No one is saying this but the reason Roger Federer is still winning Grand Slams and hitting World No. 1 is because men’s tennis is in a right state. The rest of the big four or five are all crocked, and the next generation are not challenging or even coming through at the same rate as before.
A 36-year-old still ruling tennis is a sad indictment of the game. Golf is not like this. Tiger Woods is solely responsible for having inspired a new wave of fitter, faster and further-hitting athletic golfers, and he has dragged the sport into a more professional era.
Ironically, the way he busted a gut earlier on in his career to do just that has been his undoing, because at 42-years-old his body has given up and there are now an endless stream of players who can beat him. It’s a younger man’s game now more than ever before and there are far more contenders. He’s also been out a very long time, Federer’s last Grand Slam before last year’s Australian Open win was Wimbledon in 2012, but he was winning ATP tournaments every year in between – 13 to be exact. Woods’ barren spell has been a lot worse, not only has he not won a Major since 2008, he’s also not even won a tournament since 2013. There’s also too much pressure on him because he needs this so badly. He got so painstakingly close – four away – from Jack Nicklaus’ record Majors tally of 18 before it all very publicly fell apart, and now he lacks the stability, confidence and the support network it needs to just play with ease. He’s desperate not to look back at his career with thoughts of what might have been, whereas Federer is just playing for fun and could walk away from it all tomorrow, and that reflects in his play.
Deputy Sports Editor
Tiger is unique among golfers. Many aspire to be like him but no one has come even close in the 22 years since he turned professional. This is a man who does not quit. Personally and professionally, he has overcome more adversities than some of the entire fields he has faced.
Scandals, injuries and operations: He is still here. He won the 2008 US Open with a broken leg and cruciate ligament damage. Many of these younger, supposedly fitter players throw in the towel at the slightest twinge in the back.
Yes, his aggressive style has taken its toll on his body and age is doing him no favours, but as me has proven so often, the mind can make the body to amazing things.
He has also altered his style so as not to damage his spine, forsaking some of that monster yardage we all knew him for in his earlier playing days. But as recent results have shown since his latest comeback, that vision of his can more than make up for a lack of distance. Also, it’s not as if he is all of a sudden only driving 200 yards instead of 350. He can still keep up with the young pretenders. Add into that his masterful short game and you have an all-round artillery that many on the tour would gladly swap their own playing abilities for.
Trust me, take a look at the leaderboard on moving day at Augusta in three weeks’ time and I’m pretty sure you will see a Tiger lurking, just waiting for the chance to pounce when others choke on the toughest fairways and greens in the game.