LONDON: Just two years after capturing his first Grand Slam crown, Roger Federer is already being hailed as one of the greatest players ever to have picked up a tennis racquet.
The Swiss world number one wrote his name into the record books on Sunday after becoming only the fourth man – following Fred Perry, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras – to win a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles since end of the Challenge round in 1922.
One bookmaker has already quoted odds at 9-4 for Federer to win the next three years and eclipse Borg's run of five consecutive titles and at 7-1 to outdo Sampras's haul of seven.
“He is the greatest natural talent in tennis I've ever seen,” said three-times former champion John McEnroe, who was commentating on the final.
“He is the most beautiful player I've ever seen. I love to watch the guy play, he's an awesome talent.”
Federer first burst on to the scene as a 19-year-old when he snapped Sampras's 31-match winning streak on grass in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2001.
Frustratingly for Federer, he never even cracked the fourth round during his next seven visits to the four Majors.
But once he conquered his nerves to capture his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, critics and tennis players alike were quick to laud his talent.
“I would be honoured to even be compared with Roger,” said Australian great Rod Laver, the only player to win two Grand Slams.
“He is such an unbelievable talent and is capable of anything. Roger could be the greatest tennis player of all time.”
Laver's compatriot Tony Roche, who now coaches the Swiss, was equally effusive.
“Like Rod, Roger has the skills with so many options and a wonderful variation of strokeplay,” said Roche.
“He can rally from the baseline, use the slice and drop shots and play the winning volley.
“I haven't seen such a complete player around for so long and I'd put him up there with Laver.”
Federer a season-best 11 titles last year and has already claimed another eight in 2005, winning on three different surfaces.
Since Czech Jiri Novak beat Federer in the Gstaad title match two years ago, the Swiss has won a record 21 consecutive finals.
“His demeanour on court is pretty similar to mine,” Sampras has said.
“He's pretty relaxed, goes out and plays. He doesn't have any holes in his game and he's a great athlete.”
Federer claimed his fifth Grand Slam at Wimbledon and his earnings are already nearing the US$18mil mark, all at the age of 23.
“The way he plays, mixing up the shots, and the way he approaches match after match, he has set himself apart from the rest of the guys in the game,” said twice former Wimbledon champion Jimmy Connors.
“He wants to set records, he wants people 15 years from now, 100 years from now to look back and say during his era, he was the absolute best.” – Reuters
ROLL OF HONOUR
MEN'S SINGLES (£630,000): ROGER FEDERER (Swi)
WOMEN'S SINGLES (£600,000): VENUS WILLIAMS (US)
MEN'S DOUBLES (£218,500): STEPHEN HUSS-WESLEY MOODIE (Aus-Rsa)
WOMEN'S DOUBLES (£203,250): CARA BLACK- LIEZEL HUBER (Zim-Rsa)
MIXED DOUBLES (£90,000): MAHESH BHUPATHI-MARY PIERCE (Ind-Fra)
BOY'S SINGLES: JEREMY CHARDY (Fra)
GIRL'S SINGLES: AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (Pol)
BOY'S DOUBLES: JESSE LEVINE-MICHAEL SHABAZ (US)
GIRL'S DOUBLES: VIKTORIA AZARENKA-AGNES SZAVAY (Blr-Hun)