Two Things You Don’t Know About Roger Federer

Here’s two bits of trivia about the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time that I feel like sharing for no good reason. The first: Do you think anyone has ever beaten Federer in a Tennis match without letting him win so much as a single game?

The answer is yes of course, or I wouldn’t be asking. But who? You might be trying to remember the score in that one disasterous French Open final, where Roger tried some bold new tactics against Rafa and they all backfired spectacularly. But no, the score there was 6–1, 6–3, 6–0. Embarassing for Roger, to be sure. Perhaps the worst loss he’s suffered in the last 10 years. But obviously a single 6-0 set is not enough to qualify as the answer.

Nope, to find the real solution you have to go a bit further back than 10 years. About twice as far, as a matter of fact. It seems that when Fed was 10 years old, he tried to enter a 10-and-under tournament in Switzerland, but the category was cancelled because of a shortage of players. Instead, Federer entered the 11-14 category, squared off against a 13-year-old named Reto Schmidli, and promptly lost 6-0, 6-0. Yes, that’s the Reto Schmidli, the one who’s now ranked number 715… In Switzerland. You can read the whole story here. But man, does that guy have a fun story to tell his kids.

And now, since the last bit of trivia was about a tough loss for the Swiss Maestro, lets balance things out with something more impressive. Here’s your question: who holds the all-time record for reaching the most consecutive semifinals at the French Open? Well you must know the answer, because the title of the post told you this whole thing would be about Roger Federer. But be honest: if I hadn’t given you that context and you hadn’t stopped to think about it, you would have guessed Rafael Nadal, wouldn’t you have? Any yet no; owing to the Spaniard’s quarterfinal loss in 2009, his streak was stopped at 4, while Roger’s continued on to five. This also allowed Roger to tie Nadal’s record for consecutive finals reached, at four. Hopefully this helps to silence anyone who still doesn’t believe that Federer has been indisputably the second greatest clay-court player of the past five years, because both of those records will stand for quite some time. (There’s certainly a chance that Nadal could break the semifinal record, if he continues reaching semifinals every year until he’s 30, but given the troubles he’s had with injuries in the past, I have to say I’m skeptical he can pull it off).


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

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