list of accomplishments. Currently ranked number one in the world, Federer picked up his 10th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with a win in straight sets (7-6, 6-4, 6-4) over Chilean Fernando Gonzalez.

He didn't drop a single set en route to the Aussie Open title, a feat last accomplished in a major tournament nearly 30 years ago, by Borg in 1980. In the past 13 months, Federer has lost only five matches.

Four of those five loses were to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, currently ranked number two in the world, and Federer's nemesis. Nadal defeated the Swiss superstar in 2006 French Open final at Roland Garros -- denying Federer the only Grand Slam title he has yet to win.

The tennis world is watching to see if Federer can win the French Open and become the first man since Laver in 1969 to take all four Grand Slam titles in one year. It's something McEnroe and Sampras could never do.

Staying Power

With a long career ahead of him, Shmerler expects Federer's humility and humor will give him staying power as a popular star that Sampras and McEnroe lacked nearing the end of their careers.

"Fans got bored of Pete, they got bored of Borg, and Federer doesn't have the controversy of McEnroe," said Shmerler. "What makes him so tremendous is not only his tennis game, but his personality. It almost adds to his aura of greatness."

And, said Shmerler, while those other champions may have had their day in the sun, Federer has the potential to be something more.

"There's a certain mentality that superheroes have that mere mortals don't," she said. "Roger certainly has it. Among his peers, and certainly among the last decade [of tennis pros], there's no question that he's the greatest."

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