Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/30/2006 04:03:00 PM
My Sportsman: Roger Federer
Roger Federer put together a year that may be the most dominant in the history of tennis.
By Jon Wertheim
It was a year ago that we used this opportunity to make the case for Roger Federer, the Swiss sorcerer who'd merely won 80 of his 84 matches and turned in what ranks among the most gilded years in the history of men's tennis. At least in this corner, we held the humble opinion that -- much as we all like barroom sports debates -- Federer deserved to be named Sportsman the same way, say, five times five deserves to be 25. Sure, you could try to assert otherwise; but you wouldn't have right on your side. Federer was not merely a peerless performer. He also embodied all those virtues -- grace, poise, intelligence, humility, self-possession, independence -- we look for in athletes.
You can imagine the surprise and disappointment in this corner when Tom Brady -- not even the best quarterback in his conference -- somehow scrambled off with the honors. If we were more cynical we might have contended that if only Federer were, by accident of birth, from Toledo or Spokane (and not Basel, Switzerland) the Sportsman Derby would have held less suspense that most of the guy's matches.
In any event, in 2006, Federer outdid himself, winning matches as a matter of ritual, all the while playing a style that resembled calligraphy on the tennis court. After the results of this past year, even the most die-hard Sampras-philes and Laver-phones are conceding that Federer might well be the best tennis player ever to draw breath. But rather than rely on emotion to make our case again this year, we're trying a new strategy and canvassing for Federer with harsh, undeniable, rational numbers.
Roger Federer's Year By the Numbers
Federer's 2006 match record.
Titles Federer won in '06, the third straight year -- an ATP record -- he's won at least 10 tournaments.
Prize money, in dollars, won by Federer in '06, a tennis record.
Major titles won by Federer in '06 (Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open).
Matches by which Federer missed winning the Grand Slam, tennis' answer to the Triple Crown.
Other players since Rod Laver in 1969 who reached the finals of all four Majors.
Federer's year-end ranking if you exclude his results at the four Majors.
Federer's '06 ranking on the ATP ace list, evidence that his success is the product of a complete game, not simply a percussive serve.
Federer's ranking in break points saved, evidence of an unsurpassed ability to summon his best tennis when it matters most.
Full-time coaches Federer employs, a nod to his self-sufficiency.
Players to defeat Federer in '06.
ATP rankings points Federer accumulated in '06.
Points separating Federer and second-ranked Rafael Nadal.
For respective, ranking points differential separating Nadal and No. 66-ranked Janko Tipsarevic.
Days in '06 Federer spent atop the rankings, part of an uninterrupted streak that dates back to Feb. 2, 2004.
Tears humbly expelled by Federer when his boyhood idol, Laver, presented him with the Australian Open trophy.
Combined number of drunk driving arrests, failed drug tests, out of wedlock children, bar brawls, strip club hijinks, white apparel worn after Labor Day, wrong fork usage, incurred by Federer in '06.
Opponents, fans, and media members Federer managed to offend in '06.
Languages in which Federer taped PSAs for UNICEF, the charity for which he is the international goodwill ambassador.
Pizzas Federer purchased for the corps of ballboys last month after winning the tournament title in his hometown of Basel.
Candidates more deserving of being named Sportsman of the Year for '06.
Absolutely!!! Roger Federer is my sportsman of the year without a shadow of doubt. I feel like these numbers are too strong for someone to ignore, but I'm a tennis fan, and they may not mean as much to someone who isn't into the sport. Anyway, Jon is of course right in everything he has said about Federer, though unfortunately he is also right about the fact that Fed isn't born in the US of A. I really hope he wins though, he is the best athlete and an even better person.
I have firmly believed that Federer should have deserved to be SI's Sportsman of the Year since his remarkable exploits in 2004; if anything, as each year passes by, he becomes more and more deserving - on top of all the points you raised, Federer's consistency, being able to maintain his high-quality level of tennis even when he plays far more matches than his colleagues, is one that definitely should be recognized. Claiming that Federer is not an American is no longer a valid reason to deny him this award - after all, he is quite literally redefining the game of tennis in a way which no other athlete has ever done before - and I think it is high time that Federer gets what he deserves. If his monumental year in '06 isn't good enough for SI, I fear that even if Federer does not lose a single match in '07, wins all four Grand Slams and all 9 Tennis Masters Series events and the Tennis Masters Cup, he still won't be considered worthy enough.
This is the man. No one else stands a chance, providing we look with objective eyes.
This man shows genius not just once, not twice, but EVERY match, doing something which is officialy illegal in The Law of Sports.
