Last week, I had the privilege of watching Roger Federer beat his longtime rival Rafael Nadal in a fourth-round match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Federer went on to win the tournament.
Tennis has long been a young person’s game, with the majority of the top players from both the men’s and women’s pro tour being in their 20s. At 35, an age when many tennis players have retired or considered retirement (Pete Sampras, for example, announced his retirement at 32), Roger Federer is finding success again with his latest wins in Indian Wells and at the Australian Open (his first grand slam win in five years). His resurgence has garnered him a GQ cover and a profile by Rosecrans Baldwin in the magazine’s latest issue. Baldwin asked Federer about what it felt like to win his latest grand slam title:
So how did it compare with the others? The 2009 French Open stands out, Federer said, when he clinched the Career Grand Slam and also tied Sampras’s record of 14 Slam titles. Then he beat Andy Roddick at Wimbledon a few weeks later—during the same summer that Mirka gave birth to their first children, their twin girls—and the record was his. A magical summer. But still, he said, “this one feels very different.” Less about legend, more about legacy. After a silence, Federer mused, “You have a better perspective when you’re older. You’re more at peace.” A second later, “Sometimes you want it more because you know time isn’t on your side.”
It’s a lovely profile of an athlete reaching the twilight of his career. Unfortunately, GQ undermined the story with a single tweet:
Which quickly prompted the following responses:
It’s a good reminder that Roger Federer is not the only one finding success late in his sporting career—Serena Williams is also winning titles and breaking records at 35 (and let’s not forget about her sister Venus). “Thirty is the new 10!” Serena exclaimed at this year’s Australian Open. When Serena and Roger won their respective singles titles in Australia, I deemed them both the “Greatest of All Time,” which set off a few of our readers who had other players in mind.
Designating G.O.A.T.s can be polarizing, but this isn’t the first case of “don’t forget about Serena” and it likely won’t be the last. When current number one-ranked men’s tennis player Andy Murray won an Olympic gold medal in Rio, BBC host John Inverdale incorrectly congratulated Murray on being the first person to win two Olympic gold medals in tennis. Murray quickly corrected Inverdale: “Well, [first person] to defend the singles title. I think Venus and Serena have won about four each, but hadn’t defended a singles title before.”
Personally, as a long-time fan of the sport, and a Federer admirer, I have no problem with calling Serena Williams the “Greatest of All Time, Period” (don’t @ me). Clearly, I’m not the only one.