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Tuesday / June 19.
  • Awed by Federer’s Longevity at the Top, Roddick, Hewitt Say He Can Continue to Win Majors

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    NEW YORK — When Roger Federer first began winning Grand Slam titles and establishing his dominance over the tennis world in the early 2000s, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt were among his chief rivals.

    Now both men are retired and awed by Federer’s longevity at the top of the game.

    “I think Lleyton and I are the last people who should be surprised by anything Roger does on a tennis court,” the newly-minted Hall of Famer Roddick told me during a press conference Sunday to introduce the The 10th Anniversary of the BNP Paribas Showdown on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

    “But I’m still just sitting back in awe. If you tell me that at his age he goes off of surgery and hasn’t played in six months and goes and just wins a Grand Slam where he’s beating great players in five sets, it’s just amazing. A lot of words have been said about how great it is and I don’t know that they’re enough.”

    At 35, Federer won his elusive 18th Grand Slam title in January at the Australian Open, taking out Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and long-time rival Rafael Nadal along the way to help solidify his status as The Greatest of All Time.

    Federer’s win increased the gap between him and Nadal on the all-time Majors list to 18-14 entering the French Open, where Nadal has won nine times. Had Nadal won the Australian Open, it would have been trimmed to a 17-15 Federer lead.

    “Yeah, I was there,” said Hewitt, who reached No. 1 in the world in the pre-Federer Era and will captain the World team against Roddick’s Americas team on Monday night. “I witnessed the Australian Open between two unbelievable champions in Roger and Rafa, and it’s done so much for our sport”

    Hewitt added: “Roger has pretty much done everything. You can never write off a true champion, and Roger’s certainly that. Greatest player ever probably to play our sport. What he did down in Melbourne this year was quite remarkable after six months off, not playing since Wimbledon and then to go out and play those five-set matches like he did and handle the pressure in situations, that’s his luck. Good on him.

    “You love having true champions stay around as long as possible. I don’t think we want to keep asking him when he’s going to retire because the more he’s out there playing the game, the better it is for our sport in general. So I think think it’s fantastic.”

    Federer recently agreed to play in his hometown Swiss Indoors event through 2019, when he will be 38 years old.

    So do Roddick and Hewitt believe the Swiss Maestro can continue to challenge for major titles through that age?

    “Time is undefeated in sports but Roger and Venus and Serena, they’re all giving it a hell of a run right now, aren’t they?” Roddick said as he was seated next to Venus Williams, the older sister of Serena Williams, who won an Open-Era record 23rd Grand Slam event in Melbourne.

    “It’s amazing to me because he announces a three-year commitment to a tournament and I’m actually not surprised by it,” Roddick added of Federer. “That’s the ultimate compliment. I can actually envision him still being a great player. I think it’s his choice how long he wants to stay in the Top 10, barring good health. I think he’s a generational talent, if his body holds up. He has so many different options in terms of how he can play with his spins, serve and volleying and staying back. It’s not that surprising to me.”

    Hewitt, who won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002, believes Federer remains a contender to win at least one more title at Wimbledon, where his attacking style had already led to seven championships on the slick grass surface.

    “Yeah, I think before he won the Australian Open, if you’re would’ve asked me if he had one left in him, I thought Wimbledon, the way draws can open, obviously the grass court, slightly quicker points,” Hewitt said. “But the Australian Open surface was quite quick this year, especially Center Court and I think that helped Roger. So Wimbledon with the right draw I think certainly is an opportunity for him.”

    Meantime, former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic remains stuck on 12 Grand Slam titles after failing to win once since holding all four major titles after last year’s French Open.

    Speculation is flying in the tennis world about what might be wrong with the Serb and whether he will recapture his mojo.

    “I think Novak is almost falling into a similar situation as you’ve seen with Roger and Rafa where they’re not doing anything wrong, they’re just kind of a victim of their own shadow,” Roddick said. “Nick [Kyrgios] served 25 aces against him last week, played perfect tennis and we’re going, ‘Oh, no, Novak lost.’ Well that happens. You’re playing the best players in the world every week, and I guess as a player I’m a little bit more biased to go, ‘OK, he’s not having his best results over the last eight months, but for me that just gives me more of an appreciation for what he did for five years.”


    Roger Federer – 18

    Rafa Nadal – 14

    Pete Sampras – 14

    Novak Djokovic – 12

    Roy Emerson – 12

    Bjorn Borg – 11

    Rod Laver – 11

    Bill Tilden – 10

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.