Australian sporting legend Rod Laver believes that Roger Federer remains “the champion of his era”, even as he enters the final year of his “best” tennis and Rafael Nadal closes in on a record-breaking 21st grand slam singles title.
One of the most consequential races in the tennis’ history is taking place on the men’s side, as what appeared to be an unassailable 20 grand slam singles titles for Federer has been matched by Nadal, with Novak Djokovic also closing fast on 17.
Laver, who holds 11 grand slam singles titles and a heartwarming friendship with Federer, said the Swiss maestro was still in his eyes this era’s best.
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“For me, I think Roger is the champion of his era. I think he’s certainly, you know, you look at his record and there’s a lot to say he’s the best of all-time,” Laver told foxsports.com.au from his home in California.
“But give some of the other guys a little bit more time, maybe they’ll come up and meet and be as good as Roger.
“Djokovic is certainly is on his way (along with Nadal) because he won a huge amount of tournaments and his consistency is amazing.”
Laver and Federer’s reverence for one another’s standing in tennis has often paved the way for touching scenes between the two.
In 2006, after defeating Marcos Baghdatis to claim his second Australian Open title, Federer broke down in tears when thanking Rod Laver for presenting him with the trophy before going over to hug the two-time calendar Grand Slam winner.
During a charity event in 2014 at Rod Laver Arena, a 75-year-old Laver was greeted with a standing ovation as he took to the court named after him before warming up with Federer.
The inaugural Laver Cup, a team-based competition held in different parts of the world that began in 2017, was spearheaded by Federer.
Laver said he had spoken with Federer, who missed the Australian Open this year for the first time this century, about how much longer he had left in the game before calling time on one of sport’s most decorated careers.
“Roger, when I chatted to him the past year or so, he thought he’d play his best until he’s 40 and I think he’s pretty much on it (Federer turns 40 in August),” Laver said.
“Unfortunately, you know, his knee has been giving him some trouble. So he had an operation on the knee that will set him in good position.
“I wouldn’t think too much about him winning the French, but I think Wimbledon is certainly going to be there and the US Open. I think he can win more tournaments.
“He loves to play, loves to compete. You know, he loves the environment he’s in. I think he can see when you got Djokovic and you’ve got Nadal, you know, in the same time – it’s so unusual to have such great players all at one time.”