In the battle of No. 1s, does tennis beat golf?

Tonight at 9 p.m. (RP time), over the Star Sports network (SkyCable channel 22), when Andy Roddick and Roger Federer meet in the final of the world’s oldest tennis tournament, the winner will defeat…………. Tiger Woods.

What??? Let me explain. I’m proclaiming Sir Roger as the champion. Yes, the game is yet to be played. True, the yellow ball is round and it can twist and turn in varying directions and thus reward the underdog the trophy. Yes, Roddick owns the fastest ever recorded serve at 249.5 kph and will out-ace the Swiss Ace. And, true, 48 hours ago, Andy The American beat Andy The British in an upset. So, Andy can upset Rog—

Nah. Federer will win. After losing 90 percent of the time they’ve played (2-18 in the win-loss scorecard), Roddick’s dream will be shattered by his perennial nightmare. And, so, to me, the history-making feat of RF tonight is not because he’ll embarrass Roddick. It’s not even a fight against Pete Sampras, the man I’ve idolized and the player whom Roger has tied with 14 slams apiece. In my mind’s eye, Roger has already bested Pete. (Remember Paris?)

It’s now Roger vs. Tiger. Yes. These two are near-best friends. Tiger invited Roger to walk the golf greens with him. Roger reserved seats for Tiger and his wife, Elin Nordegren, when he won the U.S. Open last September. They’re both Nike endorsers. They’re both 6-foot-1. They’re both standing at the peak of their game’s Mt. Everests.

Golf and tennis. Can two sports be more alike? And opposite? Balls. Power. Spins. Finesse. Grass. (Think Wimbledon.) For who, in your opinion, is the greater of the two sportsmen?

‘ger or ‘ger? Tied. Yup. Before the Swiss steps on Centre Court tonight, he is tied with the American black golfer at 14 majors apiece. And, if the tennis star wins, it’s plus one. He’ll have 15 to Tiger’s 14.

Advantage, ‘ger. Roger.

Did you see that Nike advertisement? One of my all-time favorites, it features Tiger calmly boasting that he has more Grand Slam victories than Roger and that his tennis best friend has some catching up to do…

Well, Mr. ‘er, if the Swiss Master who wears a Rolex (versus Tiger’s Tag Heuer) is triumphant at Wimbledon, guess who’ll have some catching up to do…

I researched their 14 majors and found interesting artifacts.

Aged 33 years old, Tiger is six years older than Roger. He won his first-ever major, as expected, much earlier than Roger. In 1997 at The Masters, Tiger Woods won No. 1. In 1999, he won The PGA Championships. And, in the years that followed all the way until 2002, he won a total of eight major trophies.

Federer? Zero by 2002. Advantage, Woods. Score: 8-0.

Roger’s first Slam victory was in Wimbledon exactly six years ago, in 2003. But, since that initial win, Roger has accumulated Grand Slam trophies faster than a speeding D’ Rough Riders bus.

So here we stand today, with Tiger winning only six more majors in the last six years while Roger has won 14 in the same span of time. And while Tiger was highly-touted to win the U.S. Open weeks back, he lost.

Not Roger. Not tonight. Not in Wimbledon, where he’s aiming for his sixth crown in seven years. Not against Roddick, whom he beat in the All-England Club finals in 2004 and 2005. Not when his confidence is at an all-time summit after having won at Roland Garros.

Is my conclusion, then, this: Roger beats Tiger? Ha-ha. Sure. Because while tennis and golf are different—one uses a fluffy ball that boomerangs when hit while the other uses 3-5-7-9 irons and has competitors wearing long pants who employ caddies—both are competitive sports. Both have No. 1s.

For now, tennis bests golf. Roger bests his best friend, Tiger.

And so, after the Wimbledon finale later, Tiger will call Roger to congratulate him and he’ll joke that he’s done one better. Then, he’ll put the phone down and, all alone, ask a simple plea….

When does Rafael Nadal return?

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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