No discussion or disclaimers necessary. If Roger Federer escapes the red clay at Roland Garros with a win over alleged nemesis Rafael Nadal and hoists the French Open hardware, he’s the best.

Not today. Not of his generation. Not in the ubiquitous and inexact “open era.”

One win, however convincing, would make Federer the best tennis player of all-time.

I hate blanket superlatives, and I enjoy pointless, barroom, talk-radio time machine arguments even less. But there’s no other defensible position on this one.

Federer is single-handedly responsible for making this the most boring, unwatchable era in the history of men’s tennis. He’s that ridiculously good.

There is no rival worthy to carry Federer’s headband. Pete Sampras had Andre Agassi. Bjorn Borg had John McEnroe. To speak Federer and Nadal’s names in the same sentence is like saying Derek Jeter hasn’t eclipsed Brian Doyle and Bucky Dent as the Yankees’ greatest clutch hitting shortstop.

Think of Nadal as the friend who can only beat you at Monopoly in his basement, under house rules that award him five grand every time he lands on Free Parking. He’s a one-hit wonder. When I watch him play at Wimbledon, I think of Larry the Cable Guy sitting at a piano and doing political comedy.

If God is a tennis fan, Federer will issue a flogging worthy of Centre Court or Flushing Meadows this morning/afternoon. Thus, excusing the wannabe from all discussion of his transcendent career forever and leaving Federer, with at least six more Grand Slams waiting to be won, alone at the summit.

Seriously, if there were a Mount Rushmore of tennis, Federer’s likeness should be chain sawed into it three times. He is the Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln of his profession. We’ll let Martina Navratilova be the afterthought Teddy Roosevelt, just to appease the Title IX crowd and piss off McEnroe, the infamous misogynist.

Sampras gets a little plaque in the gift shop. Borg can sell belt buckles and key chains there.

Don’t go all Rod Laver and Bill Tilden on me, either. There’s nothing more pathetic than living, breathing organisms who carry a torch in 2007 for athletes who played before Technicolor.

Sports and science evolve. By the time Andy Roddick is a balding, C-list celebrity on one of those whack-and-wheeze senior tours, someone will come along who makes Roger Federer look like dial-up internet.

Until then, with a merciful win in Paris over the pretender in the natty knickerbockers, Federer becomes the greatest craftsman ever to swing a racket. And second place isn’t in the same galaxy.


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