The impossible debate: Who is more dominant, Tiger or Federer?
Comparing Tiger Woods to Roger Federer is like comparing Sinatra to Mathis
Federer has won 15 Grand Slam titles; Tiger's won 14 majors and counting
Federer expects to win, Tiger insists on winning; Tiger's a killer, Federer's graceful
Eddie: You can't compare Mathis to Sinatra. There's no way. No way. They're in totally different leagues.
Shrevie: Eddie, they're both great singers.
Eddie: Yeah, but you can't compare them. Sinatra is the lord, all right? He's big in movies. He's big in nightclubs. He's big in ...
Modell: Skip that, let me ask you another question. Start here. When you want to make out, who do you make out to -- Sinatra or Mathis?
Eddie: That's a stupid question.
Modell: One question. Answer that.
Eddie: It's irrelevant. I won't answer it. ... Mathis.
Modell: There you go.
You can't compare Roger Federer to Tiger Woods. There's no way. No way. They're in totally different sports. Their styles are too contrasting. And yet, how can you NOT compare them? Here we are, living in this time when Federer and Woods are making their arguments for history, their cases as the greatest tennis player and greatest golfer ever. They are ever-present. They are friends. They are the two most dominant athletes in the world. How can you not compare them?
Do you want to compare their numbers and trophies? Pointless. Futile. It's like trying to find the starting point of a circle or the strengths of the Washington Nationals.* Federer has won 15 Grand Slam championships; that makes him the most successful men's player ever. Woods has won 14 grand slam championships; that puts him on Jack Nicklaus' doorstep, four back, with a few golden years left to knock off the Golden Bear.
*Seriously, when do they officially change the name of the team to the Washington Generals? I'm not entirely sure about this, but I could have sworn the other night that I saw someone on the Nats fall for the ball-on-the-string trick.
Federer has reached 21 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals -- mind-numbing -- no one else has reached more than 10 in a row. Woods has been PGA Tour Player of the Year nine times already and he's on pace to do it again -- no one else has done it even seven. Federer is a preposterous 96-9 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- that's 91.4 percent. Think about that. Federer is more likely to win a Wimbledon or U.S. Open match than any NBA player ever has been to make a free throw. But that's nothing: Since 2003, he is 86-2 (97.7 percent).
Tiger Woods has had the lead going into the final day of a major 14 times, and he has won all 14 times. That would be 100 percent. Or this: Tiger Woods has been in 19 playoffs on the PGA Tour and in Europe -- he is 18-1. He has not lost a playoff since 1998.
Yes, you can see it: Futile. At this point, most people tend to make the argument between Federer and Woods about their sports. Which sports is harder to dominate -- golf or tennis?
But that's a hard one to get at too. On the one hand, golf seems like it would be harder to dominate because there is only so much within a player's control. You can't play defense. You can't hit winners. You can't wear down your opponent with a flurry of body shots. For Woods to dominate he has to go out there with 100-plus of the world's best golfers and beat every one of them. He has to score lower than the hottest putters, the straightest drivers, the players who luckily chip in. And there's nothing he can do to stop them other than to be Tiger Woods (which, admittedly, does seem to go a long way). He has won 29 percent of the golf tournaments he has entered and nobody else is even close.
On the other hand, you can't have a bad day in tennis. At the British Open next week, Tiger can have a rough day or two and still win the thing. But one bad day for Federer, and he's eliminated. This is why his 21 consecutive semifinals are such a remarkable achievement ... do you want to see the most amazing statistic you will see all day (assuming you care about tennis)? Here you go:
Roger Federer has made 21 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals.
Pete Sampras' longest streak? Three. That would be THREE.*
*The Federer 21-straight streak is really a monster ... Andre Agassi's longest streak was four, John McEnroe's and Jimmy Connors' longest streaks were three (in part because they both skipped the Australian Open most of their careers).
No, you probably won't get anywhere on the tennis versus golf track either. Tennis is more physically grinding. Golf is more mentally grueling. In tennis, you have to face any number of styles. In golf, no two courses are alike. In tennis, you are alone out there, on your own, no caddy to tell you how far away the flag stands or what way the putt might break. In golf, your opponent is the golf course, and it never wilts, never chokes, rarely lets you come back from Love-40. At the end of the day, golfers will make their strong argument for golf, tennis player for tennis, and we're back on the treadmill.