Federer On The Big Three: 'We Push Each Other To Greater Heights'
Two decades ago, Pete Sampras held the most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era with 14. Incredibly, three men — Roger Federer (20), Rafael Nadal (18) and Novak Djokovic (15) — have all surpassed that mark. And Federer, who enters Wimbledon with a record eight titles at The Championships, believes that they have benefitted from competing at the same time.
“I think these things don't come around maybe so often. It also shows that side-by-side we can have incredible careers,” said Federer, who debuted at Wimbledon 20 years ago. “Funny enough, you always think somebody takes away something from the other. Probably we have. At the same time, we also pushed each other to greater heights."
The Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has won 14 of the past 16 Wimbledon titles dating back to Federer’s maiden major triumph here in 2003. Yet 14 years after all three of them competed in The Championships together for the first time, the legendary trio is still going strong. They occupy the top three seeds (No. 1 Djokovic, No. 2 Federer and No. 3 Nadal) at The Championships for the first time since 2012.
“I think we definitely became better because of one another. I don't know if we'd all still be playing, maybe [if we] would have played in different eras,” Federer said. “But it's been fun having us, from my side. I don't know, I hope the fans enjoyed it. Because I think we're all very different characters, they could like either player.”
Federer continues etching his name in the grass-court history books, winning a record 19th title on the surface in the Open Era at the NOVENTI OPEN in Halle. He can earn his 100th win at this event by advancing to the semi-finals, and his 87.4 winning percentage on grass is better than his rate on any other surface.
“I still think it is very different. Maybe for some, they feel it's not as far from hard. I think it's still quite different,” Federer said. “I think the movement requires different talents or different movement. I believe also the way the ball bounces, the way it takes the spins or not, I think is quite a change still.
Watch Highlights Of Federer's Halle Triumph:
“Obviously you can play better than ever on the grass courts. Every single year they get better and better, so it's easier to play from the baseline. Especially I would say the first week at Wimbledon, it's still a huge change to hard courts. The second week, it gets more similar. You can move better from the baseline. I think it speeds up a little bit more, as well. It takes a bit more of the spin. But at the beginning it's still very soft, it's tough to move.”
For the first time since 2016, Federer competed on clay this year. The 37-year-old achieved some solid results, including a run to the Roland Garros semi-finals, where he fell to eventual champion Nadal.
“I don't know if I have a massive benefit from having played on clay,” Federer said. “I do believe it plays very different. Not only does the spin not take effect like it does on clay, but also the guys are not returning from so far back. Naturally everybody is much closer to one another.”
Federer opens his chase for his ninth Wimbledon title against South African Lloyd Harris, and he still wants to take charge of points and play on his own terms.
“So far I'm really happy I played the clay-court season. I'm happy I was able to adjust again on the grass,” Federer said. “I came through Halle, the clay-court season, French Open, without any injuries, feeling good. I guess I would be ready for longer rallies. But am I seeking out to play longer rallies because I played the clay-court season? I don't think so.”