Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Most Underrated Athlete In Sports?

First of all, I admit that I'm using the dreaded "underrated" word in this post. No other description can vault an athlete from obscurity to over-exposure as quickly. The only exception to this rule was the great New York Jets running back Curtis Martin who, despite playing in New York, managed to become one of the top five leading rushers in NFL history without much fanfare.

Today, t
he most underrated athlete may exist on the tennis courts, which is exactly why Roger Federer is underrated. Any tennis follower will sing his praises, so it's not like he's under-appreciated in his sport. It's just that tennis is....well, it's tennis.

Growing up, I would watch Wimbledon because it was in the summer, which meant no school and it was on while I was eating breakfast or lunch. But during the 1990's, men's tennis consisted of the following: big serve, possible return, kill shot. Sometimes there was no return, which is just oodles of fun to watch. I often travel to tennis courts to watch people practice their serves because it's just so entertaining. And by entertaining, I mean life-suckingly boring.

So while most people know Roger Federer's name and understand he and Rafael Nadal are t
he top two players today, I don't think many of us get Federer's historical greatness.

He very well may be the best tennis player of all time.

If you ar
en't a hockey fan, you still know the name Wayne Gretzky. Soccer isn't big here, but everyone has heard of Pele. Yet, mention tennis and I bet you get names like Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, or John McEnroe.

Federer has passed them all. His tennis game is a paragon that is effective on any playing surface in any part of the world.

Don't take my word for it, just look at the numbers: Federer is tied with Pete Sampras with the most majors titles (14). But Sampras never won at the French Open. Federer now has, which makes him only the sixth player in tennis history to have a career grand slam (winning Wimbledon, the French, U.S., and Australian opens.) He's only the second player in the modern era to do it, the other being Andre Agassi.

Critics point out that Federer didn't beat Rafa Nadal to win the French Open, but it's not Federer's fault that Nadal got upset earlier. That's part of Federer's greatness, he's always around. He can be beat, but he rarely beats himself, just like Iceman from "Top Gun."

So I'm officially giving Roger Federer his due. The greatest tennis player that I've ever seen play. I only saw him play once though, it's still tennis and it's still boring.

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