Roger Federer had announced his arrival a few years earlier, when he beat his idol Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001 as a 19-year-old. He then went on to establish himself as the top player in men’s tennis by winning Wimbledon in 2003 and the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open in 2004.
For most, that right there would’ve been a glorious career. But Federer was just getting started, he was on the cusp of one of the most staggering streak’s in the sport’s history.
It started with Wimbledon 2005. The Swiss was a two-time defending champion at The Championships and went on to beat Andy Roddick to make it three in a row. And that marked the beginning of a stunning period in which Federer reached the final in 18 out of 19 consecutive Majors.
Of the 20 Grand Slam titles he finished his career with, 12 came between Wimbledon 2005 and Australian Open 2010. During this run, he claimed four Wimbledon titles, four US Opens, three Australian Opens and his only French Open triumph.
Here’s a closer look at that Federer streak from 2005 to ‘10:
Federer at Grand Slams from Wimbledon 2005
|Win||2005||Wimbledon (3)||Andy Roddick||6–2, 7–6(7–2), 6–4|
|Win||2005||US Open (2)||Andre Agassi||6–3, 2–6, 7–6(7–1), 6–1|
|Win||2006||Australian Open (2)||Marcos Baghdatis||5–7, 7–5, 6–0, 6–2|
|Loss||2006||French Open||Rafael Nadal||6–1, 1–6, 4–6, 6–7(4–7)|
|Win||2006||Wimbledon (4)||Rafael Nadal||6–0, 7–6(7–5), 6–7(2–7), 6–3|
|Win||2006||US Open (3)||Andy Roddick||6–2, 4–6, 7–5, 6–1|
|Win||2007||Australian Open (3)||Fernando González||7–6(7–2), 6–4, 6–4|
|Loss||2007||French Open||Rafael Nadal||3–6, 6–4, 3–6, 4–6|
|Win||2007||Wimbledon (5)||Rafael Nadal||7–6(9–7), 4–6, 7–6(7–3), 2–6, 6–2|
|Win||2007||US Open (4)||Novak Djokovic||7–6(7–4), 7–6(7–2), 6–4|
|(SF defeat)||2008||Australian Open||Novak Djokovic||7-5, 6-3, 7-6|
|Loss||2008||French Open||Rafael Nadal||1–6, 3–6, 0–6|
|Loss||2008||Wimbledon||Rafael Nadal||4–6, 4–6, 7–6(7–5), 7–6(10–8), 7–9|
|Win||2008||US Open (5)||Andy Murray||6–2, 7–5, 6–2|
|Loss||2009||Australian Open||Rafael Nadal||5–7, 6–3, 6–7(3–7), 6–3, 2–6|
|Win||2009||French Open||Robin Söderling||6–1, 7–6(7–1), 6–4|
|Win||2009||Wimbledon (6)||Andy Roddick||5–7, 7–6(8–6), 7–6(7–5), 3–6, 16–14|
|Loss||2009||US Open||Juan Martín del Potro||6–3, 6–7(5–7), 6–4, 6–7(4–7), 2–6|
|Win||2010||Australian Open (4)||Andy Murray||6–3, 6–4, 7–6(13–11)|
Naturally, this phase saw some of the most epic battles in Federer’s career. At the 2005 US Open, he beat Andre Agassi in what proved to be the last Grand Slam final the American legend featured in. At the 2007 US Open, he beat Novak Djokovic in what was the Serb’s first Grand Slam final.
Roddick came close in 2009 but ended up with his fourth Wimbledon final loss to Federer. The big-serving American didn’t reach a Major final after that heartbreaking defeat in five sets.
Of course, there were defeats too during this phase. Juan Marin del Potro’s comeback win at the US Open 2009 final will always be remembered as one of the toughest moments in Federer’s career. The Swiss was one set away from the title and had he won it, he could’ve held all Major titles at the same time (considering he went on to win Aus Open 2010).
However, Federer’s biggest rival in these five years was, of course, Rafael Nadal. Of the six defeats for the Swiss, five came against the Spaniard – three at Roland Garros and one each at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
After winning his fourth and fifth Wimbledon titles in 2006 and ‘07 by defeating Nadal in the final both times, Federer’s streak at the All England Club was broken the following year in what is considered by many as the greatest tennis match in history. Nadal emerged the winner that day and even edged out his great rival in an epic Australian Open final the following year, with these two matches going a long way in establishing their rivalry as one of the all-time great match-ups.
Federer’s five-year streak as the undisputed king of men’s tennis ended after the 2010 Australian Open victory against Andy Murray – another one of his great rivals. He went on to reach nine more Major finals, winning four of those matches, but they were spread over a decade.
Federer’s tally of men’s singles Grand Slam wins was overtaken by Nadal and Djokovic eventually, but no one has ever come close to the consistency and dominance the Swiss had at the biggest stage in those years from 2005 to ‘10. It was a period during which he kept adapting his game, kept raising the bar, and truly redefined greatness.