Thursday 30 May 2013
Roland Garros 2013 marks Roger Federer's 54 consecutive Grand Slam. Wimbledon.com ponders on the Wimbledon champion's remarkable major record...
The Wimbledon champion is "a blessed freak of nature".
At least that's how Rafael Nadal views Roger Federer, who is playing in his 54th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, putting him just a Wimbledon Championships and a US Open short of equalling Wayne Ferreira's record of 56. So while the French Open represents Nadal's return to the white heat of Grand Slam competition - he hadn't played at the majors since last summer's Wimbledon - Federer keeps rolling and sliding on and on. Nadal missed last year's US Open and this season's Australian Open because of his chronic knee pain, and Andy Murray withdrew from this Roland Garros because of a back problem, and yet their older rival - Federer will turn 32 this summer - has never come close to sending his apologies. It's not that Federer hasn't had his problems - he's gone through back pain, and also glandular fever - but he's never had to miss one of the Slams.
Nadal's theory is that Federer doesn't just have the talent to play tennis; he also has the physique and the DNA, that he was born to swing a racket. "I've had to push and mould my body to adapt it to cope with the repetitive muscle stress that tennis forces on you, but he just seems to have been born to play the game," Nadal wrote in his autobiography. "His physique - his DNA - seems perfectly adapted to tennis, rendering him immune to the injuries the rest of us are doomed to put up with. They tell me he doesn't train as hard as I do. I don't know if it's true, but it would figure. You get these blessed freaks of nature in other sports too. The rest of us just have to learn to live with pain, and long breaks from the game, because a foot, a shoulder, or a leg has sent a cry for help to the brain, asking it to stop."
There are no voices in Federer's head asking him to take a break; he appears to enjoy the lifestyle and the competition as much now as he has ever done. So, since he made his debut at the slams at the 2000 US Open, as a teenager, he has always been on the draw-sheet. "I don't know what the record is, what the number one is," Federer said after opening his French Open with a straight-sets victory over Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta. "I've never been close to missing a Grand Slam, to be honest. Now here we are. It's incredible. I never thought I was going to play that many, have that many opportunities to do well at the Slams. And clearly I'm happy about it, but they don't buy me victories. In a Slam where you know you're going to enter best-of-five set matches over two weeks, you have to be at your best and you need to feel like you can compete with the best at the highest of levels for a long period of time. There are no shortcuts in best-of-five set matches, and I'm always up for the challenge. I'm happy that I've been able to do that for do long."
Perhaps this fortnight in Paris will see Federer adding to two other numbers. He has reached the quarter-finals or better at the last 35 Grand Slams. And, if everything goes his way in the south west of the city, he will extend his collection of Slam titles to 18. And then on to No.55, The Championships at Wimbledon.
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