Roger Federer: Astonishing Longevity

Whenever Roger Federer loses, not just this year at 31, but since the days of pure domination faded, less knowledgeable critics are the first to say he is old, he is slower, he should retire. Age is just a number, but sometimes that must be matched with acceptance of life. The bigger picture. The Swiss maestro is 31, turning 32 soon, on August 8. His twin daughters will turn 4 this July 23, and his life has changed in recent years.

What has not changed is his love for the sport, his passion and will to continue playing tennis. Wednesday’s shocking loss was only that because it was a first, ever. Since becoming the great Roger Federer as we have known, the Swiss star has never, repeat it, never lost before the quarterfinals of a grand slam. For nearly six years, he never lost before the semifinal stage. Until Wednesday. Again the questions came up, how much longer will he play, when will he retire?


Such questions and remarks are simply insulting. Well established for years now as the Greatest Of All Time, Federer may be reaching the end, or not quite yet. The Swiss maestro can defy the obstacles of age, wear and tear, to a degree. He has before, and certainly can again. Looking ahead, it is important to consider the mileage accumulated playing on the ATP World Tour.

Below are the current top 10 (name, age, win-loss record, total matches played, % matches played compared to Federer). Also included are 35 year old Tommy Haas, 2-time grand slam champion, Lleyton Hewitt, and retired greats Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi).

Federer, 31, 904-205, 1109
Djokovic, 26, 502-128, 630, 57%
Murray, 26, 406-128, 534, 48%
Ferrer, 31, 525-257, 782, 71%
Nadal, 27, 626-124, 750, 66%
Berdych, 27, 407-226, 633, 57%
Tsonga, 28, 273-122, 395, 35%
Del Potro, 24, 274-115, 389, 35%
Gasquet, 27, 328-195, 523, 47%
Wawrinka, 28, 281-186, 467, 42%
Haas, 35, 527-294, 821, 74%
Hewitt, 32, 574-226, 800, 72%

Sampras, 31 when stopped playing, 762-222, 984, 89%
Agassi, 36 when stopped playing, 870-274, 1144, 103%

As seen above, even though Ferrer (age 31), Haas (age 35), and Hewitt (age 32) are the same age or older than Federer, their careers have went a different path. Injury lay-offs, surgeries, or rising to the top midway to later on are all relevant in comparisons of the mileage of playing on the tour. His biggest rival, Rafael Nadal, has played 66% of the number of matches Federer has played. At 27, he has already had two long layoffs due to his knees. Playing styles and scheduling also contribute significantly.

Only Jimmy Connors (1249-277, 1526), Ivan Lendl (1071-239, 1310), and Guillermo Vilas (923-284, 1207) have played more and won more matches in their careers. However, they all come from very different eras, making it subjective to compare.

Roger Federer is the definition of longevity in tennis history.
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