Rafa Roundup: Has Djokovic taken the best of Nadal and Federer?

Photo: sports.fr
Photo: sports.fr

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Antonio Cassano believes Cristiano Ronaldo is football’s version of tennis great Rafael Nadal, while Lionel Messi is more like Roger Federer, insisting the latter is the best player in history. … “Leo is the best, and that’s why I named my son after him. He and Ronaldo are two great players, but different. If we compare it to tennis, Ronaldo is like Nadal, Messi is Federer.”

Only three unseeded players have ever won the singles title at Roland Garros: Mats Wilander (1982), Gustavo Kuerten (1997) and Gaston Gaudio (2004). … And if Nadal manages to defend, he will join Jan Kodes of the Czech Republic as the only No. 7 ever to claim the title.

As Ali nicely lays out, in the case of Djokovic, he combined Federer’s precision and professionalism with Nadal’s persistence. He realized that fitness was essential, a prerequisite for toppling the two. He realized, too, that he would need to win on all surfaces. He realized that he’d need to return peerlessly. He improved. He caught a few breaks along the way. Now his stock is trading at an all-time high.

Ideally, Nadal will be drawn into the opposite half to Djokovic at Friday’s draw ceremony at Roland Garros, setting up the scenario of Nadal going for victory No. 10 and Djokovic for No. 1 in the grand finale on June 7th.

The Spaniard played four events to rack up 1,185 points but goes into the French Open without a European clay title for the first time in his career. His losses came to quality players in Djokovic, Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Fabio Fognini…

Through this entire process, I find myself reaching very obvious conclusions for Rafael Nadal: take the simplest path to win the GSM (game-set-match), serve to the forehand if your opponent’s backhand is lethal, crush the 2nd serve return, win the shorter points, and kill it with that forehand.

People talk about the end of Rafa this year almost as if they had forgotten last year. He followed virtually the same sketchy path, fraught with missteps and shock losses, until Roland Garros came along and made it all right again.

Rafael Nadal is without doubt the greatest clay-court player of all time after winning an unprecedented nine French Open singles titles. The Spaniard is three clear of Bjorn Borg and returns to Roland Garros for the 2015 tournament with a career win-loss record on clay of 335-29.

As far as I know, the French haven’t booed or hissed at him for a while, and they even sang “Happy Birthday” to him a couple of years ago. Should they take the next step and finally embrace their nine-time champion?

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7 comments

  1. So much comparison – and who is the best etc. etc. Somehow, that’s something which I think is not quite right. Comparisons are make between 2 or more people, things etc., where everything is the same – like comparing an apple to an apple (same type) – rather than an apple to an orange. Ofcourse opinions will differ from person to person, just as in tennis. So I feel it would be more fair to say ‘one of the best’ of all time. Champions in years gone by were also excellent players – but everything was different – tennis was different, rackets were different and and and.

    Nadal and Federer are not in their prime or best form – especially Rafa. Novak is playing the best tennis of his life as in 2011 which is no doubt very good. Rafa is not in any kind of form and Roger not his best which makes it all the more easy for Novak to win and easier than it would be if they too were at their best. Nobody else either seems to be in top form – not Nishikori, Dimitrov, Cilic …….. . Even though Novak is playing excellently he is also very lucky not to have strong and dangerous at this time. Hope that changes soon.

    Vamos Rafa!!!

  2. I don’t believe that Novak has taken the best of Roger and Rafa. He is just at his peak
    right now, injury- free and aiming for the fences. All three have significantly different
    styles. Although Novak is the best right now, he has been an elite player 5 years now whereas Roger and Rafa have been elite players 10 years and more. More wear and tear
    and mileage on them. It’s also great to see a lot of players in their 30’s besides Roger
    having a re-surgence! The field is rich with talented players, young and older!

  3. if the French people have not embraced Rafa after nine wins, than I am sorry to say they are stupid people

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