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Tennis experts marvel at Roger Federer's longevity

Roger Federer looks on from a practice court

Roger Federer looks on from a practice court during the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Open tennis tournament on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Tempus may fugit, but Roger Federer sticks around. Tuesday, he will begin play in his 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament -- a record dating to 2000.

He has won 17 majors, a record. He has been to 25 Slam finals. A record. And 35 semifinals. A record. And 42 quarterfinals. A record. At 33, with a newly aggressive game, he is being considered no worse than a co-favorite in this year's U.S. Open.

Tennis experts marvel at how Federer seems to make time stand still, to continue navigating the sport's top ranks.

"It's just off the charts," said former pro Brad Gilbert, now a coach and TV commentator. "He seems able to play without barely even sweating. He's the only guy that can play on clay and -- look at his socks -- he doesn't even get dirt on his socks. That blows me away."

Old champ Chris Evert pointed to Federer's ability to "rely mostly on his physical talent rather than the intensity of, for instance, a [Rafael] Nadal. It's a different temperament. That's why, emotionally and mentally, he's been able to sustain that high level.

"On the physical side," she added, "his game is so efficient, his body is so efficient."

And the records keep falling: Eighty professional tournament titles, to go with previously established marks for most weeks ranked No. 1 (302) and most consecutive weeks ranked No. 1 (237) -- both likely to stand a long time.

To Federer, "I really don't play for any of those longevity records, to be honest. I play because I love to play. And I believe I can still achieve a lot."

Who's going to doubt him? Patrick McEnroe, whose tennis duties include the development of Young American talent, cited Federer's still "phenomenal movement" on the court, in spite of his greybeard status. "At 33, having just had another set of twins, the guy is as relaxed as he can be."

Baked into Federer's even-keel existence is his equally consistent good health. He struggled a bit with back discomfort last year -- making only one major semifinal -- but Gilbert noted that Federer "still didn't miss any significant time. Fifteen years and he's had no surgeries, no major injuries. He's done an amazing job listening to his body.

"He plays an incredibly wise schedule. He doesn't overplay. He certainly is the Cal Ripken of tennis," Gilbert said. "And he can look back to the 2005 U.S. Open, when he was playing Andre [Agassi] in the finals when Andre was 35 and say, 'If he could play great at 35, I should be able to play great late into my 30s.' "

One difference was that Agassi, like such champions as Serena Williams and Nadal, have had their runs interrupted by injury or disinterest.

Federer just keeps going.

"This is a guy who, emotionally, can turn it on and off," Evert said. "When he loses a match, he takes his entourage out to dinner to celebrate. When I lost a match, I'd go back to the hotel room and sulk."

New York Sports