At 35, Federer is now the oldest Grand Slam champion in his own lifetime. Australia’s Ken Rosewall is the only other man to claim majors in the Open era after his 35th birthday, the last of which came at the 1972 US Open at the age of 37.
Only two men in Open Era history have waited longer for their next Grand Slam title. Seventeen majors have passed since Wimbledon 2012, eclipsing the 16-Slam gap between Andre Agassi’s victories at the 1995 Australian Open and 1999 French Open. Nineteen majors came and went between Boris Becker’s 1991 and 1996 Australian Open titles, and 21 by the time Arthur Ashe followed his 1970 Australian Open triumph with victory at Wimbledon in 1975.
Not since 1982 has a man defeated four top-10 seeds to win a major. Mats Wilander beat Ivan Lendl, Vitas Gerulaitis, Jose Luis Clerc and Guillermo Vilas to win the French Open that year; Federer has beaten Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka and now Rafael Nadal.
Federer’s place in the pantheon of tennis greats was assured long ago, but the case for his place within it has only intensified since his previous Grand Slam triumph. In the five years since that 17th major win at Wimbledon in 2012, Nadal has collected three majors. Novak Djokovic, who then had five, now has a dozen. Back in 2012, Serena Williams had won her 14th major the previous day on Centre Court; yesterday at Rod Laver Arena, she claimed her 23rd – an unparalleled trophy haul in the Open era. Who knows where the great G.O.A.T. debate will have taken us in another five, 10, or 50 years’ time – all that can be said with certainty is Federer’s stock has risen these past two weeks in Melbourne.
Even in such company, even all these years later, even ignoring the six-month layoff that preceded this seven-match surge at Melbourne Park, Australian Open 2017 might well be considered among the grandest of his 18 slams.