BOBBY HARRISON: Greatness, not controversy, defines Roger Federer

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – If golfer Tiger Woods had accomplished what tennis player Roger Federer did over the weekend, the media still would be talking about it.
Had Tiger Woods ended his four-year drought and won his 15th major tournament championship this past weekend, sports talk radio shows, sports television programs and all of the print media would have been dominated by the feat.
Sure Federer’s Wimbledon championship – his 17th major tournament championship – received a substantial amount of media coverage, but it would have been dwarfed by the attention Woods would have received had he won one of his sport’s four major championships. It should be noted here that each sport has four grand slam events each year, where the true measure of the competitors is gauged.
Golf in general receives more attention. I have often joked that the reason for that is that sports reporters tend to be out-of-shape and thus not very interested in tennis where a certain amount of physical fitness is required to play at a competent level.
Golf is a more friendly game to those who lack that certain level of physical fitness.
Maybe, physical level is not an issue, but it is obvious golf is a more popular game with the sports media.
The Tiger Woods-Roger Federer comparison proves that.
But my intent is not to dump on or criticize Tiger Woods. I am more apt to watch a golf tournament if he is competing.
My intent – on the other hand – is to try to point out to the average sports fan what they are missing if not paying attention to the career of Roger Federer.
In fairness to American sports reporters, tennis is now a sport dominated – at least on the male side – by non-Americans. Federer is Swiss. His top rivals also are Europeans. American sports reporters tend to be more interested in American athletes.
And the competitive life of tennis players is generally short. Thus the public has a relatively short period to get to know the athletes.
Federer, who will be 31 in August, is only the third player over the age of 30 to win Wimbledon and the first 30-year-old on the male side to win any grand slam tournament since 2003.
For the most part, the players Federer competed against at what would be considered his prime in his early to mid 20s are in dramatic decline or in some cases have retired from the game.
Besides capturing Wimbledon this past weekend, he also regained the world’s No. 1 ranking.
Wimbledon was Federer’s 17th grand slam championship – the most in history. American Pete Sampras, who was beginning his decline as Federer emerged on the scene, has the second most grand slam championships at 14.
Federer has been not only great, but consistent in grand slam events, where – as stated – the true measure is taken of both tennis players and golfers. He has reached the quarterfinal of grand slam events a record 33 consecutive times. Most players – both tennis players and golfers – cannot even compete in 33 consecutive grand slam events because of injury woes.
Wood with 14 golf grand slam championships is second to Jack Nicklaus who has 18. Of course, the career of a golfer is much longer than that of tennis players. Nicklaus won his last grand slam championship at age 46. Woods is 36.
Perhaps the biggest reason Federer does not receive more coverage is that he is boring. He is not controversial and is thoughtful and polite when being interviewed.
No doubt, if he were more controversial, he would be a bigger story. After all, we love controversy.
But we also should appreciate greatness.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at or (601) 353-3119.

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