After becoming the oldest World No1 in history, there’s plenty of people who say Roger Federer is not only the greatest tennis player of all time but the best-ever sportsman, too.
Here, our writers discuss who they think the best is in our top-three format debate.
STUART APPLEBY, SAYS:
1. ROGER FEDERER
Quite simply, the perfect sportsman. Titles, records and longevity are the main hallmarks of his staggering success at the top of the game over a 15-year period but it’s the Swiss’s professionalism, high-level of sportsmanship and will to keep going and going which sets him apart. As his climb back to the top of the rankings has proved, Federer is the man that can do no wrong and probably the most popular athlete around.
2. MUHAMMAD ALI:
Appropriately, the boxing king was nicknamed “The Greatest” and certainly lived up to that billing in a remarkable career and life. He was the only heavyweight champion in history to hold the lineal championship on three different occasions. Fought in the toughest ever era, with his eighth-round knockout of George Foreman in 1974 being one of the best-ever fights. Huge personality and presence which has never been matched.
3. LIONEL MESSI
Amazingly, he is still only 30 and going from strength to strength. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is the ultimate individual but also team player, possessing skill and talent of which the game hadn’t seen so consistently before. He was the main man behind arguably the best club side in history, leading Barcelona to a glittering array of titles particularly between 2008 and 2012. Can do anything on the pitch and just loves the game.
ALEX BROUN, SAYS:
1. MICHAEL PHELPS
There are many who have a claim on the GOAT but I’m going to start with the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. He has also won the most Olympic gold medals (23), and in Beijing in 2008 broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds at any single Olympic Games. He also did it over five Olympics, four of which he was the most successful athlete of the Games.
2. ROGER FEDERER
In terms of consistency, technique and longevity the Swiss has to be up there. Federer has won a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles including a record eight Wimbledons, a record six Australian Opens and a record five consecutive US Opens. He has held the World No1 spot in the ATP rankings for a record total of 302 weeks and has displayed a remarkable level to get back to the summit of the game.
3. CRISTIANO RONALDO
This might be controversial as I’m including one and not the other (Messi), but an equal most five Ballon d’Or awards, five league titles and four Champions Leagues puts him right up there. He also continues to produce year after year. Perhaps his most extraordinary achievement was lifting a very ordinary Portugal team to the European Championship in 2016. He’s the sort of player who makes other players around him play better.
MATT JONES, SAYS:
1. MICHAEL JORDAN
Nicknamed Air Jordan, he might as well have walked on air with how much better he was than any other athlete during his mega successful basketball career. Jordan was a six-time NBA champion and NBA finals MVP, five-time most valuable player and a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the USA. Was so good he even ventured into baseball in homage to his murdered father, although that didn’t turn out to be quite so successful.
2. JERRY RICE
Considered to not just be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, but also a shout for being called the greatest NFL player of all time. He is the all-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers, including 208 touchdowns, and remains miles ahead today even 13 years after retiring. Won three Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers during their heyday and was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times in a 20-year career.
3. USAIN BOLT
Not only was Bolt untouchable on his day but he made what he did look fun too. The joyful Jamaican mixed slick showmanship with incredible speed to break a string of world records. He is the first person to hold both the 100m and 200m world records and is the only sprinter to have won Olympic 100m and 200m titles at three consecutive Olympics. Also holds the 100m world record time of 9.58 seconds, set in Berlin in 2009.