Roger Federer believes Serena Williams’ achievements are enough to merit a place as the greatest tennis player of all time.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Wednesday, Federer expresses his admiration for Williams, who has 39 grand slam titles including 23 in singles.
“[Williams’s career] has been fascinating to watch. She had a totally different upbringing – I came up through Switzerland with the federation, she did it with her dad and her sister,” says Federer in the interview. “It’s an amazing story unto itself – and then she became one of the greatest, if not the greatest tennis player of all time.”
Federer is then asked to clarify if he means Williams is the best female player of all time or the best overall. “Overall,” he says.
Federer, whose 20 grand slam singles titles are the most by any male player, adds the far from controversial point that his achievements rank with the greats.
“But we know [Williams] is all the way up there. I’m probably up there with somebody, somehow. Maybe there’s a group, a best of five – and if you’re in that group, you should be pleased and happy. Tennis is a funky sport when it comes to that stuff.”
Federer, who is two months younger than Williams, will turn 37 in August but he is enjoying a late-career resurgence with three grand slam titles since the start of 2017.
He says he has not set a date for retirement and says he still enjoys playing. “I’ve long given up that it needs to end in a fairy tale,” he says. “I don’t need to be ranked [No1] or need it to be after a big title.
Roger Federer called Serena Williams "one of the greatest, if not the greatest tennis player of all time" during an interview with Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal.
If it happens that way, that’s amazing. But you can’t control it all. You have to put yourself out there, be vulnerable. I play because I love tennis, not because it needs to end [perfectly].”
Federer has four children and admits he tore a meniscus in 2016 while he was preparing a bath for his daughters: “It’s absolutely funny. It’s crazy.”
His children have excellent tennis genes too: his wife, Mirka, was ranked No76 in the world. Federer says he is in no rush for them to follow his career path though.
“Yeah, they play a bit,” he says. “It’s one of my mini-requirements with Mirka. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want them to be professional players, but I would like them to play recreationally.”
Federer will not play in this month’s French Open but will defend his Wimbledon title later this summer.