This article was written by Melissa Muscat.
As I mentioned in my last article, I can’t really name a favourite sport as I get enjoyment from many, but the Australian Open is my favourite time of year. The hype and intrigue of some of the best sportsmen and women in the world coming to play a major tournament in our country is exciting. All eyes are on Melbourne, Australia for two weeks in January and I do love a good game of tennis.
Whilst I can’t name my favourite sport, I can without hesitation name my favourite sports people. Roger Federer, Serena Williams, David Beckham and formerly Jarryd Hayne. I can see all the male readers rolling their eyes at Beckham, but the man did bring a lot to the world game, not just his infamous hairstyles and very good looks. I do think he is the most handsome man to grace this earth though but moving right along, Roger and Serena, their talents and achievements speak for themselves and they are wonderful ambassadors for their sport. Hayne, well to keep it polite, I’ve moved on from that saga.
It’s a big call, stating someone is the best or as commonly known today, The Goat…Greatest Of All Time…especially when a person has only lived through one era. There are quite a few sports stars with so many astounding achievements and records. Muhammad Ali, Pele, Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps. I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg but these names are synonymous with greats, regardless of whether you watch sport or not.
For me, I can’t look past Federer though. He has all the sporting attributes, but ultimately the thing that sets him apart from most, is longevity. As does Serena. People keep harping on about Federer’s age…which you can tell in interviews annoys him a little as well…but from entering the top 100 in 1999 and winning his first Grand Slam in 2003 at Wimbledon, he has been at the top of his game for almost 15 years…and still going strong. Astoundingly, he doesn’t look likely to retire anytime soon either.
I remember approximately four years ago when I was barracking for the FedExpress and there were some saying to me ‘Forget it he’s done, he won’t win another Slam, he should just retire…and he probably won’t be back in Australia’. Thank goodness the man had self belief even when I’m sure he had doubts and heard his critics, because if he didn’t he’d be capped at 17 Slams, which is nothing to be ashamed of but he wouldn’t have realised his full potential. Since winning his 18th Major at last year’s Australian Open, Federer has won another two Grand Slams, most recently last Sunday at Rod Laver Arena, not dropping a set in the lead up to the final, defeating opponents up to 15 years younger and hardly working up a sweat in the process. All whilst remaining No.1 gentleman. I’m not sure what I enjoy more, watching him play or his post match conferences with Jim Courier. The guy has some serious wit but above all remains all class on and off the court. His playing style seems effortless, just so gracious. I firmly believe which is what has kept him relatively fit.
I may come under scrutiny for what I’m about to say next. There is no doubting also the legend that is Rafael Nadal. His achievements on clay court are phenomenal, but I personally believe Nadal’s playing style is a little too aggressive for the sport of tennis. I always thought his style was more suited to professional soccer player. Tennis requires a lot of stamina and patience with some games lasting four to five hours and you can see Federer steps up the aggression when needed but he also paces himself allowing the spectators to witness a classy, superior style of play. This for me sets him apart as the greatest tennis player that is and ever was. Whilst Federer has encountered a few injuries I don’t believe they are as serious and as taxing as what Nadal’s have been, which is what may have set the Spaniard back in recent times. Nadal is also five years younger than Federer though so he may not be done just yet.
It is a privilege to be able to witness an athlete of Federer’s calibre in this lifetime, to do so in person is something extra special. To watch him win a Major in our own backyard whilst the opportunity exists shouldn’t be missed. Melbourne in January has an amazing vibe and I recommend every Australian who enjoys watching sport at one of the most elite levels, goes to the Australian Open at some point in their lives. It’s evident that tennis is physical and skillful but seeing some of them big hits in real life is even more impressive. You can feel the speed at which they are gliding, I would definitely not want to be a ball boy in the wrong path of a stray hit by the likes of Federer, Cilic or Nadal. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Federer win two Grand Slams in 2010 and 2018 and when we are talking greatest sporting moments, for me it’s up there in this lifetime.