Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Extraordinary Age
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The Extraordinary Age 07/12/2010 - 2:52 PM

Rn There are many perverse elements to the tennis season. We know them well: It’s too long, it starts too early, and in the end, rather than rising to a crescendo, it fizzles into obscurity. But what seems strangest to me at the moment is how, despite that meandering length, the core of the year remains so compressed. The tournaments that will largely define 2010 in the future, Wimbledon and the French Open, came and went, as they always do, in six short weeks. Right now it feels as if the year’s results were decided at one long Paris-to-London, clay-to-grass super-event. 

So let’s take a moment and look at what happened on the men’s side during that time. Unlike in the women’s game, a definitive change took place at the top of the ATP. Roger Federer went to Paris as the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion at both the French Open and Wimbledon. He left London ranked No. 3, and lost in the quarters at both tournaments. Rafael Nadal went in ranked No. 2, with virtually nothing to defend. He came out with both titles and the No. 1 spot likely secured for the rest of the season.

This flip-flop at the top has a couple of noteworthy aspects to it. First, the Channel Slam—the French-Wimbledon double—has suddenly been rendered routine. Before 2008, it had been considered one of the Holy Grails of the men’s game, a feat only the immortals of old were capable of pulling off. The last player to do it had been Bjorn Borg, who won the French and Wimbledon back to back from 1978 to ’80. As the years went by and no one managed to match Borg even one time, his triple-double grew to mythic proportions—“How did he possibly do that?” was all we could ask after a while. Now it’s been done three straight times again: Nadal in 2008, Federer in ’09, and Nadal in 2010.

On the one hand, the improved grass at Wimbledon has played a role in making this possible. The jump from slow clay to slick, unpredictable turf is not as extreme as it was in Borg’s day. Players no longer have to develop their games in one direction or the other, the way Pete Sampras did; you can succeed on both surfaces with the same power-baseline style. Still, the fact that two guys have done it in such rapid succession, after such a long dry spell, can’t merely be chalked up to a better brand of grass. To me, their Channel Slams are an example of the extraordinary moment we’re witnessing in tennis. 

We have a male player, Federer, who has won 16 majors and been touted as the best player, both from a statistical and an aesthetic standpoint, in history. Federer, for good measure, just went six years without losing before the semis at a Slam. We have another man, Nadal, who is likely the best clay-court player ever; he won a record 81-straight matches on the stuff, and has won five French Opens in six tries. Together Federer and Nadal have locked up the No. 1 and 2 spots for longer than any other pair of men, and, even more remarkably, they've won 20 of the last 22 majors. Beyond their rivalry, in the last year we’ve seen Ivo Karlovic hit a then-unthinkable 78 aces, only to have that record shattered a few months later, by two players, in a single match that lasted five hours longer than any in history. You might say all of this is just part of the evolution of the sport, and that records are made to be broken. But you would also have to say that any of the numbers above, taken separately, would be considered outliers. Put them together and it’s clear we’re seeing something special.

The other noteworthy element to this year’s Channel Slam is that Nadal won both of them in fairly similar fashion, while Federer lost at both of them in very similar fashion. Nadal has never been more versatile. He won tactically (the Wimbledon final). He won with raw consistency and speed (the French Open final). He won by taking it straight at his bigger-hitting opponent (against Soderling at Wimbledon). Overall, it appeared that he didn’t believe he could lose, and that’s a mindset that’s closer to Federer’s in his prime than it is to Nadal’s own normal way of looking at his game. It’s clear that Nadal has reached some kind of peak. It's not every day that you get to bite the World Cup.

Two questions emerge: Is Nadal the new Federer? And if so, can he catch his major-title count? I’ll start by acknowledging that neither of these is in any way answerable, or even semi-predictable. One thing we know about Nadal is that he has typically peaked around this time in a season, and that he gradually falls off from here. Up to this point, he has also lacked Federer’s ability to cruise into the semis at Slams. It’s harder work for Rafa all around, and he’s never gotten as many free points with his serve as Federer has. He’ll need to change some part of that equation if he wants to own the sport the way his rival has. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. In 2005, it would have been difficult to imagine Nadal ever winning a Wimbledon final, let alone winning one without being broken.

As for Federer, we know that he has recovered from a defeat at Wimbledon in 2008 and come back to win the next Slam, the U.S. Open. We’ll know more after this Open, and at the end of the year, about whether these patterns are ready to be broken, and new ones more favorable to Nadal put in place. I’d be surprised to see Rafa dip precipitously this time, and I'd also be surprised if Federer doesn’t revive himself and play better tennis in the second half of the year. Losing to guys he’s owned for years should provide some of the motivation that may have been missing after his record-breaking 2009.

Will it be enough for Federer to significantly add to his Slam total over the next few years, and put it out of reach of Nadal? Federer has said he’ll play at least until the 2012 London Olympics, and likely beyond. He’ll be 31 that summer, which means he could potentially play for three or four years after that. A lot will depend on his status in the game at that point. If he’s a perennial quarterfinalist, overpowered by the big men on a regular basis, I don’t see him sticking around for long; it would be tough for someone of his stature to swallow. But I also don’t see his game dropping off as quickly as Sampras’ did after 30, or Edberg’s did in his late 20s. The only player who has, as of this moment, surpassed him is Nadal. Murray and Djokovic have been treading water, del Potro seems to be fragile, and while Soderling and Berdych have beaten Federer, they’re not marching past him in the rankings anytime soon. There’s also no teenager on the horizon who appears ready to blow the whole thing up. I'd say Federer will win between one and five more majors. It's hard to be more specific than that, but for the sake of this article, I’ll guess that, barring serious injury, he'll retire with 19 Slams.

Can Nadal get to 19? It’s seems unlikely that, at 24, he has 11 more majors in him. OK, can he get to 16? Federer turned 24 one month after Wimbledon in 2005. Notice that that tournament represented a peak moment for him as well; Federer blitzed Andy Roddick in the most one-sided of his Wimbledon final wins (he would play Nadal in that round for the first time in '06). It’s hard to believe, but that was only Federer’s fifth major title. From that point until the beginning of 2008, from ages 24 to 26, he would go on a serious tear, one that no one had seen since Borg’s glory years of ’78 to ’80. Federer won seven of nine majors and vaulted into contention for Sampras’ Slam record.

Nadal, who is ahead of Federer’s pace by three at the moment, doesn’t need to match that run. Which is a good thing, because it’s borderline-unmatchable, even for a normal, clear-cut No. 1. Nadal is virtually assured of winning more French Opens—I’ll say three more; if that seems conservative for a guy who’s lost one match there in his career, it’s only because he’s made winning in Paris look easier than it is, and easier than it’s going to be even for him in the future. With the other Slams, it’s harder to say. Based on his past results, which have until now been more up-and-down than dominant, I’d give him two more each in Australia and at Wimbledon, and two at the U.S. Open. That brings Nadal to a total of 17. Somehow that number seems high when you put all the Slams together—can the guy really win nine more? It took him five years to win the eight that he has. But individually, 3, 2, 2, 2 sounds reasonable for his future at 24, doesn't it? And like I said, all bars have been raised in this era.