His genius is not only shown on court. When this man is not playing, he is still as impressive, if possible. His personality combined with his achievements and fame makes him look even more unhuman, while actually he is the first one too prove you he is a human being.
To aall of us who follows tennis, there is no doubt. But to everyone at the SI office debating if he deserves it, forget about it. He's not even in their top 5 list for sure. If Graf's Golden Slam was not enough for her to get this award, Roger doesn't stand a chance ... and he's not even American!
NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE had a better year than Roger Federer! If SI ignores this man again then they should change the name of their award to "American Sportsman of the Year" because that is truly where the bias lies. That and money...all they care about is who is on the cover and who will sell more magazines!
We are lucky to be able to witness such an amazing talent as Federer. We are lucky to have such a talent do so much good off of the court. I have thought that Federer has deserved Sportsman of the Year for the past three years.
If SI does not give him the honor this year- I give up hope that the award is about true sports greatness. It will be only about American sports greatness.
There is absolutly no argument with Federer as Sportsperson of the year. The numbers are astonishing, and his sportman like attitude and his charity work are peerless. My worry is that he is not American - so someone else will win. If someone else does win - I will not be visting this website or buying sports Illustrated at the news stand anymore.
Jon, as much as I envy you for your job I take considerable pity for you working for an employer that ignores your passion. If Roger can't even show up on the cover of SI why are we dreaming about him being the sportsman of the year.
I am surpirsed that you are the only sportswriter nominating him. Federer is the most dominant force in ANY sport. But most importantly, he is not just an athlete. He is a role model. He is a UN ambassador. He has his own charitable foundation. He does not do drugs, has not embezzled money, he simply does not cheat. He leads a modest life. He is the person that youth and parents alike approve of.
I wrote Jon Wertheim about two minutes after Federer struck his last ball at the 2006 US Open regarding this award, already trying to annoint Federer. I will lose all faith in this award if Federer does not win it this year. It was a total joke that Steffi Graf did not win this award in 1988, and it would be just as much of a disgrace if anyone but Roger Federer wins this award in 2006. Roger is pure class on and off the court, the true epitome of what a champion should be. Federer has vaulted to near the top of the all-time greats with a span of years that only Steffi could compete with. The world of tennis and sports is a better place because of athletes like Roger Federer. If nothing else, that truly makes him worthy. I mean the stats do not lie. There has not been a man dominate tennis like this ....ever.
On the Colbert Report last wee Mike Lupica said that either Tiger Woods or Roger Federer is the greatest sports figure of our time. There is no question that Federer is Sportsman of the Year. I suspect that even Tiger would agree.
Roger should win this award but he won't. SI has never even put Roger on the cover once...so why would we expect him to get this award? I usually give my boyfriend a subscription to SI for his birthday, but if they bypass Roger again, even my boyfriend agrees that we will stop the subscription.
roger fedrerer ignored again... The winner has already been announced, it's Dwayne Wade. Don't get me wrong, I am a HUGE basketball fan. But Roger Federer deserved this award hands down. His accomplishments and domination this past year(and the year prior) is simply amazing.
Wow. I naively thought SI would finally do the right thing and give Roger his due, but yet again I am disheartened and more than a little angry. But thank you Jon for putting into words exactly what we tennis fans feel. And I think for the first time I feel compelled to write to the editors of this magazine to truly say what I feel.
Jon, great argument for a truly worthy and deserving sportsman. However, by this point you must feel like Don Quixote trying to convince your editors at SI to give Federer the respect an athlete of his level should have. Best of luck in at least getting a cover story for Roger in 2007, but I'm sure Terrell Owens, Allen Iverson, and Chad Johnson will be too "newsworthy" to make room for someone who actually should be revered.
Hey Jon, how about working for a sports magazine that actually recognizes the sport you write about? To bypass Roger for DeWayne Wade is shocking. I can think of 10 athletes more deserving than Wade...Roger being at the top of the list. Why am I not surprised? Tom Brady last year was a 'joke' pick and this year is worse. SI continues shove its credibility down the drain.
Sportsman of the Year implies that someone has qualities others would like to emulate. No question that Roger is a genius on the court & a genuinely good man off the court. Maybe now that he has been in People the folks at SI will consider him.
My last post - I will no longer be visting your web site or reading your magazine - you guys have no clue on what sportman of the year means. American Sportsman of the year - you get that. Fed was the only choice - but you failed to see that.
