Rafael Nadal passes Roger Federer as greatest tennis player ever

Photo via sportal
Photo via sportal

Roger Federer earned near unanimous acclaim as the greatest tennis player of all time (GOAT) when he passed Pete Sampras (14) for the most grand slam titles. But Rafael Nadal’s second U.S. Open title, and 13th grand slam championship, gave him one more than Federer at the same age. But this isn’t about what Nadal, 27, may yet do; what Rafael Nadal has already accomplished is also more impressive than what Federer has done. Consider:

Nadal also has won an Olympic Gold Medal and spear-headed Spain to four Davis Cup titles. Federer has zero and zero.

Nadal’s uncle told “The Australian” that “Federer is still the best” but added “it is getting very, very close for Rafa to be level with Roger or more.” He also said:  “Is 17 grand slams more important than everything else? Is it more important than Davis Cups? Is it more important than Olympic Games? Olympic Games is big thing thing for our sport. Rafa has won 26 Masters series titles and that is more than Roger.”

Nadal doesn’t have to win 18 grand slam titles to pass Federer. John McEnroe and Mats Wilander just said winning two more to get to 15 would mean Nadal had a better career than Federer.

I say that’s about right.

Just two more and Nadal is CLEARLY better.

But he’s already at least just as good.

Here’s why:

For starters, he has those 26 Masters series titles to Federer’s 21.

He is also 20-1 in Davis Cup matches, with his only loss coming in his first try at age 17.

Those four Davis Cup titles and one Olympic gold medal equal at least one more grand slam title, if not two. Make it two, and Nadal has 15 titles to Federer’s 17.

Nadal has also missed three grand slam events with injuries in the midst of his prime.

In the last four years, he, in order, won the U.S. Open by beating Novak Djokovic in four sets, lost in the finals to Djokovic the year Djokovic won three grand slams and had one of the greatest years of all time, missed the U.S. Open with injury and then won it again this year by beating Djokovic again in four sets. … It’s quite likely that if Nadal had played last year, he, not Andy Murray, would have won the U.S. Open.

But let’s leave that title to Murray.

And we’ll leave this year’s Australian Open to Djokovic, with Nadal missing the first grand slam in a year that he is 60-3 overall and 22-0 on hard courts.

How about we just give Nadal the title in the other tourney he missed completely, Wimbledon in 2009. Nadal won Wimbledon the year before and the year after; he certainly would have been favored in 2009 also, the year Roger Federer won his sixth Wimbledon.

Give that Wimbledon title to Nadal in a theoretically healthy world, and Nadal would have 14 slams to Federer’s 16, and it would be a 16-all tie if you counted the Olympics and Davis Cups as even half as important as the Australian Open.

And now look at HOW they have won their titles.

Federer is 2-6 vs. Nadal in grand slam finals and 15-1 against everyone else.

Nadal is 13-5 in finals — against far tougher competition.

Federer won his first seven grand slam finals until he ran into Nadal. Sorry Roger Federer fans, but it is a heck of a lot easier to win against Mark Philippoussis and Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis and Fernando González than against Nadal or Djokovic. Federer is only 10-7 in grand slam finals, after that 7-0 start, since meeting Nadal in his first final in 2006, when he was in his absolute prime at age 25.

Now look at who Rafael Nadal has had to beat. After beating Mariano Puerta to win his first grand slam title at age 18, Nadal played Federer in his next seven grand slam finals. Federer fans like to complain that Nadal caught him on the downside of his career. Not so; in the last of these seven matches, Nadal had just turned 23 while Federer was 28.

Nadal, now 27, is having perhaps the greatest season of his career. Federer actually had the age edge in most of their title matches. The only time Nadal and Federer squared off in a grand slam final when Federer wasn’t at the height of his career came two years ago in the French Open, on a surface and a tournament where Federer could never beat Nadal, a record eight-time champ.

Now, after facing Federer in seven of his first eight grand slam finals, he has played Federer (once) and Djokovic (six times) in seven of his LAST eight finals, going 3-3 vs. Djokovic, another all-time great who is the same age as Nadal.

Federer only played Djokovic once in a grand slam final.

If these were race horses, Federer would have been racing against whoever Seattle Slew beat and Nadal would be Affirmed edging an almost equally great Alydar every time.

Nadal is the only tennis player to win at least one grand slam title nine years in a row.

Critics call him the “King of Clay” and make him out to be a one-court specialist, but Nadal and Mats Wilander are the only two players to win two grand slams each on all three surfaces.

It was Rafael Nadal that ended Roger Federer’s record 56-match winning streak on hard courts. And it was Nadal that ended Federer’s record 65-match winning streak on grass courts.  And Federer ended Nadal’s record 81-match win streak on clay.

But Nadal has had an even longer rivalry with Djokovic, which has become the longest running rivalry in tennis history.

Tennis commentator Mary Carillo said yesterday that the greatest matches she has ever seen on all three surfaces involved Rafael Nadal: When he beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2008, when he lost last year to Djokovic at the Australian Open and when he beat Djokovic this year at the French Open.

Nadal is also 22-15 lifetime against Djokovic, 21-10 against Federer (21-6 outdoors) and 13-5 vs. Andy Murray. That’s a 56-30 record involving the Big Four of his career.

Federer is 10-21 vs. Nadal, 16-13 vs. Djokovic and 9-11 vs. Murray for a 35-45 record.

Source: rrstar.com (Rafael Nadal passes Roger Federer as greatest tennis player ever by Matt Trowbridge)


  1. Why are we looking at comments from 2014?? I don’t really care because I continue to enjoy “Le Deuzieme!” What a doozy that match was! So proud of you Rafa for turning your season around and adopting a winning attitude. The excellent summary above is completely convincing re: you being the best of all time, and God-willing you are not finished yet! Please relax and enjoy yourself the next few weeks. You have just proven you can beat everybody, even at age 33, and hopefully you will be able to continue doing so as long as you wish. Congratulations!

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