Fourteen majors versus career Slam

Updated: June 8, 2009, 10:49 PM ET
ESPN.com

PARIS -- Roger Federer notched two historic feats by winning the French Open: He tied Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles and joined the prestigious career Slam club (winning each of the majors).

So this raises the question: Which is the greater accomplishment?

Greg Garber and Bonnie D. Ford duke it out.

Which is the greater accomplishment?
FOURTEEN SLAMS

When Roger Federer passes on to the players' lounge in the sky after a long and fruitful life, only one number will matter.

And they'll carve it in Roman numerals:

XIV -- or maybe XV or XVI or XVII.

That will be the number of Grand Slam singles titles the great Swiss champion will have collected in his tennis career.

That's the bottom line, the ultimate statistic, the double-digit evidence that defines greatness. Nothing else really matters, does it, Bonnie?

Certainly, a career Grand Slam is a marvelous achievement. It is an exceedingly rare feat -- unless you are a member of the Andre Agassi household in Las Vegas, where both mom and dad belong to that exclusive club.

A little diversity in a résumé is lovely, but by tying Pete Sampras' hallowed mark of 14 major championships, Federer has joined a club with only two members. Clearly, this is a more important accomplishment by far.

This is the moment the tennis world has expected since Federer strung together three Grand Slam wins in 2004 and began to distance himself from his peers. He produced two more triples, in 2006 and 2007, but last year Federer struggled with illness and injury.

Federer salvaged a relatively meager season -- ho hum, only two finals appearances in the first three Slams and 17 straight runs to the semifinals -- with a victory at the U.S. Open, and suddenly, it seemed to be a matter of when not whether Federer would catch Sampras.

And so they're tied. History beckons.

-- Greg Garber

CAREER SLAM

If it were easy, more guys would have done it.

Roger Federer's victory here makes him just the second man ever -- the prehistoric, pre-Open era included -- to complete a career Grand Slam on three surfaces. As for Andre Agassi, the only other member of that club, Roland Garros proved to be the most elusive piece of that puzzle for Federer.

Agassi, a two-time finalist in Paris early in his career, won Wimbledon in '92, the U.S. Open in '94 and the Australian Open in '95, then persevered through a potentially career-breaking slump to capture the French Open in 1999. Federer took almost as long to collect the set after plucking his first few Slams like a bunch of low-hanging grapes in 2003-04.

Federer once famously said that he didn't have a clay problem, he had a Rafael Nadal problem on clay. It's an accurate and insightful statement, but had Federer failed to win at Roland Garros, no one would have given him a career Slam with an asterisk.

Some will say Nadal's absence makes Federer's victory a thinner satisfaction -- and that is, quite simply, hogwash. There was exponentially more pressure on Federer to win against Anyone Not Named Nadal. On the flip side, this might have been the steppingstone Federer needed to believe he can overcome his matchup difficulties with Nadal here at a later date.

The depth in the men's game, the fitness level, the disappearance of one-surface "specialists," the evolution of gear -- all conspire to make hitting for the cycle in tennis more and more difficult. Federer has tied Pete Sampras' overall record for Slam titles in the most dramatic way possible, fighting himself as well as his opponents, and did it in the arena where Sampras never got closer than the semifinals. The Swiss star has hammered out the one dent in his legacy, and that, whether it was Slam No. 10, 14 or 15, sets it apart from any of his other victories.

-- Bonnie D. Ford