I am writing today to express my disappointment with your choice of Dwayne Wade as Sportsman of the Year. While I am a basketball fan and believe Wade did have a great year, I believe the deluge of letters supporting Federer will prove enough evidence similar to what I sent you a few weeks ago. I just wanted to add that I am now officially signing off my readership of Sports Illustrated, as the magazine clearly cares more about selling copy than giving accurate assessments.
BTW, for your marketing department, I fit a pretty good demographic - single male, 28 yrs. old, athletic (recruited for soccer and tennis by multiple D-I schools), $200,000 salary (lots of discretionary spending that will NEVER go to buying anything associated with Sports Illustrated).
SI isn't a factor in the global sports world. They know it. Roger knows it. I doubt he cares about their award. So why we should we? By picking Roger, SI would only be highlighting the fact that they are only an 'issue' in America. Besides, they don't even have a cool awards show like the Laureus World Sports Award. And everyone knows Mirka likes to dress The Fed up for those banquets...
Here's my favorite stat: Eight different men won the eight Grand Slam events prior to the 2004 Australian Open. Never had the sport seen so much parity. Since then, Federer has won eight of the 12 Slams played. He turned the sport from anyone-can-win-on-any-given-day to table where only a few scraps are left for the rest of the field. Amazing.
SI has lost another opportunity to finally recognize what the casual tennis fan has known for some time, Roger Federer is the best tennis player to ever play the game...END OF DISCUSSION! His dominance has transcended the sport and put him atop the highest echelon of our most revered athletes.
That said, the U.S. market is not the only market for his genius to be appreciated which is why he chooses to not live or vacation in the U.S.
What can I say? Another year, another barefaced example of Sports Illustrated blatantly ignoring international sporting figures, even if said figure turns out to be the greatest of all time in his/her respective field. Am I disappointed? Yes, certainly Roger Federer deserved this award. However, I cannot say I am surprised. I mean seriously, this is the same sports magazine that put a horse on its cover before it did Roger Federer. Granted, that horse did have a pretty good year--but Roger Federer has had a pretty good past 3 years. I mean come on?! I'm appalled that I even have to make this argument. Sports Illustrated doesn't deserve to call itself an all around sporting magazine when all it focuses on are American sports: Baseball, and Football; basketball is an exception this year--I don't know why they would choose this year of all years to give it to a basketball player, when there is a man who is beyond deserving up for the title. Don't get me wrong, I love basketball and I think it is underappreciated in American sports as well, and Dwayne Wade and the Heat had a great year. But they, like the horse, had one pretty good year, in comparison to Roger’s 3. The NBA champs call themselves World Champions, though the USA is clearly no longer the leading basketball team in the world, and plus-the Heat suck this year. Roger Federer is without a doubt the best player in his field. Ask anyone, and I mean anyone: his opponents, sports analysts-just not the ones from SI, if you ask them they'll probably try to change the topic to Tom Brady or something; ask the legends of the sport, fans--Everyone will say the same thing, Federer is the best out there, hands down. Not only is he the best in his field, Roger Federer is a Class-A type of guy. Maybe that's why he's not as hyped up, because Joe-Bob from Nowhere, Nebraska won't find an athlete, who would actually be a good influence for his 8 kids, as interesting as a guy arrested for his 3rd DUI of the year, or a guy getting suspended for steroid abuse, or one with some sort of sex scandal on the side. I get it, SI is a business, and they have to publish what sells. Maybe it's not SI's fault that they have to relegate tennis to some side column at the end of there magazine, because good guys like Roger Federer run rampant in this gentleman’s sport. Maybe there is something wrong with Americans and their moral and ethical values. Perhaps there is something with American values that have become perverted and results in people not being able to fully appreciate a real good guy in the world of sports and celebrity. But in the end, I have a feeling that we are the only ones complaining that Roger Federer got robbed, because he is such a classy guy. Roger is just not the type to even bother with complaining—he’s too busy, playing, leading, and dominating on and off the court—with or without this award. Isabella, Ontario, Canada
Roger is amazing!!!! However, Only one issue I have with Roger- play Davis Cup for a full season again. I thought it was disappointing that he didn't play all the ties this year and is already refusing to play but one tie in 2007.
After seeing him overlooked for Tom Brady last year and Dwyane Wade this year, I hope Roger Federer never gets SI's Sportsman of the Year award. His inclusion among such arbitrary and undeserving winners would diminish his reputation, not enhance it.
Federer is BY FAR, I repeat, BY FAR, the 2006 sportsman of the year. I don't think any other athlete on earth, or any other planet could have an arguement that should make him / her be even considered for this award.