Recurring knee injuries could make this number much lower; we’ve always said Nadal's style was hard on him, and it’s already robbed him of potential major titles. But so far it hasn’t sidelined him for an extended period. He keeps getting back up, and I’d expect this pattern to continue. At the same time, Nadal could be entering a period of Federer-like, two-Slams-per-season period of dominance, which would make his career total higher. Whatever his final number, I think it will be lower than Federer’s final number. No matter how young he is, eight is going to be a tough number to erase.

Judging from the past, the one thing we can count on from Federer and Nadal is that the guy who is being counted out is the guy we need to watch out for. In July 2010, that guy is Federer. In the race for Grand Slam supremacy, it’s Nadal. If they’ve taught us anything, it’s to look forward to the extraordinary.


 
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Posted by MZK 07/12/2010 at 03:36 PM

I think Federer has altered the landscape of what is 'normal' in tennis. Nadal would still be an all-time great even if he never lifted another Slam trophy. (Just look at who he's pulled even with: Lendl, Connors, and Agassi.) I'm confused at all the talk now about whether he can get to 16 - or the 19 that you've extrapolated. Why should he have to? I'm just concerned that somehow it will look as though Nadal underachieved if he doesn't meet these pie-in-the-sky predictions, when in fact he's achieved more than many of us imagined just a few years ago. Let's give credit on that basis. He doesn't have to exist in the same breath as Federer all the time - it's bad enough certain people still compare their records as they stand now as though there weren't a five-year age difference.

Just my thoughts, anyhow. Not actual criticism about this otherwise nice post. First sentence of the last paragraph is golden, by the way.

Posted by miri 07/12/2010 at 04:31 PM

MZK - I couldn't agree more. Rafa's already won more Majors than some of the all-time greats of the game. Samprass and Federer are clearly the exceptions to the rule here. It only kind of feels otherwise because Fed came so soon after Samprass. If we'd have to wait the same difference between Fed breaking the Samprass Major as, say the repeat of the Channel-slam, I think it would be easier to see that.

Posted by Sherlock 07/12/2010 at 04:47 PM

Nice article, Steve. With all apologies to the FOOPs out there, it's nice to take a step back from all the Fedal sniping and ponder the greatness of these two guys.

"I'd say Federer will win between one and five more majors. It's hard to be more specific than that, but for the sake of this article, I’ll guess that, barring serious injury, he'll retire with 19 Slams."

I agree. Fed's not done by a long shot. But as you say, so much depends on health. Fed's, Nadal's, and Delpo's, especially.

Posted by Game Lover 07/12/2010 at 05:26 PM

Yay Stevo! I like what you said about Rafa! Even about Roger...

Vamos!
And when was the last time you've played?

Posted by reckoner 07/12/2010 at 05:45 PM


i plead the 5th

Posted by reckoner 07/12/2010 at 05:46 PM


i plead the 5th (comment)

Posted by lilscot 07/12/2010 at 05:49 PM

Wow, great piece Steve. Actually gave me some goose bumps in parts. :)

Posted by heythereman 07/12/2010 at 05:51 PM

The only thing I can be certain about is that all these predictions will be wrong. But it's fun to think about what these two - as you say, Steve - extraordinary men can do.

I think at the end of the day, these are the two best tennis players in history. Yes, I really think Nadal will reach that status.

Posted by Andrew 07/12/2010 at 05:55 PM

Nadal and Federer are two greats of the Open Era, and we've been lucky that for a period of about 5 years they've played some of their best tennis at the same time.

That said, the first half of 2010 has been a bit disappointing, because I hoped we were really in for a Golden Era: if Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, Del Potro, Davydenko and Roddick were playing close to their best, what a feast!

But of these guys, only Nadal has been reasonably consistent (and outstanding since the clay season began). Federer and Murray looked the part in Melbourne, but not since; Del Potro and Davdenko have had long injury breaks; Djokovic is more volatile than Greek government bonds, Roddick had one bright spell in the US, and Soderling repeated the F spot at Roland Garros, but hasn't won a big title. Ah, what might have been...

Posted by David 07/12/2010 at 05:59 PM

I've thought for a few years now that Federer and Nadal may very well be the two best players of all-time, by whichever criteria you employ to solve that particular hypothetical conundrum. How lucky are we that their careers have overlapped?

Posted by Carolinagirl 07/12/2010 at 06:05 PM

Very nice article, but Rafa is not the new Federer. He and his accomplishments stand alone.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 06:06 PM

Thanks for this Steve. Crystal ball-gazing blended with a balanced perspective and a dash of eloquence makes for excellent reading. I'm really looking forward to the HC season the rest of the year. So many interesting storylines to follow and not just surrounding Federer and Nadal...

Andrew - Left a comment for you on the last post...

Posted by Carolinagirl 07/12/2010 at 06:07 PM

Sorry I realize my statement was ambiguous. Rafa and his accomplishments stand alone!

Posted by Corrie 07/12/2010 at 06:25 PM

"But I also don’t see his game dropping off as quickly as Sampras’ did after 30, or Edberg’s did in his late 20s."

But Federer's game already has dropped considerably over the last year and particularly the last few months, whereas I seem to remember Sampras had a long slow decline with one great breakout when he won his last USOpen. Inconsistency is the name of the game now, for Federer, with increasing injuries, like Sampras, complicating things. I can't see either him or Nadal reaching 19, and really, what does it matter? They've both achieved great and amazing things and given us an incredible era.

Posted by Andrew 07/12/2010 at 06:26 PM

TheMightyFunk (should I call you TMF.... hmm, lese majeste) - reply posted on prior thread.

Posted by Osegura 07/12/2010 at 06:43 PM

I have a feeling that Nadal is starting to think about his place in history, the way Federer started few years ago and this will give him tremendous motivation. And definitively see Nadal more focused on GS rather than MSs to avoid extra load in his knees. I´m a Nadal fan, but I don't see him surpassing Federer's record at the end of their careers. However, I see him very close to Federer (probably with 3 or 4 GSs fewer). Then the discussion will start: who is the greatest? the guy with 16 GSs (so far) or the guy that defeated Mr. 16 2 out of 3 times they played each other? Then we will talk......

Posted by Nam1 07/12/2010 at 06:44 PM

Will Nadal cathch Federer's 16 (maybe more slams); I dont think so but he doesnt have to.

He is already established as one of the Greats of the game; and very unique in his own way; when was the last time we had a No. 1 player, threatening to bite into the FIFA World Cup?!! This guy appeals to a much larger audience than tennis followers and for that reason tennis is lucky to have him to popularize the sport.

Posted by Nam1 07/12/2010 at 06:54 PM

" Based on his past results, which have until now been more up-and-down than dominant, I’d give him two more each in Australia and at Wimbledon, and two at the U.S. Open. That brings Nadal to a total of 17."

I think this is way overestimated but for Rafa's sake I hope Steve is right.

I think that Rafa may win a total of 12 slams max if he stays injury free, I should say if he manages his injuries well.

Posted by latino 07/12/2010 at 06:54 PM

Vamos Rafa! VAMOS ESPAÑA! WORLD CHAMPIONS!!

Posted by tim 07/12/2010 at 06:58 PM

I'm a huge Fed fan and love to watch him play. I think he still might have 1 or 2 more slams left. The reason being is the competition level is getting tougher. However I think Rafa has a great chance of winning enough slams to surpass Federer. He is beating players that have already beaten the Federers, the Jockovics, the Roddicks, and so on. Just when I start to doubt him he just continues to dominate all players. his athletic skills coupled with his tennis skills were fully evident in the last 2 slams. I look forward to watching these 2 players for years to come.

