WE have, in our lifetimes, been privileged enough to see some of the best sportsmen in history ply their trade.

Tiger Woods was once golf’s dominant force in a way it is hard to imagine anyone will ever come close to repeating.

Ronnie O’Sullivan is often hailed as the most natural cue-wielder to ever play snooker, and 16-time world champion Phil Taylor has been the standard-bearer in darts for many years.

The list can run and run, much like the most explosive sprinter the world has ever seen, Usain Bolt (another for the list).

And while ice hockey and basketball are not massively followed on this side of the Atlantic, Wayne Gretsky and Michael Jordan are still familiar faces, both able to win team games on their own.

Jahangir Khan was untouchable on the squash court, Michael Phelps unbeatable in water.

And to my mind, there has never been a better tennis player than Roger Federer.

The Swiss master has 19 grand slam titles to his name, a staggering eight of them at Wimbledon’s centre court. No man has won that pineapple-topped cup more times.

The records speak for themselves – the most weeks as world number one (302), the most consecutive weeks in top spot (237), grand slam final appearances (29, including 10 in a row in the mid-2000s), ATP World Tour titles (six), Laureus World Sportsman of the Year awards (four in a row)... you get the picture.

Some of his on-court tussles with Rafael Nadal, who I am happy to concede is the dominant force on clay, are up there with the top matches of all time.

Their Australian Open final battle, won by 35-year-old Federer in a nerve-jangling fifth set, cemented both men’s place in tennis history as well as serving notice to Sir Andy and Novak Djokovic that these supposedly spent forces were anything but.

One can only wonder how many titles one of the great rivals would have collected had the other not been around, but their competitiveness and will to win (particularly when the other is on the opposing side of the net) reached greater heights when they faced off.

Were I to try knocking the Spaniard. I would point out only a fifth of his 15 wins came away from Roland Garros. Some criticism, I know, but it’s all I can muster.

Federer simply walked with that aura of invincibility seen in so few sportsmen and women.

Ever since 2003, when he won his first Wimbledon singles title at the expense of outgoing Pete Sampras, he has ruled SW19 in a way not even Sampras did.

Sure, Bjorn Borg was undefeated there in a five-year stretch, but he quit the game in his mid-20s. There can be little or no doubt he would have won more than his 11 slams but we will never know.

The Fed-Express (even legends are occasionally saddled with duff nicknames) can reduce opponents to tears – with the help of a blister or two.

And it is his manner of victory that further impresses. There are no histrionics or any gloating in victory. There are never excuses, no sour grapes or whining in defeat.

He is simply the greatest of all time.