Prince said... Roger Federer not only deserves to be Sportsman of the Year but he could teach upcoming tennis players how to behave like gentlemen. For years the like of Connors, Nastasie, McEnroe, Hewitt and many others sullied the way the game was played. Thank God for Roger. Can we give him a consensus Award from us fans?
Prince said... Roger Federer deserves to be Sportsman of the year. He could give classes in how to play great tennis and be a gentleman while doing so. When I think back to the bad boy behavior of the likes of Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastasie, John McEnroe and Lleyton Hewitt I wonder where they learned to be such nasty, vile competitors. Can we create a fans' Award for Roger? Like many of the bloggers, SI probably won't pick Roger. Too bad.
Yet another amen for Federer as Sportsman of the Year. But take heart, Roger, even Pete Sampras couldn't grab this award. The last and only time a male tennis player got the nod was Arthur Ashe in 1992, a few months before he passed away. And you have to go all the way back to 1976 and 1972 to find the only women tennis players, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King, respectively, who earned the honors. Well, at least SI will have good material for its next Sportsman Trivia Quiz (e.g., which of the following male tennis players is the only one to win Sportsman of the Year? (a) Pete Sampras, (b) Rod Laver, (c) Roger Federer, (d) Arthur Ashe).
from what tiger was saying after the the u.s. open tennis final (he sat in federer's box) it sounded like he considers federer's accomplishments in tennis very similar to his own in golf.
remember tiger's historic year in 2000 when he won three majors dominating the field? guess who won sportsman of the year in 2000? tiger (who had already won it just 4 years prior).
the only reason federer didn't get it this year is due to his relatively low profile (i.e.: popularity). note to nike: create some ads for federer as great as the ones you did for tiger and you may be onto something.
if someone more popular (and american) like agassi had won 3 majors he might have won sportsman of the year despite tennis's poor overall profile, but still, cnnsi.com relegating tennis to the "more" section of the website speaks volumes.
so basically federer has to win all four majors next year to have a shot at it. but the only way he would be a lock would be if he were to go undefeated for the entire year. it looks like it would take something extreme like that to get the attention of the general public.
While I'm disappointed with today's announcement of Dwayne Wade as Sportsman of the Year, I'm thrilled to read the reaction from my fellow readers. Federer is getting the most love out of those "snubbed" which hopefully will get some attention from the Editors.
I'm disappointed that overall, SI is getting closer and closer to becoming ESPN The Magazine. I've always thought of it as the responsible sports authority; a voice that made people care about something they might not have otherwise thought about. It just seems to me that someone on the fasttrack to becoming the greatest ever in a given sport, in an era where supporting evidence is available on demand, would be much more recognizable. I almost wish SI would put out a separate publication for insightful, thought-provoking journalism. It would be nice to have a source that was less shtick and factoids and more substance.
Here's to hoping we get more than 2 pages after the Aussie Open.
With respect to Federer, greatness is RELATIVE! This guy is dominant, agreed, but he is not great--he is simply playing against the weakest tennis competition in a long, long...long, long time. NO. 2 Nadal beat your hero in Dubai, Monte Carlo, Rome AND the French Open! The guy who beat your hero was in turn spanked THREE times by Tomas Berdych! Oh yeah, the same kid also spanked your hero a couple of years ago in Athens (and played well against Berdych on grass). What a sucky bunch.
In response to anonymous who writes that Federer is not great just playing against a poor field, I paste a prior post that illustrates how just how far off the mark you are: "Here's my favorite stat: Eight different men won the eight Grand Slam events prior to the 2004 Australian Open. Never had the sport seen so much parity. Since then, Federer has won eight of the 12 Slams played. He turned the sport from anyone-can-win-on-any-given-day to table where only a few scraps are left for the rest of the field. Amazing." (among those winners were Sampras and Agassi). Roddick's serve would have won him at least two Wimbledons and at least one more USOpen by now, but for Fedex. Safin would have won at least one more Australian Open. Hewitt would have had several more Slam titles as well, but for Roger. Lack of competition, not by a long shot. They are all exceptional players who have the misfortune of playing against the best ever. ompletely off the mark you are:
assuming that greatness is relative despite the stats and records,tom brady is great?!!!!
here's my take: americans are generally perpetually biased. here's the simple truth: they don't even support tennis if no american is playing. they ignore it and prefer football instead. is that even logical? they are American personality-centered when it comes to sports. any American who makes it big is scarily hyped a million times.
yes, name that darn award American Sporstman of the Year Award to at least lend a bit of credibility in their ever narrowly expanding perception of sports. or should i say ever expanding narrow perception of sports.
