By Randy Walker
Roger Federer may head into the US Open with his lowest ranking since 2002 at No. 7, but the 17-time major singles champion is once again on the cusp of making more tennis history.
Just by stepping onto the court for his first-round match against Grega Zemlja of Slovenia at the 2013 US Open, the 32-year-old Federer will add another record to his incredible tennis resume. The 2013 US Open will mark Federer’s 56th consecutive appearance in a major tournament, equaling the record men’s mark set by Wayne Ferreira, who played 56 major titles from the 1991 Australian Open to 2004 US Open.
“Still here,” is what Federer said to reporters earlier this year in Australia when asked to discuss approaching Ferreira’s record, bringing up that he had actually ball-boyed for Ferreira, played doubles with him, but neglecting to bring up that he lost to the South Africa two of the three times they played on the ATP Tour.
“Longevity has always been something that’s been important to me,” said Federer in January. “I’ve planned the season accordingly this year again, that I will not miss the majors because of injury. But then again sometimes you get hit with an unlucky injury just shortly before a Slam. There’s obviously nothing you can do about it. The best‑of‑five, the rule in tennis, it takes to get deep in a tournament, there’s no easy ways. I’m excited that I’ve played so many in a row and I hope I can keep the streak alive and see where it stops. We’ll see how it goes.”
Reporters informed Federer that Ferreira was surprised that his record was so soon to be broken and asked Federer for his reaction.
“Yeah, I am, too,” he said. “It’s not something you really plan. You play when you’re ready. If you’re not, you’re not. When I was coming along, guys would not go to Australia. Like (Carlos) Moya wouldn’t play Wimbledon because he just thought, I’d rather take that time to get off and get ready for some more clay after Wimbledon. It was normal. I came through that period of times a well. But I felt my game suited all the service surfaces, so I thought, Might as well go to all the different tournaments. Next thing you know, we’re here talking about it. It wasn’t something that was planned in any way.”
Ferreira retired shortly after playing his 56th straight major at the 2004 US Open, just days before his 33rd birthday.
“I feel good in the fact that I’ve been healthy through all of them,” said Ferreira in 2004 to reporters of his 56 straight majors. “I’ve had some good runs at it. My career has been long. I think maybe I would have changed it up a bit and played a little bit less and been more ready for the Grand Slams. I did come in here for a few of them tired and not prepared well enough for them. But, you know, I’ve competed well. I’ve always been in good shape and given my best here. I think, you know, I’ve had some really good chances to win the whole thing, and it hasn’t worked out. But I came in here thinking — every time I came in here thinking I could win the tournament.”
As documented in THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS book (available here: http://www.newchaptermedia.com/the-bud-collins-history-of-tennis-an-authoritative-encyclopedia-and-record-book/), in women’s tennis, Ai Sugiyama of Japan owns the women’s – and all-time – record for most major singles titles played consecutively with 62 played from 1994 Wimbledon to the 2009 US Open.