"For men may come and men may go, But I go on forever. "
Tracing back the timeline, it really is a wonderful spectacle to see how over the expanse of nearly two decades, the name of a certain Roger Federer replete with all his teenage angst maturing into breathtaking grace blended and rolled into the world of tennis to charm it for an eternity.
The pages of the record book flutter and keep busy as the Swiss Maestro glides across the courts with his signature balletic finesse. Having been familiar with the haloed grounds for tennis throughout a major phase of his career, Federer is no stranger to big moments and has long since, armoured himself to notch up his game and bedazzle the opponent when a match heads towards a topsy-turvy side.
Although Federer doesn't usually like to waste time by playing prolonged matches that run to five sets, nevertheless several players have inched dangerously close in threatening Federer's reign as the greatest of all-time. If any of them came the nearest in achieving that feat, it must be the current Spaniard World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
The most delectable clashes that took place in five sets happen to be with the Mallorca born which led to the display of the highest quality of tennis possible. Every time Federer has made a marvellous use of his experience and his calm control to get the better of his opponents in such tricky and lengthy matches where nerves play a crucial role.
Let's have a look at five of the best five-set matches where Federer played his trump card and exercised his genius to humble his opponents in close encounters.
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal (Wimbledon Final, 2007)
Ask any true tennis fan which has been the best match they have witnessed in the Open Era, they'll be most likely to scratch their heads and with a shade of confusion in their eyes say, " It must be Wimbledon finals of 2007 or 2008. I cannot decide," for sure.
At a moment when Federer was at his surging best having had the most stellar 2006 possible where he won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open, in came Rafael Nadal the following year at the Swiss man's favourite grass turf at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to challenge his authority.
Having had suffered a defeat in 2006 against the King of Grass in Wimbledon, Nadal came in blazing all guns to seek revenge, riding high on the success of winning his third consecutive French Open title in 2007.
As they headed out to play, none of the two greats had the remotest idea that this match would be a historical event in the calendar of tennis. This was the first time both Nadal and Federer had to go to the extent of playing five sets in a Grand Slam final. With every swing of the racquet, the match was packed with drama carried out over a long 3 hours 45 minutes clash.
Too much was at stake for Federer who was eyeing to equal Bjorn Borg's record of five consecutive Big W titles and win his 11th Grand Slam. In the incredibly tense 7–6(9–7), 4–6, 7–6(7–3), 2–6, 6–2 clash, Federer managed to tame Nadal for the second year in a row and crowned himself the King after a tough battle in five sets.
Roger Federer v Andy Roddick (Wimbledon Final, 2009)
Before Nadal stormed into the scene, the regular threat that Federer received was from the American Andy Roddick. A former World No. 1 himself, he had been continuously exasperated with Federer's brilliance having been handed two back-to-back final defeats in Wimbledon '04 and '05.
After the 2005 encounter, Roddick couldn't hold himself back or his frustration and said, “I’d really like to hate you but you’re just too nice.” The enigma that is Federer clashed off with Roddick yet again in 2009 when defending champion, Nadal had pulled out of the Championship citing knee tendinitis.
In yet another memorable five-set nail-biting face-off, Big W played host to the longest men's singles final match in terms of the number of games played, where Federer and Roddick fought it out over a delicious 5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14 intense battle.
The Swiss Maestro emerged victorious yet again and reclaimed his Numero Uno spot on the ATP Rankings, by winning his 15th Grand Slam title, surpassing his idol Pete Sampras's record of 14 Majors.
Roger Federer v Juan Martin del Potro (French Open Semi Final, 2009)
Every player has their Achilles heels and for Federer when it came to the dusty clay courts spread out over Europe, Roland Garros turned out to be the most elusive Major of them all. Having had laid his hands repeatedly on every other Grand Slam possible, the quest for a maiden French Open title left Federer incomplete until 2009.
Through to the semi-finals, Federer was opposed with the hurdle of the towering Argentine Juan Martin del Potro. The first two sets were shattering with del Potro winning both and just when all the hope was slipping out and the dream of realising a French Open title ready to be discarded, did the ace Maestro lift up his game to win the following three sets and seal a 3-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory which became memorable for it gave Federer a ticket to the Finals.
Nadal-slayer Robin Soderling was waiting for Roger in the Final but Federer made little work of him to finally grasp the French Open trophy with his own hands.
Roger Federer v Gael Monfils (US Open 2014, Quarterfinal)
Federer is ever known for his immense control over his nerves and even in the most hapless of situations, he can convert it into his favour. The 2014 US Open quarter-finals also began in that light with Frenchman Gael Monfils winning the first two sets rather swiftly and going up by two match points.
In the midst of such crucial conditions, Federer kept his cool and saved those two match points and went on to take the next three sets in quick succession to send Monfils packing home just when he was on the brink of thinking 'I almost defeated Roger Federer.
The Swiss ace saw off the lanky Frenchman in 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. This sheer ability of Federer to surprise and survive in the long matches owing to experience and his genius is really what makes him invincible and perhaps, the greatest of all time.
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal (Australian Open 2017, Final)
As the years progressed and age kept crippling the progress of Federer as he suffered a five-year Grand Slam drought. In 2016, when he took an injury layoff, many had begun scribbling his career obituary. Nadal too was unable to find his top form.
At such times, the 2017 Australian Open came around and the duo reappeared across the nets to rekindle their old rivalry. In a much awaited final clash which felt like the old times, Rafael Nadal took on Roger Federer and what a breathtaking final it was.
The drama and the excitement and the raw emotions displayed in the course of the match make it a clear favourite as Federer managed to demolish Nadal in 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to win his 18th Major and sixth Australian Open title.