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Federer joins greatest-ever sportsmen club

CNN-IBN
Jun 10, 2009 at 03:05pm IST

New Delhi: With his 14th Grand Slam title Roger Federer has re-written tennis history. He is being called the greatest-ever tennis player but where does he sits in the lexicon of all time sporting greats?

When Federer won the French Open men's singles title on Sunday he equalled Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles. But even Sampras did not win French Open.

Andre Agassi won all four Grand Slams but not half as many overall. Rod Laver won everywhere but not as many times as Federer’s.

STANDING TALL: Roger Federer poses with his French Open trophy with Eiffel Tower in the background.

So is Federer the greatest sportsman ever and if not so who are his rivals?

Cricketing legend Sir Don Bradman had and average of 99.94 which is almost 40 points ahead of the next best batsman.

But Bradman, it can be argued played a sport that only a handful of countries do and at a time when he was barely challenged.

So if it really is about success in a truly global sport then maybe the dazzler from Brazil is the greatest ever. With the football at his feet, Edison Arantes do Nascimento or Pele as the world knows him was untouched.

Over a 1,000 professional goals and three World Cup triumphs puts him in the league of greatest ever. But the counter argument is that football is a team game and the individual is only as good as the team around him.

Golf champion Tiger Woods with a Thai mother and a black father is a colossus who plays the white man's game better than it has ever been.

But woods still needs five more majors to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 19. So he isn't yet on top of the golfing world and all-time greatness has to wait.

In the red Ferrari, a genius can surely lay claim to immortality. He drove with the panache of a champion, seven world titles and more races won than any other Formula One driver make Michael Schumacher a real contender.

But some say the German had the best car on the circuit and he only had to drive it. He also dominated a sport that relies as much on commercial power as on individual talent.

Could Michael Jordan be the greatest ever? With a basketball in hand, Jordan did things no one dared to imagine.

Chicago Bulls sunk when Jordan failed and won when Jordan sparkled. He was the NBA when he played. But then the NBA is played in just one country. Doesn't the greatest ever have to perform on the world stage?

Others make a case too. Mohammad Ali danced like a butterfly and stung like a bee. Boxing was more than a mere sport with him in the ring. It was a metaphor for life itself.

Jahangir Khan was unbeaten on a squash court for more than 500 professional matches while Sergei Bubka beat his own pole vault world record more than 20 times, and it remains unconquered to date.

Swimming great Michael Phelps too is a contender with 14 Olympic gold medals.

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