Cassilo: Federer’s dominance may never be seen again

David Cassilo

At the fragile age of eight years old, I was told I would no longer be spending my Thursday mornings of summer at the pool but instead at the local tennis courts. As I walked onto the court, the heat overwhelmed me, and I knew I would much rather be playing Escape from Alcatraz at the side of the pool. However, every Thursday my parents continued to hand me over to Olga, my massive German tennis instructor. With fear of both the ball and Olga now a major concern, this quickly became a lousy place to spend Thursday mornings. I attempted to learn forehands and backhands, but it got to a point where I would celebrate just hitting the ball back over the net. As the weeks progressed the only things I looked forward to was that magical basket used to pick up tennis balls by just pushing down on the top of one and the smell from opening a new can of balls. Needless to say, I lost my Thursday mornings that summer and gained no real tennis skills.Tennis just seemed like a remarkably difficult game to me. I excelled at several sports in my life but found tennis to be the most challenging. It was like hitting a baseball while running 10 miles over two hours. While I did not develop into the best of tennis players, I did develop an appreciation for how hard it was to master such a physically draining game. That is why I look on in awe at what Roger Federer has done in his career. He is not only the greatest tennis player in the game today, but he has dominated in such a way that may never be seen again in any sport. As Federer took home his fourth U.S. Open title and 12th career grand slam event this past Sunday, it provoked me to analyze just how amazing he has been these last few years. Over his past 16 grand slam events, he has won 11 times, finished second twice and has only once failed to advance to at least the semi-finals. You want dominance? Federer has been ranked No. 1 in the world for the past 188 weeks, a record in men’s tennis. During the 188 weeks preceding Federer reaching that No. 1 status, the world’s top ranking had changed hands 13 different times. It’s utter and complete domination, and what makes it even more impressive is that men’s tennis is experiencing one of the highest levels of competition since the 1980s. Ask Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko how much more fame and success they’d have if Federer did not exist. Quite frankly, Federer has become to tennis what the Boston Celtics once were to basketball.These past two weeks have shown why there is simply no one at his level. Take the Federer-Roddick match for example. Roddick serves the ball at 140 mph or, in comparable terms, 40 mph faster than any one has thrown a baseball. Yet Federer stands at the baseline and calmly flicks the ball that could legitimately kill him back over the net. A couple hours later, Federer breezes by in straight sets. Then in the final against Djokovic, he reminds everyone he’s as competitive as he is talented. In the Canada Masters just weeks before the U.S. Open, Djokovic beat the highly favored Federer. As they met again in the U.S. Open final, Djokovic looked like he was in charge early on and was on the verge of taking the first set. Although he had five chances to go up one set to none, Federer bore down and denied every single one of them. After what would prove to be the turning point en route to Federer’s victory, he glanced quickly at Djokovic as if to say, “You may be good, but you’re nowhere near my level yet.”Unfortunately for most of America, you weren’t watching. In the United States, this past weekend meant football to all sports fans, and two men hitting a yellow ball back and forth couldn’t possibly be considered better entertainment than watching giant men hit each other as hard as they can. Don’t get me wrong; I love football as much as anyone you can think of, and when the New York Giants win or lose my whole mood changes till the next Sunday. However, this past Sunday was another missed opportunity for many to watch sport’s greatest performer on one of the sport’s biggest stages.The sad reality is that one of the main reasons we are letting brilliance pass before our eyes is that Federer is from Switzerland and not from the United States like Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras all were. As Larry David once put it, all Americans know about Switzerland is, “They ski and eat chocolate.” Nothing was more evidence of this than during ESPN’s ridiculous “Who’s Now” competition this summer. In the moronic concept that pinned stars from every sport against each other in a bracket to see who was more “now” (still not quite sure what that means), Federer faced off against Tony Parker in the first round. America voted, and the second best player on the San Antonio Spurs beat the greatest player of all-time basically only because Parker is married to Eva Longoria, leading me to question if ESPN is even a sports network anymore.My request to you is to watch Federer play in a tennis match. Watch him gracefully race around the court hitting absurd shots that defy physics. Watch him finally beat Nadal in the French Open to capture the major that has eluded him his whole career. Watch him become the first man to ever win 15 Grand Slam titles. More importantly, watch him so you can say you just saw the greatest athlete in the world.———————-David Cassilo is a sophomore from Chatham, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]