Posted by wilson75 07/12/2010 at 07:00 PM

Corrie: I don't know about Sampras going into a slow decline. Didn't he go a year without winning a title before winning his last Grand Slam. At this point, Federer has won a title every year since his first title in 2001.

Steve: All I have to say is that if we could predict the future we would be multi-millionaires. I don't know how many Nadal or Federer will win by the time they both end their careers. But I'm going to enjoy watching them. Presumably both may retire around the same time as Rafa is on record saying that he can't see himself playing after 30 and Federer says he wants to play until 35. We'll see.

Posted by court1234 07/12/2010 at 07:10 PM

It's funny but it really wasn't until the Sampras Era that anyone thought the ultimate measuring stick was total of Majors won. I mean, Roy Emerson had the record for 30 plus years at 12 and nobody realistically put him on the short list of the all-time greats. The reality is that it's only been since the late '80s that it became deregeuer for ATP players to play all 4 Majors..

There are actually several ways that Nadal could get into legitimate contention with Federer for GOAT honors without equaling 16 Majors.
The catch is they might be even more difficult then getting 16 Majors...

One way would be to win all four Majors in a row or a calender Grand Slam. If's he's healthy the big issue is if he's finally overcome his USO Hard court demons. Hard to tell until Rafa actually does it.

The other way, would be "IF" he finally conquered the USO and could win a couple of them and won the AO and Wimbledon once or twice more. Winning ALL the Majors twice or Three times is something not even Federer has on his resume.

Of course if Federer wins the French Open one more time all bets are off.

Posted by tk 07/12/2010 at 07:24 PM

Great article. Finally, an article that raises both men instead of choosing one over the other. I enjoy watching both players and regardless of who ends up with more slams, they will both be considered as two of the greatest.

Earlier this year, there were many articles written about who the greatest tennis player of the past decade, man and woman, was. One writer actually chose Venus over Serena. His distinguishing criteria was what that player did to change the sport, not how many statistics they finished first in.

Having said that, I would, eventually, choose Roger over Rafa. Roger has done more to raise the level of the sport and the level of the game. Rafa is as good as he is because he had to be to beat Roger. Tennis, as a brand, has also been elevated because Roger was comfortable in his role as a representative of the brand. Roger has extended the reaches of tennis beyond the courts, farther than any other tennis player in history.

Greatest of all time? That's debatable. Most influential of all time. No debate. That's Roger Federer.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/12/2010 at 07:29 PM

Great post, Steve. Its an intriguing question and its fun to predict the career arc of both players.

I wouldn't put it past Rafa to exceed Roger's total slam count in the end. Confidence is a brutal thing...when you have it, you can conquer anything and the world...when its not there, it drags you down worse. Right now, Rafa is on a huge confidence wave.

I think Roger will win atleast three or more majors by 2012. 2009 was remarkable in more ways than one for Fed, coz he was in the finals of ALL the four slams. If you put yourself in contention that many times, you are bound to win once or twice. It wasn't the first time for him, but as he gets older, this does mean quite a lot.

Posted by Sherlock 07/12/2010 at 07:29 PM

"Roy Emerson had the record for 30 plus years at 12 and nobody realistically put him on the short list of the all-time greats. The reality is that it's only been since the late '80s that it became deregeuer for ATP players to play all 4 Majors."

Great point. Poor Roy can't even get a seat at the round table. :)

Influence is tricky to measure. Arthur Ashe was fairly influential.

Posted by Euphemism 07/12/2010 at 07:31 PM

I think Nadal's mentality has been interesting to watch evolve. At the beginning, he played with the kind of brash, heedless confidence reserved for the very young or the very foolish - I remember watching him play the early rounds of his first Roland Garros and thinking he had the same kind of "hey, this is actually pretty easy, why the hell couldn't I win?" attitude that Becker had in Wimbledon in '85. And that happy-go-lucky philosophy carried him through for a couple of years. But then his body started to break down, he lost matches to inferior players who could simply overpower him (Youzhny, Blake), and he realized that maybe it's not all that easy after all. Now, finding his best form again after coming through that (relatively) rough patch, he's in a position to appreciate it more, and his confidence comes not from ignorance, but from well-deserved pride in his accomplishments, which is a lot more endearing and impressive. (And I say that as a Federer fan.)

Posted by ladyjulia 07/12/2010 at 07:38 PM

I doubt if you can say that Fed was the most influential of all.

Sure..he showed that for a physique (where his rib cage shows) with anorexic arms..having a genius mind, and a magician like ability...and determination...can make you one of the greatest athletes in the world.

Fed will be known for his mind-boggling consistency...but most influential, I doubt. Influential in what way? To encourage youngsters to fly above the court...to glide effortlessly? To take ridiculous amount of risk when the biggest moment comes? Who gets away with that?

Sure...he has shown that things can be done...things that are hard to imagine (23 SF) can be done. But he is most likely going to be a player to be revered rather than copied. I have a feeling that its hard to copy him. At least, that is why I don't find him an influential figure...from the perspective of emulating.

Posted by Vie 07/12/2010 at 07:39 PM

Euphemism, your post resonates with me.

Posted by Frances 07/12/2010 at 07:42 PM

I need to read this tonight!

Posted by Nick 07/12/2010 at 08:00 PM

Here's the issue about all of these predictions. Right after this year's Australian Open, how many people predicted that:

*Federer was now on course to reach what had eluded him: The Calendar Grand Slam?
*Nadal was clearly not over the knee issue, and after the awful indoor campaign last fall, was finished?

And here we are 5 months later, and many such predictions like this and others have proved worthless. Federer hasn't won since Australia - and his losses get uglier; Nadal has resurrected himself from the abyss - again - but how sustainable is that knee he keeps telling us needs "treatment" between events? Murray has discovered his grand-scale junkballing is gonna be real hard to sustain to win 7 Best of Five Set Matches in two weeks, and is even more dour than he already was; Del Potro hasn't played since Australia and might not again this year - and who knows what he'll play like when he gets back? Roddick proved he can put up a short run of good results and then flame out again; ditto Soderling - who can reach Major Finals as easily as he can lose his opening match - which he's done in 4 tournaments this year alone; and Djokovic keeps finding ways to flatter, only to deceive, the fire in his belly clearly now down to a flicker.

Predicting at this point for this group? Go right ahead. But ask yourself who would have predicted, or did predict, anything we've seen so far this year? Let's see a show of hands...

Posted by doogansquest 07/12/2010 at 08:04 PM

I was in a class with a die-hard Nadal fan the other day who has the greatest respect for Federer. He said he feels their h2h is overblown and dramatically skewed by their clay meetings. (ie: Fed's up 5-4 on all other surfaces, and 4-1 after the month of June)

This gentleman had a great knowledge of the sport. When I asked him what he thought of Federer's recent trend, to which he replied, "I just think he's lacking for motivation right now. But I suspect he'll win 3-4 more majors through 2012 and then hand them up."

It was a great discussion.

I personally think Nadal will get to 12-13. A healthy Del Potro will wipe Nadal out of several events each year, and we know Djokovic and Murray own the Spaniard on hard courts.

