Who rivals Roger Federer's accolades? Perhaps just one: Steffi Graf
Why do we love records? We love records because they provide empirical evidence for debate, they validate -- or invalidate -- our gut feelings (is Rafael Nadal the greatest clay court player ever or am I just craving a sandwich?), and to state the obvious, they're recognition that we're seeing something being done that has simply never been done before.
With Roger Federer's record-breaking 287th week at No. 1 this week, he's effectively hijacked almost every meaningful record in the men's record books. Most major titles? Check. Most weeks at No. 1? Check. Most consecutive weeks at No. 1? Check. Career Grand Slam? Check.
The fact that he was able to do all this amongst a group of contemporaries that includes Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, and Lleyton Hewitt, makes his set of numbers even more astonishing. The list of his record-setting achievements goes on and on, including the one stat that, for my money, is THE Roger Federer stat: reaching a record 33 consecutive Slam quarterfinals. It's one thing to possess a game that can dominate. It's quite another to bring it consistently over seven years and avoid the inexplicable early-round losses. If the true measure of greatness is longevity, Federer's sustained consistency is second to none.
There are few tennis players who can rival him in he record books these days, but Federer's most recent achievement made me go back and take a look at another Wimbledon-loving player with a big forehand and one-handed backhand, who put up some numbers that still make my jaw drop to this day: the one and only Steffi Graf.
Here are some of my favorite Steffi stats:
• The only player, male or female, to complete the Golden Slam, which she did in 1988.
• Her 22 Slam singles titles remains the Open Era record for both men and women. Five to go, Roger.
• Won all four Slams at least four times. Talk about an all-court player.
• Made 13 consecutive Slam finals.
• Reached final of all four Slams in a calendar year 3 times
• Spent a record 377 weeks at No. 1
• Ended the year at No. 1 eight times.
• In 1987 and 1989, made the finals of every tournament she played. Think about that.
• Played in 36 Slams and made the final 22 times with a winning percentage of 81 percent in the finals (22-9). It's obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison, as the depth of the women's game at the time is always a subject of debate, though I would argue that it's a somewhat unfair charge (Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Gabriela Sabatini were no hacks). And of course there's the "what if" game surrounding Monica Seles' stabbing in 1993, which derailed her career right when she had cemented herself as Graf's only true rival. But the numbers are still startling on paper (all four Slams at least four times?), and ones that I suspect, may never be broken.