And now some words from a very special guest...
My thanks to TopSpin, 2Hander and the rest of the team here at 'Tennis is Served...' for allowing me to address you all on this very special moment of Tennis History...
He did it. 14 Slams, including that elusive rust coloured one they said he couldn't win.
And he did it with the single handed backhand a stroke that according to them, was a thing of the past.
Even as my kind prepares to welcome Roger into our ranks this week, I think it fair to tell you that I almost don't care about that four letter word as, like a lot of other people, I don't think it actually means all that much. It also has some rather unpleasant Satanic undertones, which my kind tend not to like very much.
[Murmurs of consternation]
I take more pleasure in knowing that in this age of larger-framed racquets, muscular physiques and double-handed backhands, two of the most stylish and skilled players of this generation fought their way through and subdued a field largely comprised of power-baseliners.
['Amen to that!']
However, in the interests of completeness, and seeing as everybody from Sampras through to the bloke at the bus stand seems to have an opinion on the subject, here's where I stand on the whole four-legged, naturally-homogenised milk giving issue.
Let me me start with a question.
If Federer got through to the final playing a better standard of tennis than he played over the entire two weeks in Paris - playing as well as he was say in the 2006-2007 seasons - and then lost to Nadal in another one of those uncompetitive four sets of tennis, would that make him any less of a player than he is now?
Not in my book. For what it's worth , were I to accept the validity of such a title, I'd argue he's already earnt it on the strength of those four consecutive French Open finals he contested against the GC-COAT. If he surpassed Sampras' 14 Slams without winning the FO, he'd still deserve it.
Now here's the rub.
Like it or not, I don't think you can ignore that he didn't face not just Nadal, but Djokovic and Murray too. The other best three players in the world, all of whom seem to have his number right now.
And those are the two extremes within which I rather uneasily reside. I think one more Slam (on any surface - we already know he can play on clay) where he subdues at least one other of the top four, would seal it for me. Were I to believe in such things.
Though this is a Slam win just like any other, and he can of course only play the 'ugly forehand' that's put in front of him, this just ain't the same as the US Open last year, where coming off a run of poor form, he dispatched both Djoko and Murray back to back, playing a less stellar and more pragmatic brand of tennis. His best win yet IMO.
On the other hand those that would rather confer the title on Sampras (and they aren't all Fed Haters), or relentlessly grind the 'weak era' argument (that on balance I don't buy very much even though I believe Sampras would have done just as well as Federer in this era) would do well to reflect on Sampras's less polished RG record, where he only once made the semis going out to Kefelnikov in a manner not dissimilar to Rafa's brutal dismantling of Roger last year.
Roger's made the final four years in a row. Even that semi final outage in 2005 was against, you've guessed it, Rafael Nadal. That, I'm afraid, most likely means he would have added further rust-coloured Titles to that incredible tally of 14 Slams had he not lived in the same era as the GC-COAT.
['YES he would!']
A problem, I might add, that Pete Sampras didn't have to face. I wonder how his single hander would have fared against the Pink Pounder.
And it is just Sampras and Federer in question here.
Laver? Meh. That's probably spectacularly unfair given the record of two 'Grand' Slams, and a #1 ranking for seven consecutive years. But still. Meh. Different era, different equipment, different standards of fitness and different motivations, drive and intensity. Different sport altogether. I suppose you should say he was the best player with a wooden racquet and leave it at that.
[Angry chorus of disapproval from one corner of the room leading to a group of loyal Laver supporters being expelled]
And there I'm going to leave the whole topic. Except to say that having lived through both the Sampras and Federer eras I find myself ever so slightly in the Swiss camp. A camp I've been in ever since I saw a potato-nosed, pony-tailed bumpkin of a teenager take out Sampras in his last competitive showing at SW19, following that up two years later with his first Wimbledon Title after which we saw those tears flow in a way which is now all too familiar.
I still think Pete Sampras had the best-serve-of-all-time; I might well say I'm beSOATed with that service action. Rather how I feel about most every other stroke Federer conjures up - but there's not much in it. I think I may even prefer Pete's volleys too.
And that rather subjective point of view is the best I'm afraid I can offer up. I don't think it's possible to resolve the 'best ever' question without reference to some absurd unquantifiable set of criteria that usually only exists in our own heads. Usually countered with reference to other seemingly irrefutable but equally unquantifiable sets of criteria.
But seeing as most everyone now, from Agassi to Roddick to Tim Henman to Neil Harman, right through to Sampras himself, is jumping on the 'Capra aegagrus hircus' bandwagon - and seeing as I'm not exactly far removed from that particular genus myself - I will for my part concede, that this is the best claim I've seen laid down yet.
I will in parting mention two other great men, that despite their differences, contributed into making this tournament the amazing, other-wordly, mind-bending experience it was.
Robin, you came into this event a misunderstood and somewhat 'fringe' figure - but not only have you made this your best ever showing at this level, you've won your way into our hearts with the best runners-up speech we've had in recent years.
And I'm not 'yoking' when I say that though we've said some pretty harsh things about the way you hit your forehand, I wouldn't want you to change anything about it. Not for the world. Well ok, maybe for the world. And a couple of Slam Titles. Welcome back into the fold...
Rafa, though you're hurting right now, I think everyone knows you're still the GC-COAT, and will likely pick up from where you left off next year. And I'm sure you won't mind my saying that your departure opened up the draw in a way we've never really seen since the parting of the Red Sea. Take some consolation if you can, from knowing that your beloved title here couldn't have gone to a better rival. Get thee knee better - and I hope to see you at Wimbledon!
[Rapturous applause and whistling only broken up with the sound of a fiddler starting up a jig.....]