Nadal's a shoe in for more victory on the red stuff, however, hence the high prediction.

Federer will still be the GOAT even when Nadal is done.

Posted by CPM 07/12/2010 at 08:10 PM

ladyjulia,

I think both Federer and Nadal broke their respective molds, but one place they could prove influential on the development of the men's game going forward is showing how potent an advantage good footwork can be. To my mind, it's what sets them apart from every other player on tour, and why Federer is, and I'd bet Nadal will eventually be, considered among the very best to have ever played the game. Is that kind of footwork teachable? Well, you could've taken me as a wee babe and worked with me for my entire young life, and I'd still be a graceless oaf, I'd wager; but I think it's more teachable than, say, growing up to be 6'7".
------
Steve,

Great post -- the reason why fans have Fedal spats and not Fedpo or Nadurray or whatever spats is because these two have made, and are still making, a profligately excellent patch of tennis.

And to toss my hat into the speculative ring, I'd guess Nadal will end up in the Borg-Sampras range of majors. Not Federer level (and 19-20 sounds about right to me for his final tally), by any means -- but not too shabby, either. So if Nadal's gonna make the GOAT issue a fight worth having (and it's so obviously not, but if we can't argue about useless things in sport, what useless things can we argue about*?), he's going to need to do things like make the Clay-GOAT argument air-tight; win one or two more channel slams; finish the career slam, preferably twice over (so two USOs & another AO); and pulling of a calendar slam makes him an instant contender, in my book. Those are going in roughly decreasing order of likelihood.

*Suggested answer: art.

Posted by John 07/12/2010 at 08:21 PM

I personally think Nadal will get more than 13
Sorry to say but Del Potro is going to have a hard time to play enough well after his bad wrist injury and of course he wont wipe Nadal out in the future and we know that Djokovic and Murray have a very hard time to beat a healthy Nadal on any surface
Nadal plays so great on clay as on grass
To Federer will be very dificult to be a GOAT, alway there is someone else

Posted by CPM 07/12/2010 at 08:23 PM

"A healthy Del Potro will wipe Nadal out of several events each year, and we know Djokovic and Murray own the Spaniard on hard courts."

The first part looks overblown to me -- not least because how long it's going to take Delpo to get back on form, how well he can stay fit and injury-free, and whether he can match his USO form consistently are all very much open questions. If the answers are "not long," "quite well," and "yes, he can" -- well, I'd say all the guys on tour are on notice on the hard courts. But it's a pity he's not around currently; I'd like to see both guys on form going at it. (And by "at it," I mean play tennis. This isn't a slashfic site yet, people.)

Second part: some facts, and a suggested conclusion.

Nadal's H2H on HC vs Murray: 4-3, Nadal.
Nadal's H2H on HC vs Djokovic: 7 - 5, Djokovic.

This word, "owning" -- it does not mean what you think it means.

Posted by Prakash Sri 07/12/2010 at 08:39 PM

Steve, Great article and realistic and meaningful predictions. Here is one difference that I thought should share with you folks. When Fed. was in fire for few years there was no close 2 to my knowledge and it was a pure domination and I recall folks getting board of seeing Fed. rolling over barring RG. But with Rafa that is not the case. Clearly Murray, Dvjockvic and Del Patro (in the future) are younger than him and have all the weapons to be a contender for Nadal.

Nadal would probably be coming very close to Fed I think but the next couple of years time will surely tell depending upon how the Mighty Fed. will perform. Even in Clay Nadal's dominance has come down to a good level compare to the last few years. So it is going to be an interesting next couple of years and the rest of the season may provide some good leads.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 08:45 PM

Thanks Andrew @6:26 pm. he he...TMFunk and TMF2 have been used in the recent past if you don't want to type the whole thing :)

Posted by lilscot 07/12/2010 at 08:45 PM

Man, it is soooo refreshing to see such harmony on this story. These two great men will forever be tied together and it's so nice to see some celebrating of the two of them, not one against the other. I mean, how frikkin' lucky are we to be witness to not just one, but two geniuses in the same era. We should stop all the bickering and get down on our hands and knees and thank the tennis gods for what we have. :)

Posted by john10 07/12/2010 at 08:46 PM

1. If Nadal ends his career with more slams than Federer, its a done deal, hes the GOAT.

2. If Federer ends his career with, lets say, 4-5 more slams, you have to give him GOAT status. Even though i think you can't really compare generations, i think people will spit out Federer, just like they do for Jordan.

2. But if Nadal ends within 1-2 or tied, i think Nadal gets the edge. If you think Federer still is the Goat, you have to look at the slams Nadal has won so far. He had to beat Federer(the GOAT) in 6 of the 8 slams hes won. Thats impressive any way you look at it.

Posted by lilscot 07/12/2010 at 08:48 PM

Man, there's nothing worse than typing a nice post and then have it disappear! Anyway, what a refreshing thing to see such harmony here on such a nice story. To sum up my last post, we should all get down on our hands and knees and thank the tennis gods that we have been blessed with not one, but two great maestros of the sport. They will forever be tied together, for better or worse, in tennis history. It'll be a sad day when they both hang up their rackets.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 08:49 PM

doogansquest - "and 4-1 after the month of June" - Now that's the kind of thinking I like... a fresh new perspective on the H2H debate...:)

Posted by Sher 07/12/2010 at 08:56 PM

oh man, typed a post up, inclueded the dreaded g-o-d word, and poof.

So basically the answer to your question, Steve, is no.
Nadal is different from Federer, and he doesn't need to be the new Federer. He can be the Rafael Nadal.

Posted by ladyjulia 07/12/2010 at 09:02 PM

CPM,

Sure,learning the footwork..it will make some difference.

We will have to see...if there is somebody who comes along and dominates like them. A pair together, for five years, for 20/22 slams.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 09:05 PM

Steve Thanks.Interesting post as usual.

Well in essence one has to have a "crystal ball" to determind how many slams these 2 great tennis athletes will have.

I prefer to sit and wait till each retire from the game and then to ascess their preformances which I feel is fair to both players.

At the present time Roger with his impressive GS titles of 16 is by far head and heels above the rest.

In saying that Rafa at just 24 years of age also has a impressive resume.He has at present made "history" in a lot of his tournaments as we have all witnessed.

We have all had the pleasure of watching these 2 fine men playing one another.We are indeed lucky to have them in our game.

I think we will appreciate them more for what they have brought to the game when they both hang up their racquets.

In the meantime lets just sit back and watch both Roger and Rafa.

Posted by Rockin'Robin 07/12/2010 at 09:16 PM

Steve,

I think your estimates about Nadal's slam winning capabilities is right on, but saying Fed will win 3 more may be a bit high(I think he wins two more...and maybe, only one more). My final guess is Fed finishes with 18 slams.

Ok. Onto Nadal. Nadal will win 4 more french opens I think, 3 more wimbledons, 2 australians, and 1 U.S. That would put Nadal's total at......18. They could very well TIE for most grand slams, which would set off a huge HUGE debate bout which is the GOAT. And I think most tennis analysts would have to say Nadal, due to the H2H against Federer.

The point is, there has never been a greater time to watch tennis because when all the dust clears and the two of them retire we will all say these were the 2 greatest tennis players of all time. and THEY PLAYED IN THE SAME ERA. Absolutely incredible.

