Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rafael Nadal On Way To Being Greatest Tennis Player Ever

I can't wrap my mind around the idea that Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player ever.  Not when he has a 9-18 record against Rafael Nadal. Not when he is 2-8 against Nadal in Grand Slam tournaments.

There's no doubt that Federer is a great player.  You can't win 16 Grand Slams in your career (best ever) and not be one of the greats.  Federer's domination on (virtually) all courts is well-known, but as Nadal's skill on the grass and hard court has improved, Federer has had a tough time winning.  With Federer's loss today in the semi-finals of the Australian Open to Nadal, he hasn't won a Grand Slam in his last eight tries.

Nadal's dominance on the clay courts is unquestioned.  He's won six titles at the French Open, and the one time he didn't win it in 2009 he was injured.  That was the only time that Roger Federer was able to win the French Open.

While Roger Federer was 22 when he won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, Nadal was 19 when he won his first French Open.  Nadal was 22 when he won Wimbledon the first time as well.

Nadal turns 26 in March.  Currently, Nadal has 10 Slam titles.  At this same age, Federer had 9 Slam titles.  It seems very unlikely that Federer is going to win another Slam, but given Nadal's injury history, it's still possible.  If he doesn't have to play Nadal, Federer could certainly win again.

As far as Nadal's future, if the changes he made to his game allow him to start beating Djokovic again (winless against him in 2011), he should surpass Federer in career Slams.  Over the next five years, as Nadal ages, it's likely that he will still win at least three French Opens.  That means he'd only need to win three other Slams in five years (15 attempts) in order to tie Federer. Barring a terrible unforeseen injury, I think it's very likely that he will do so.  Not only that, but he has an excellent chance to obliterate the record of 16 slams and win 20 or more.

Once he does, as long as he reasserts dominance (or at least a .500 record) against Djokovic going forward, Nadal should be regarded as the best tennis player ever. Not Federer. There would be no question.

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