Federer gets top marks from Laver, the fan!!!
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Australia's Rod Laver, widely considered to be the best player in history, says his greatest pleasure as a tennis spectator has come from watching current world number one Roger Federer.
Although the Swiss is yet to win a French Open title to give him the full set of all four grand slam crowns, his elegant positioning on court marks him out as extra special, according to Laver.
"I certainly know from the tennis side of it just how much talent that Federer has got," Laver, a 69-year-old who won 11 grand slam titles, told Reuters.
"His court coverage and anticipation are uncanny and make him different from anybody else out there. He's never out of position and has a knack of knowing what he hits will determine what's coming back, and he knows what's coming back.
"And so it becomes a simple game for him. Plus he's got all the strokes anyway and his service has improved a lot from a year ago."
Federer's failure, so far, to clinch the French Open at Roland Garros does not undermine his credentials to be bracketed among the game's elite in Laver's opinion.
"I am sure he's disappointed that it hasn't happened yet," said the Australian, the only player in history to have twice achieved a calendar sweep of all four grand slam titles.
"He could have just about won it last year and of course he would have won without (Rafael) Nadal hanging around out there because it's uncanny how good he is on clay."
Claycourt supremo Nadal beat Federer 6-3 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the 2007 French Open final, ending his opponent's bid to join American Don Budge and Laver as the only men to hold all four majors at the same time.
"Both players are unbelievably good on hardcourts and then on clay the other person is near-perfect," added Laver, speaking during last week's Buick Invitational golf tournament at La Jolla, California.
"In his own mind, Federer's probably not (ranked among the very best) for anything other than his pride of being able to win on all surfaces. I don't know whether anyone owns the right to the best of all time."
After his French Open disappointment last year, Federer went on to triumph at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to move within two of Pete Sampras's record 14 grand slam titles.
However, his bid to reach an 11th consecutive grand slam final was extinguished by Serbian Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of this month's Australian Open.
Laver, a left-hander who was technically faultless and completed the calendar grand slam as an amateur in 1962 and as a professional in 1969, also relished watching Steffi Graf when she dominated the women's game.
"I put her down as one of the great performers who always seemed to play well under pressure," he said of the German, a winner of 22 grand slam titles between 1987 and 1999.
"She could fight until she won, even if she was playing badly.
"She had that 'I-am-going-to-win-this-match' type of attitude. Her mental strength was a trap for virtually all of her opponents when they thought they had her in trouble."
Asked which player from his own era particularly impressed him, Laver replied: "Lew Hoad. He pretty much stood out, and mainly because of his strength.
"He just had so much power in his game. And it was down to timing. Although he could slow it right down, the art of timing the ball is knowing exactly when you make contact and that's where Hoad stood out."
Australian Hoad won the first three grand slam titles of 1956 before losing to compatriot Ken Rosewall in the final of that year's U.S. Open. He died after a heart attack in 1994. (Editing by John O'Brien)