Posted by Voltaire 07/12/2010 at 09:21 PM

Steve-Nice contemplative piece. Especially the sign-off is excellent 'If they’ve taught us anything, it’s to look forward to the extraordinary.' Roger/Rafa made extraordinary look routine...that's as concrete a sign of true greatness as they come! Like Fed's fans always insist that everyone needs to look beyond h2h with Rafa and appreciate GOATness of Fed...methinks Rafa should also be not be weighed down who won more slams logic. These two are so special in their own, most unique ways that we need really, really to stop the tabulated comparison and enjoy the 'extraordinary age' that they begot us. Rafa's resurgence is almost like a partial rebirth for folks like me who are so gladdened by the reaffirmation of belief that Rafa belongs to the very special category of true greats who have incredible achievements magnified even more by their incredibel humility!

We should be just greatful that Roger and Rafa can still keep winning GSs by playing their outta world brand tennis.

Posted by Blake 07/12/2010 at 09:26 PM

Welcome back Steve, you were missed.

Posted by I Come From Anon 07/12/2010 at 09:33 PM

Oh come on, guy peaks during this time of the year all the time. If he changes his style more (or his tournament planning), maybe he'd get that far. But if not, just judging him based on the previous years, he'd peak for half the year and crap out for the rest of the year (whether it's earlier like the Australian or his normal time around the French..).

How much longer will his knees last? Either he's making excuses all the time, or he's playing through a lot of pain which doesn't bode well for his longevity, I don't see Nadal winning 3,2,2,2. ...Unless he goes through some more "knee injection treatments."

Posted by thooz 07/12/2010 at 09:36 PM

I don't see Nadal winning more Majors than Sampras, unless he gets bionic knees. And if he doesn't win the US open this year or the next, he'll never win it, in my humble opinion. As for Fed, he needs to get hungry again real fast and put the family on the back burner. The mark of a great champion is to be ruthless.

Posted by John 07/12/2010 at 09:45 PM

Shér

+10000000

Posted by Rafa Rules 07/12/2010 at 09:48 PM

good post

Posted by SwissMaestro 07/12/2010 at 09:57 PM

Can Nadal match Federer's Grand Slam Record? To me it is highly unlikely just because I don't think anyone could ever possibly play to a such high level for such an extended period of time. No player can soar higher than Federer in 2006, I mean going 92-5? I mean, come on, pleaaaaase....

Posted by Evelyn 07/12/2010 at 09:59 PM

I actually am tired of all the pre-occupation on these men.

Let's remember, Margaret Court holds 24 Grand Slams, Steffi 22, and Steffi won a 1988 Golden Slam, Margaret a 1970 Grand Slam
Steffi won at least 4 of each Grand Slam

So, congratulations Roger. You are only 6 Grand Slams behind Steffi and 8 behind Margaret
Congratulation Rafa. You are only 2 behind Chris Evert at the French, and 5 behind Steffi at Wimbledon

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 10:08 PM

Evelyn He He

Yes people all tend to forget Margaret Court and her career 62 GS titles in total

24 singles titles still holds the record today.The other titles a combination of doubles amd mixed doubles titles.

Has won more titles than any man or women current

Okay lets go back to the men.

Posted by kym 07/12/2010 at 10:14 PM

All the talk about Federer-Nadal and Maradona-Pele as the two biggest rivals in tennis and soccer always comes to the final question: Who are the better of the pairs? This question is harder to answer for soccer because Maradona and Pele can never play in a same match. But for tennis fans, we have the answer for the Federer-Nadal pair because they have played against each other. Bearing in mind that Nadal was born five years later than Federer. If he is of the same age of Federer, would Federer win 16 grand slams? We can answer this question quite clearly: No, Federer would probably win 12 grand slams or stick at the unlucky number of 13. If Federer and Nadal were born in same era of Agassi-Sampras, will the American pair win 8 and 13 grand slams? The answer is no: Agassi would have won 1 and 2 for Sampras. In tennis, we cannot only compare the number of grand slam titles but also the Master cup 1000 titles. It is true that a grand slam title is harder to win because one has to win 7 matches and the best of five sets. But a grand slam title is played for two weeks, not one, and every other day not every day. So if we count the number of Master cup 1000 titles, then we know who the best tennis player of all the time is: Rafael Nadal. Half-way though his career, he already leads in this category. Sampras got to number 13 because he did not play a lot to get an injury. He did not win the French title. Agassi was lucky to win his Wimbledon. Can anyone dare to say that Nadal will not win the US title? To win in a competition, one needs to have weapon. Sampras can only serve, and his serve is nothing compared to today's standard. Ivo Karlovic serves better than him, and of course so do John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. As for the jealous American, Agassi has no weapon. The weapon of Federer is he can play his backhand as well as his forehand. He can hit a running backhand easily, and he can hit a winner from everywhere on the court. Because he plays the one-handed backhand and he is not as muscular as Nadal, his backhand only has precision not strength. So his game is vunerable to Nadal's game. Nadal is a southpaw with strength and heavy top spin ball is a killer for Federer's backhand. So Nadal can beat Federer easily. As for other players like Murray, Djockovic, Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling, these players also do not have special weapon. So they might be lucky to win one or two grand slams, but they will not dominate. With today's standard, to win one slam is not an easy chore either. You have to hit thunderous forehands from the baseline like Del Potro. He won one grand slam and got sidelined for a year with a wrist surgery. The other players - Murray, Djockovic, Berdych, Soderling - have not tried these thunderous forehands yet; so no grand slams for them. Like Berdych said: Nadal's weapon is his left hand. To win more grand slams, however, Nadal’s game has to change and it has. His serve is now much better. He can win more free points easily, without taxing his body. So we hope that we won't see his injury flares up again.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 10:23 PM

Bollettieri in Fed's corner - who wudda thunk it! http://tinyurl.com/26aekex

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 10:31 PM

TMF That was posted on Petes current post

As I stated then if anyone was watching the final at Halle one could see Rogers movement wasnt there.He was not making excuses he was just stating the obvious in his press interview.

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 10:43 PM

oh, ok, thanks AM, didn't realise that. I just found it amusing that Nick was standing up for the Fed. I have this image of Bollittieri as Elaine Benice's dad to Federer's Sienfeld in Sienfeld - didn't think he'd care much for Fed's "whining" :)

Posted by CL 07/12/2010 at 10:45 PM

"Sampras can only serve, and his serve is nothing compared to today's standard."

Is this a serious statement? Because is is just so wrong in so many different ways it would be hard to list them all.

This one is pretty good too: "Agassi has no weapon."I mean, 'cuz, worse case scenario? There is always Steffi.


Posted by David 07/12/2010 at 10:48 PM

Speculation, while fun, is IMO irrelevant. As previously stated, who would have imagined 5 months ago Rafa would be dominating mid-season while Federer would slip to #3 in the rankings! By the end of the 2010 Nadal may be injured again and Federer could be the reigning USO champion. Let the season, and these two wonderful champion's careers, play out AND then let the debate begin is the true "GOAT". As a die-hard Nadal fan I just want him to stay healthy and complete the career slam. As an admirer of Roger and his amazing accomplishments, I would like him to stay near the top of the game until the unfortunate day he retires. As fans of tennis, we all should keep our heads in the present and enjoy what we are blessed to witness from these two!