I'm more of a Nadal guy myself, but come on...SI, open your eyes! Though I cheer for anyone to perhaps just make Roger break a sweat, even I can't deny the guy is so thoroughly dominating. Federer's shotmaking ability fully displayed at the year end Tennis Master's was just supernatural. Dwayne Wade? That's just insulting.
it is so embarrasing to see tht such a world class player who keeps proving and ascertaining his dominance year after year after year does not even get nominated just because he ain't an american right!!!!!!!!!!!!... roger u r true fans recognize and appreciate your dominance and it is definitely clear from our point of view tht u r not only the best in your field but also among the best of all sportsmen today !!!!
Like most europeans, I'm a football fan (Sorry, you call it soccer) and of course follows rugby. I'm not a tennis fan but I can't escape knowing who Federer is. It's however the first time I ever heard the names of Brady and Wade.
What's so frustrating is US sports fans constantly proclaiming that they produce the greatest athletes. NO. They produce exceptionally large people, naturally or otherwise, but if this comes down to an ultimate athletic competition, I'd bet any member of the top 100 men OR women tennis players could beat any member of the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, etc. in a decathlon, hands down.
Who was it, Steffi Graf who timed an UNTRAINED 100m dash under 11 seconds? That's the kind of athlete tennis produces.
Congratulations. Some of you have noticed that SI spends no time on cricket, rugby, Irish curling, and a half dozen other sports that are not popular in America. Maybe someone dominated those sports as well this year. I don't know. I don't watch those sports either.
Dwayne Wade? What an apparent American bias. Even Tiger Woods had a much better year than Wade. And even Tiger knows that Roger had a better year than him. Call it American Sports Illustrated as what it obviously is.
SI . . you missed a golden opportunity to embrace a truly remarkable achievement that goes beyond tennis. Its a pity that you just added fire to what some quarters are saying, that - you are bias with your selection.
This basically re-confirms and further demonstrates that Tennis is a "B" sport in the U.S. This is also a commentary on why no American tennis talent is emerging. Of course Federer should be the Sportsment of the Year and by now he should have had 4-5 covers. Even Ivan Lendl had a cover "The Champion No One Cares About". The arguements by Mr. Wertheim are compeling and undeniable. What is also undeniable is that except for 2 weeks when the US Open is in the states, there is no real traction for tennis. In the end, SI is an American magazine in the business of selling. More people will pick up a magazine with D. Wade's mug versus Federer's.
Sports Illustrated is a joke. I only visit the site because Wertheim is a great and honorable tennis journalist. That being said, for the magazine to pick Dwayne Wade as Sportsman of the Year is a slap in the face of sports. Why doesn't SI rename the award American Sportsman of the year. What a joke. Right after Roger won the US open I wrote a letter to SI telling them to pick Roger as the SI sportsman of the year but apparently they don't listen to their viewers and readers. Well I just canceled my subscription and won't be visiting their site anymore. Sorry Jon Wertheim, I love your work. Is there any chance you will move over to ESPN?
Yes Roger should have won Sportsman of the Year. He is the most dominant athlete in sport right now with the possible exception of Tiger Woods. And he is clearly ONE of the all-time great tennis players. Is he the greatest? I don't think so as I strongly believe that Rod Laver was the best since the 60s, and before him Pancho Gonzales made a strong case. Those people who are so enamored with Roger should watch some film of Laver and see the shots that he pulled off with a wood racket. Consider what he would have done with one of todays rocket launchers! And Pancho - well his serve was clocked at over 120 mph with a woodie! And while I don't think todays field is weak - certainly the depth is greater than ever - the top players below Nadal pale in comparison to those of many other eras.
might be the worst call since, say, Tom Seaver got the call in '69 over some guy named Laver.
If you look at the award winners over the years, a few other guys missed out: e.g., Mac, Connors, Sampras (whose methodical acquisition of grand slams brings to mind Henry Aaron's steady move to the top of the HR rankings--Hank didn't win the award either). So TMF isn't alone to be ignored...SI's been doing it for years. Of course, guys named Bird and Magic don't show, or Mays.
What strikes me is how quaint the list looks when you look back -- they recognized track stars, and ICE SKATERS?!? Wow. A different world, a different SI, which is now all about selling pick-ups and beer and swimsuit model calendars. I'm just happy SI still follows tennis, and has a great writer doing it. thx for a great defense of TMF, Jon.