One byproduct of Roger Federer's instant classic of a Wimbledon win over Andy Roddick Sunday is that it puts him one ahead in major championships over his good friend Tiger Woods.
Federer now has 15 Grand Slam titles after a pulsating 16-14 fifth-set win Sunday over Roddick. The American played the match of his life in this one and still lost (with his wife Brooklyn Decker, the Sports Illustrated model from Matthews, watching nervously from the stands).
Tiger has 14 Grand Slam titles going into his next major -- the British Open, July 16-19. Tiger won the tournament he hosts in Maryland Sunday by one stroke over Hunter Mahan, fulfilling his hope of being a "greedy host."
The men dominate their sports in similar ways and have a running text-message teasing thing going about who has the most majors. It's the way they keep score these days. Tiger text-messaged Federer before winning at Congressional (a non-major event) Sunday, telling him "Great job: Now it's my turn."
Who will ultimately win the battle of major championships between these two?
I would say Woods, although it's not a sure thing. Federer -- who in my mind is already the best tennis player of all time -- now is No.1 in men's tennis Grand Slam victories (singles only). He surpassed Pete Sampras Sunday and has also won the career Grand Slam (Sampras never did, always falling short on the slow clay at the French Open).
Federer, 27, still has some very good years left in him. He's proven to be a remarkably durable athlete. Sampras thinks Federer may ultimately get to "18 or 19" majors and that sounds about right. It will be more than that, too, if Rafael Nadal's injury problems get worse -- Federer might get to 20 in that case.
Woods? He still is No.2 on the all-time major list at 14 (behind Jack Nicklaus's 18). He's now 33. But the arc of a career is so much longer in golf than in tennis, where running and fitness are so much a part and parcel of the best players.
Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at 46. Kenny Perry almost won the 2009 Masters at 48. Although Jimmy Connors was an exception, tennis players generally are done with winning majors in their early 30s. It's telling that Jim Courier's senior tennis tour that makes a stop each fall in the Charlotte area is a 30-and-over circuit, while in golf you have to be at least 50 to make the senior tour.
Barring injury, Woods surely will be a contender in majors for the next 15 years. That's 60 possible major championships (both tennis and golf have four "majors" a year). Even if Tiger only wins 10 percent of them -- and that's a low estimate -- he would win six more, which would put him at 20. I'd imagine he will get a couple more than that, and end his career at around 22.
Bottom line? Federer better enjoy this lead over his buddy Tiger. It may last a few weeks or even a few years, but it won't last forever.
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