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 10:52 PM

THM LOL! see even Italians like Nick can be observant

Posted by CL 07/12/2010 at 10:53 PM

TMFunk - I was the one who posted the link over at Pete's...found it, as with most, if not all things Federelated, at RF.com. What I found interesting...besides what Nick, (not one of my favs), had to say, was that the author of the piece acknowledged that there had been a certain amount of 'silly season' stuff written about Fed's remarks after he lost. I was glad about that, because judging by some of the remarks that flew around here and at Pete's, I was concerned that I had indeed slipped into tin foil hat wearing territory and was seeing criticism...unfair criticism imo, where there was none. Nice that someone esle...not a poster here, saw some of the same things.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 10:54 PM

Thank goodness NP or Imjimmy arent around to hear that statement about Pistol Pete lol!

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 11:01 PM

AM, CL, agreed. I too was pleasantly surprised to find that rare article that went beyond the indignation at Federer bringing up injury as a factor in his loss to acknowledging that it may actually have been a factor...

Posted by Jai 07/12/2010 at 11:10 PM

"Nadal's H2H on HC vs Djokovic: 7 - 5, Djokovic."

CPM: it's 7-3 in Djokovic's favour actually. And many of his wins have been comfortable straight-sets wins. Interestingly they've never played a best-of-5 match on hard-courts. I'd be interested to see how that would go. One can imagine a scenario where Djoker goes up 2 sets to love but Rafa then comes back to win the match.

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:12 PM

Great players Nadal/Federer Federer/Nadal, please no more Fedal war!!!!!!!

Guys, watch this vid, it's really fan. WC Champions in the airplane back to Spain

http://www.rtve.es/deportes/20100712/roja-lia-avion-a-ritmo-merengue/339362.shtml

Posted by TheMightyFunk 07/12/2010 at 11:21 PM

Thanks for the vid Carol. Now this is probably a stupid question, but that's a private jet for the team right? Early on in the video there were some passengers who looked like just...everyday passengers who happened to be on the same plane as the spanish football team! There was even one guy who seemed like he was trying to get some sleep amid the commotion around him... :)

Posted by ashok 07/12/2010 at 11:26 PM

I am willing to bet Nadal will never win the US Open - for the same reason Borg never did - hard courts are totally unforgiving of all that topspin, and Roddick, Del Potro and Berdych are all capable of beating him at the US Open - not to mention the Fed..

Posted by Colette (On Cloud 8) 07/12/2010 at 11:28 PM

Fedal?? Let's bring Paul out of retirement.

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:31 PM

TMF, it's a private jet for all the team, not just the players but trainers, doctors physiotherapits, etc, etc. The team takes a bunch of people around where ever goes

http://www.rtve.es/mediateca/videos/20100712/tve-asiste-a-primeros-momentos-fiesta-avion/827346.shtml

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 11:32 PM

Colette No can do

Paul has had a fine career.Lets leave him to enjoy his retirement.

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:33 PM

Colette, hehe, maybe we have to ask Paul who is going to be the GOAT

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 11:35 PM

Carol I see you are backing Contador to defend his title at the Tour this year

Sorry I have bad news for you lol!

Aussie Cadel Evans hopefully will win the title this year.He has come soo close and is the World Campion

My other fav is Andy Schleck from the USA who was 2nd last year.

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:36 PM

Colette, hehe, maybe we have to ask Paul who is going to be the GOAT

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:41 PM

Sorry for the double post

AM, hehe, no way, wait and you'll see who is going to me on the podium
This week is comming the mountains.......Contador knows what he is doing

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/12/2010 at 11:49 PM

Carol Stop being soo greedy ok

They have already started climbing Andy Schleck won that one he is a brillant climber

We Gonna See No?

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:50 PM

Sorry again, I meant *to be* not *to me* hehe. I think that I'm too tired, time to go to bed

Nite everyone

Posted by Carol (Rafa/Contador) 07/12/2010 at 11:53 PM

I've seen your comment AM, hehe
Still there many days to ride.........


Nite!

Posted by Geellis 07/12/2010 at 11:57 PM

Such an interesting post and so many interesting comments. Must say, I think the comment with which I agreed the most was the one about Team Nadal managing his knee problems better. Along with that, I agree with the comment about his taking the MS events less and less seriously. Of course, as I've said before, there is a value to winning these shields beyond just collecting hardware. The more you beat the world's best players on relatively large stages, the more likely you are to be in the heads of not just them, but all the competition in the locker-room. For this reason, Rafa cannot totally blow off the ATP 1000 events cause he'll lose the locker room psychological advantage that Federer has clearly lost. And Rafa is not as prepared as the Fed to handle everyone gunning for him.

That said, I think Steve's predictions re slams makes sense. Assuming Rafa manages his knee problems, it's clear he has the game to win the number of slams Steve suggests for exactly the reason Steve suggests. People keep talking about Delpo, but didn't we talk about Safin in exactly those terms? There's no reason to think even a healthy Delpo runs Rafa off the clay or the grass. Rafa's just too good on those surfaces and 4 consecutive Wimbledon finals would seem to have emphatically made that point. Delpo just doesn't have that much more game than the likes of Berdych or Soderling and I think Rafa beats him in either str8s or max four on the grass (Rafa's low BH slice would be murder on Delpo and his out wide lefty slice serve......ditto; Delpo is just not quick enough). Rafa beats him in str8s at RG. The AO is a toss up and Delpo would clearly beat him at the USO. But that's assuming both their games as they are now. Quite frankly, I believe Rafa's game still has more upside than Delpo's because there's no player I can think of who's so methodically plugged the holes in his game. And I expect Rafa to continue to do this in order to get off the court sooner and preserve those.........knees. But hey, I'm looking fwd to a rivaly with Delpo. In a sense, it will be similar to the rivalry btwn Rafa and Roger given the age diff (a little over 2 years).

Posted by charlie 07/13/2010 at 12:04 AM

Besides everything, Nadal owns Federer...and there's no reason to think that the sign of this domination could change in the future.

This particular fact would make Federer an eventual GOAT with an *...

Posted by Babyrafa 07/13/2010 at 12:08 AM

Two things might stand out !!! Nadal has won Olympic Singles Gold and has been part of Davis cup Victory team twice !! Fed has neither of these !!

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/13/2010 at 12:23 AM

Yes, we look forward to some extraordinary from Nadal from now on and ordinary from Roger in no time.

And Rafa does not have to equal 16; when he gets 11 like Borg, there is no question that Rafa will be regarded in greater esteem than Roger. Good as Roger is, unfortunately that nagging but legitimate comparative stat of 14-7 just trumps everything. The same could not be said of Sampras.

Alas, poor Yorick or Roger, that pesky stat will forever be his Waterloo. And when Rafa amasses more Masters, he may yet surpass Roger with more TOTAL of Slams and Masters. More worthy titles than what --- 23 semis which means sorry to say, is another way of saying DID NOT WIN.

hah, see there is always two sides or more than one side to interpret things. Apologies if this causes so much pain for FED KADs. NOT.

As I have said before, there is a distinct pattern to Rafa's strategy. Master Clay, then Grass and now on to mastering Hardcourt even if at 17, Rafa already defeated Roger in his so-called hardcourt turf. But then, clay is the hardest surface, and Olympic Gold --- singles --- mind you, only comes once in 4 years, so concentrate on those first.

Just like Borg, getting more accolades and aura than JMac, quantity is less of a criterion than QUALITY. And Rafa's play are more of QUALITY > Quantity.

A double clay-grass after getting injured? Imagine that! Quality indeed, and with a healthy Roger to boot.

OOps, I am not sure how "to boot" will be interpreted.

Oh, well.

But hey, Roger has 16 Slams, right? He is the "greatest", right?

Right?

Right?!

Right?!?

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/13/2010 at 12:35 AM

Hmmm Borgs records still stand today

Lets see if they are going to be broken

Borg was a "visionary" to the game

A true tennis fan acknowledges that.

Indeed Rafa has too.

As I have always stated Rafa's career will depend on his match scheduling and the ongoing management of his knees.Thank goodness his team has finally woken up to that.

Rafa has been playing "smarter" tennis.His RG and Wimbledon victories are a testament to that fact.The Channel Slam is indeed difficult to achieve just ask Borg who still holds the record and did it by the way in consecitive years.

Rafa has made the s/finals twice now at the USO.In 08 after winning the Gold Medal at the Olympics he arrived mentally and physcially exhausted.The weather also played a issue in that s/final to both players.One could see Rafa was making bad shot selections in that game which normally he would not do.Though all credit to Murray for his win

USO 09 Rafa limped into it.He was physcially spent and one could see the problems.He played that s.final with a ruptured ab muscle at what cost may I add? the rest of the season told its story once again.

Presently he has under gone more treatment for his knees.Which may I add will always be ongoing.His serve will be most vital in the up coming h/court season.Giving him free easy points.

There are a lot of other players in the mix.Both the up coming Masters Series will be interesting.Cinncy being the fastest h/court besides the USO will be a telling factor.

Posted by Statitician 07/13/2010 at 12:44 AM

Yes, very nuanced post about the most polarizing figures since the aforementioned Borg and McEnroe. Very insightful, I really enjoyed the thought put into it, especially the last few paragraphs. I won't bother predicting major tallys for these men; whatever they end up with won't be enough for this tennis fan. I thought Nadal needed Federer to win big, but after cleaning up the channel for the second time with Federer out of the picture, I was clearly wrong. So the next phase of this rivalry has to be jump started by Federer. The onus is on him. I do not feel he is satisfied with all he has accomplished, the problem will be the daily grind of the 8-5. He can do it, of course, but it may not all be in his hands any longer. I do hope he remains in contention, if only so we get more five set master finales.

Excellent write-up Tignor.

Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 02:00 AM

Anyone with general sports knowledge who follows tennis closely and isn't emotionally invested in Nadal has GOT to feel awfully uncomfortable about his suspicious behavior and results. His wins come in manic cycles during which he is drastically more powerful and muscular than during intervening periods. And we can be 100 percent sure we are not being told the truth about his injuries. Consider what we are being expected to believe: he told us during Wimbledon that his knee had been bothering him even during the clay season. What did he do after the clay season? Rushed to England the next day and practiced in the RAIN. When Federer won the channel slam last year, he skipped Halle to rest despite claiming no injury. Murray has missed tournaments to rest, angering the tournament organizers. Roddick has done it. Everyone does it, but Nadal apparently has no need to take a break even when carrying a serious chronic injury. That's not possible, folks. It also isn't possible that this sort of repetitive stress injury forces an MTO early in Wimbledon and then gets better and better with more and more pounding for hours and hours, performing feats of strength and dexterity that no one else can match, that wear down his "uninjured" opponents, all while carrying more muscle mass than they do and thus incurring more stress on the knees. It's just not possible. The man is juiced. The people who should be asking tough questions about these things (tennis journalists) look the other way because Nadal butters their bread. But eventually someone will get fed up. Federer recently requested that drug-test samples be kept for 8 years to allow for reevaluation when more sophisticated testing is developed. Nadal opposes even the inadequate drug testing they have now, and complains about it whenever he has the opportunity. If he is clean, he should be begging for more testing to justify his highly suspicious results. It happened with swimming, track, cycling, and baseball, and it is happening in tennis now. Too bad the man at the top is the most likely culprit.

Posted by camelot is about to end 07/13/2010 at 02:04 AM

Rules
Are
For
Amateurs

Not
Awesome
Drug
Abusers
Like me.

Posted by yesyourright 07/13/2010 at 02:13 AM

i second that...

totally agree with you...use to love nadal....but after the court coaching....and the time between points....and he gets bigger everytime he comes back from injuries.....Nadal= Cheater......

Federer = Pure talent....beauty....at his finest

Posted by btaylor 07/13/2010 at 02:46 AM

Camelot and Yesyourright,

About time that SOMEONE ELSE noticed these occurances by Nadal and posted about them instead of "oohing and ahhing" about "How does he do it?"

Whatever he's on oughta be illegal IF it ain't already illegal...

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/13/2010 at 02:57 AM

Hey everyone. :)

Really liked this. :)

It is extraordinary, and I feel privileged to have been able to watch two of the all-time greats of the game on the men's side play, and play at the same time. I think it's a bit of a pity that Rafa and Roger haven't been playing their best tennis at the same time much for the past 18 months or so.

It didn't look to me as though Rafa didn't believe he could lose at all! I thought he looked doubtful and nervy all through the FO, except the final, and all through Wimbledon, again, maybe excepting the final.

Is Nadal the new Federer? Is brown, or navy blue or grey, *ever* the new black despite people saying it is practically every season? :) Does it matter? Does Rafa really have to do everything in comparison with Roger? I guess I'm glad really that Rafa has forced himself into the conversation and since Roger is the gold standard at the moment comparison is inevitable - but sometimes I wish that Nadal's achievements weren't always discussed in relation to Roger's. For that reason part of me is glad that this year's Channel Slam came against entirely different opponents, and players who have given Rafa some trouble in the past in a different way than Federer has.

As for Paul, I would rather he could predict the lottery numbers for next week than which player is going to be considered GOAT in 10 or 20 years time. ;-)

Posted by Jai 07/13/2010 at 03:01 AM

It shall all start this summer at the US open..!! If Nadal's able to win...he's surely gonna get to at least 14 - 15 and from there on 1 or 17 should not be tough!!! At the same time if Federer wins US (highly unlikely)...he is the all time leader in GS for the next 2 decades at least... and Nadal will not be able to get that far!!!!!

Posted by remain anonymous 07/13/2010 at 03:01 AM

Posted by kym 07/12/2010 at 10:14 PM

What are you on???


"If Federer and Nadal were born in same era of Agassi-Sampras, will the American pair win 8 and 13 grand slams? The answer is no: Agassi would have won 1 and 2 for Sampras."

If Nadal played in Sapras' era, he currently has ZERO titles at SW19.
*Rafa '06 vs Sampras '06 - Pete at 80% takes out Rafa in the 4th grass court touney in his life
*Rafa '07 vs Sampras '07 - Pete held 116/118 gms in 1997... bye bye Rafa
*Rafa '08 vs Sampras '08 - Pete's worst final still had 63 winners, 19 unforced, and was broken twice, Fed in '08 final 89 winners, 52 unforced, was broken for times, and Nadal prevailed 9-7 in the 5th
*Rafa '10 vs Sampras '00 -On one leg Pete held 118/123 service gms (incl. last 85)

and....

"Sampras can only serve, and his serve is nothing compared to today's standard. Ivo Karlovic serves better than him, and of course so do John Isner and Nicolas Mahut."

Tells me all I need to know!!!

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/13/2010 at 03:16 AM

@ CORRIE
Federer has become inconsistent? 23 consecutive slam semis and 25 consecutive slam quarters is inconsistent? I think this was a place for tennis lovers and knowledgable tennis enthusiasts. Dissapointing.

Posted by Prashant Sharma 07/13/2010 at 03:21 AM

@OSEGURA
Buddy what is Federer's fault if Nadal doesnt seem to meet him as often on hard courts as Federer meets him on clay? Check the lopsided record that they have on clay. Nadal is a clay court animal and Federer the 2nd best on that surface. That is why this record is 14 versus 7. And by the way Maths is an important part of adult life. So please calculate your ratios again buddy. Nadal is NOT winning 2 out of 3 matches against Federe.

Posted by Rafalito 07/13/2010 at 04:04 AM

2am must be the witching hour when all the creeps come out of their holes to post. Saw some are here already. Time to get the silver bullet, some garlic, and a wooden stake. ha ha Always some killjoys around. Anyway, great article, Steve, and let's all just enjoy this incredible time when we get to see these guys play. No GOAT arguing, no Fedal wars, just sit back and enjoy. And Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Tak 07/13/2010 at 04:04 AM

Funny...Nadal is half way to 16. All he have to do is keep in good shape and win all four grand slams for the next two years which shouldn't be hard for him. Beside if he master the u.s open ..it's over for everybody. This guy is a true tennis player. Never give up and always working hard. Fed..is not bad himself but to say he can win more slams..is crazy. Dude is busy with his own life..He have a family. Nadal could easily be at 16 at the age of 27, if he work hard.

Posted by javed 07/13/2010 at 05:03 AM

I guess Nadal's weeker point is his backhand. He tries to take shots in front hand even if he gets that on back hand side. Its good if you are young and agile to move your body at this age but may be later it wont work. He is definately better competitive player than Roger and doesn't gives up sometimes even if in the loosing side. But Federer is more complete in a sense of taking shots on backhand and moving around the court. But now for many players, Roger is quite predictable. Specially he faces trouble if someone plays power game with him. After getting a single powerful shot, federer goes on defence instead of offense and try to survive the point. Federer has to come up with something new to gain the glory the same way as Muhammad Ali did with Geroge Foreman.

Posted by javed 07/13/2010 at 05:04 AM

I guess Nadal's weeker point is his backhand. He tries to take shots in front hand even if he gets that on back hand side. Its good if you are young and agile to move your body at this age but may be later it wont work. He is definately better competitive player than Roger and doesn't gives up sometimes even if in the loosing side. But Federer is more complete in a sense of taking shots on backhand and moving around the court. But now for many players, Roger is quite predictable. Specially he faces trouble if someone plays power game with him. After getting a single powerful shot, federer goes on defence instead of offense and try to survive the point. Federer has to come up with something new to gain the glory the same way as Muhammad Ali did with Geroge Foreman.

Posted by Ashwin Rajagopal 07/13/2010 at 05:08 AM

While there is little doubt that Nadal is probably the no: 1 player (Rankings & otherwise) in the World he will never be the next Federer! I agree with Steve that Federer can still win a few more slams. I will not be surprised if he wins the US open this year and am optimistic about his 2011 season. But then I am a Federer fan and we tend to be overly biased in our belief in his abilities!

Posted by Servus 07/13/2010 at 05:15 AM

Posted by espnalanaldo 07/13/2010 at 12:23 AM

Yes, we look forward to some extraordinary from Nadal from now on and ordinary from Roger in no time.

And Rafa does not have to equal 16; when he gets 11 like Borg, there is no question that Rafa will be regarded in greater esteem than Roger. Good as Roger is, unfortunately that nagging but legitimate comparative stat of 14-7 just trumps everything. The same could not be said of Sampras.

Alas, poor Yorick or Roger, that pesky stat will forever be his Waterloo. And when Rafa amasses more Masters, he may yet surpass Roger with more TOTAL of Slams and Masters. More worthy titles than what --- 23 semis which means sorry to say, is another way of saying DID NOT WIN.

hah, see there is always two sides or more than one side to interpret things. Apologies if this causes so much pain for FED KADs. NOT.

As I have said before, there is a distinct pattern to Rafa's strategy. Master Clay, then Grass and now on to mastering Hardcourt even if at 17, Rafa already defeated Roger in his so-called hardcourt turf. But then, clay is the hardest surface, and Olympic Gold --- singles --- mind you, only comes once in 4 years, so concentrate on those first.

Just like Borg, getting more accolades and aura than JMac, quantity is less of a criterion than QUALITY. And Rafa's play are more of QUALITY > Quantity.

A double clay-grass after getting injured? Imagine that! Quality indeed, and with a healthy Roger to boot.

OOps, I am not sure how "to boot" will be interpreted.

Oh, well.

But hey, Roger has 16 Slams, right? He is the "greatest", right?

Right?

Right?!

Right?!?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Obviously there is plenty of room for tax cuts. Just look at the above post. I mean, the government must be awash in money as they have meanwhile provided Internet access even to mental institutions. What a waste of taxpayers' money! It is time to send my congressman a nasty letter...

Posted by Mike 07/13/2010 at 05:28 AM

Geez ... man, I can't it. I'm going to have to take a hiatus from this blog if I'm going to see the same biased, nonsense stats brought up over and over, ad nauseum, the same pie in the sky predictions whenever one of the 2 is on a tear and the other is down ... enough to make you sick and pull your hair out at the same time ... adios!

Posted by sharon 07/13/2010 at 05:32 AM

Steve, I used to look forward to your articles because you usually bring such a fresh perspective and it caused readers to think and to be introspective and to consider situations from a different point of view. You've really disappointed with this one. I am so very tired of the overdone comparison of Nadal and Federer based on numbers of grand slams (and Fed's age and Nadal's knees).

First of all, who decreed that major titles should be THE criteria upon which we base who is a better tennis player? No tennis players are the same, they don't play against the same opponents under the same conditions, and therefore one cannot be best by any objective valuation. One or another may have better results during a particular time continuum but the conditions under which they compete are continuously changing and therefore fair comparisons are nebulous at best and are pretty much useless in the long run.

Every player is different. Every player has different strengths and weaknesses, different styles, different mentalities, different attitudes, different physical attributes, different levels of maturity, different moments of good and bad fortune. It is impossible to make rational and logical comparisons. Each player should be lauded for their accomplishments. Some players have a longer list of accomplishments at one moment in time than another but it certainly doesn't mean that Player A is 'better' than Player B, just different. If Player A's strengths are more evident on hard courts, and two out of four majors are played on hard court, does that give Player A an unfair advantage in this 'who's the best discussion' that counts number of majors won?

Enough with this totting up the number of grand slams won. Yes, winning them is a highly laudable accomplishment but does the number of Master's Tournaments deserve to carry more weight than they're currently given in this specious argument? I would certainly think their level of competition should be acknowledged as top notch as well. How about Olympic gold medals. The Olympics are generally considered the epitome of most sports. The whole picture is important, not just one facet of the discussion, a discussion for which there will never be one purely defined answer.

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