No:18!

Even the most optimistic Roger Federer fan would not have anticipated what happened in January 2018, at the Australian Open.

When Federer won Wimbledon in 2012, most fans like me would have come to terms with the fact that the heydays were over and we would have to resign ourselves to sporadic results or even worse, a retirement. With Novak Djokovic, Any Murray, and Stanislas Wawrinka in the mix, on top of Rafael Nadal, the future looked grim.

https://gattokaran.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/why-i-think-roger-federer-should-retire-right-now/

  • The shot-making and angles from both Federer and Nadal were amazing …
  • Federer’s backhand, the gorgeous single-handed one, was hit through with tremendous pace and you could see Nadal scramble a lot to retrieve them. The “loopy high-bouncing heavy-spin forehand to Federer’s backhand” had been Nadal’s go-to move. Because of the court and Federer’s strategy, the go-to move was not a huge success in this match …
  • The few times Federer ventured to the net, he had a high success rate …
  • Federer’s comment during the post-match press conference: “If there was a draw possible, I would be happy to share the trophy with Rafa” was a nice gesture …
  • Rafael Nadal’s fighter instincts are legendary. To come back from 1-3 down in the 5th set, against Nadal … Anyone who watched the emotional Federer loss (to Nadal) in 2009 Australian Open would have thought: “I have seen this before …” when Nadal broke early in the 5th set 🙂
  • Federer wins a Grand Slam after a gap of 17 slams. Boris Becker had a gap of 19 slams between his Australian Open win in 1991 and his Australian Open win in 1996 …
  • Winners > Unforced Errors & Net win percentage of 73%. Both great numbers against Nadal …
  • One could note the crowd having a blast … When Federer broke back at 2-3 in the 5th set, the crowd went wild
  • To me, Federer is an artist. Hitting machine-like ground-strokes over 5 sets (like Novak Djokovic) is not his strength
  • Now Federer has won at least 5 times at 3 Grand Slams (Wimbledon, US Open, and Australian Open)
  • Side Note: What’s up with Novak Djokovic??? He has truly hit a mental block after winning the 2016 French Open …
  • Grand Slam Finals Statistics

 

Roger Federer: 18-10 (Win-Loss). 64%. The 10 losses (AUSTRALIAN-1, FRENCH-4, WIMBLEDON-3, US-2)

Rafael Nadal: 14-7 (Win-Loss). 67%. The 7 losses (AUSTRALIAN-3, FRENCH-0, WIMBLEDON-3, US-1)

Novak Djokovic: 12-9 (Win-Loss). 57%. The 9 losses (AUSTRALIAN-0, FRENCH-3, WIMBLEDON-1, US-5)

  • Nadal and Djokovic are finding out 1st hand how difficult it is to achieve the various Grand Slam streaks Federer owns. E.g. Consecutive Grand Slam Finals, Consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Finals Etc.

 

Adios!

2015 US Open: Some random thoughts …

(1) Federer gave a very good fight to Djokovic, but one always had the feeling that Djokovic would ultimately prevail. Though few would call Djokovic’s game “pleasing on the eye” (Federer is an artist with the racket, by comparison), the dude is the complete package as far as a Tennis pro go. Good serve? CHECK. Good (Actually, GREAT) return? CHECK. Endurance? CHECK. Mental toughness? CHECK. Great ground strokes? CHECK. Good net skills? CHECK. Big game experience? CHECK. Peak physical condition? CHECK. It is a fact that Nadal is/was in Federer’s head. Well, guess who is in Nadal’s head? Djoker! I still remember Nadal returning after a stellar 2010 (3 Grand Slams!) and finding that he got smoked 7-0 by Djokovic in 2011. After claiming his 17th Grand Slam at 2012 Wimbledon, what luck Federer has had to have played 3 Grand Slam Finals subsequently, and all of those against the World No:1.
(2) If 2015 is any indication, it is just a matter of time before Djokovic overtakes Sampras/Nadal (14), I think … Though Nadal and Djokovic are both 29, right now, Nadal looks 39 … 😉 Hope Nadal has a better 2016.
(3) Though Edberg has definitely revitalized Federer’s game (Federer’s 2013 had been a disaster) and has made his game very compact, attacking and all-court, one has to say that Becker has done much better with Djokovic (albeit a 5-year-younger ward) … Until Becker came on board, Djokovic went through a stretch of 9 Grand Slams, where he won just 1 and lost in 5 Finals and 2 SFs and 1 QF. Since then, over 6 Grand Slams, Djokovic has won 4, lost a shocker to Wawrinka in 2015 French Open and lost in SF (to Nishikori) in 2014 US Open. Not bad, eh?
I wonder what 2016 will have in store for Tennis fans?
Adios!

Sampras versus Federer – A comparison …

Now that Rafael Nadal seems on the highway to becoming the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in a few years, it is appropriate time to confirm if Roger Federer is indeed the current GOAT. There are several former greats who are mentioned in the GOAT discussions regularly, Bjorn Borg (3 years of winning consecutive French Open and Wimbledon titles, something out of the World, until “Federal” started doing it 3 years in a row), Rod Laver (the great man having won 2 Grand Slams! and having lost a lot of years to the ban on professional players), apart from Sampras and Federer. Laver’s time was before the real mainstream popularity of the game and also the great man himself insists that though he is “one of the”, he is not “the”, Greatest Of All Time. Well, anyway, his time was so long ago, it is impossible to really comment on it. Also, he won predominantly on Grass. Bjorn Borg could never tame the Hard Court, though he came close multiple times.

Sampras and Federer.

Following are reasons why I feel that as of this moment, Roger Federer is the GOAT.

(01) Records/Statistics:

How can one talk of Federer and not mention the plethora of records he owns.

– Most Grand Slam Titles (16. Best in history)

– Most Grand Slam Finals (16 + 7 = 23. Best in history)

– Consecutive weeks as No:1 (237 weeks. Best in history. Next highest is 160 by Jimmy Connors!)

– Career Slam Winner (Won all 4 Grand Slams. Sampras has never been to a French Open Final, let alone win it. Federer has been to 4 French Finals, outside of his lone win)

– Consistency in Grand Slams (An amazing streak of 23 (!!) consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Final appearances across Grass, Clay, Rebound Ace and Cement. A still ongoing streak of 28 consecutive Quarter-Finals. Streaks of 10 and 8 consecutive Grand Slam Finals. All are best in the history of the game)

– Leads Sampras in total ATP titles (And ties him in Year-End Championships)

– Career Win Percentage (At this point, well leads Sampras)

– ATP Master Series Titles (Well leads Sampras)

– Match win % for the year (Federer owns 3 of the Top 10 % in history, with Sampras not in the Top 10 at all)

– Consecutive matches won (Federer had two streaks of 41 and 35, well ahead of Sampras.

– ATP total points in a year (When we compare Federer’s best year to Sampras’ best year, Federer has almost double the points, highlighting how much superior he was throughout the year)

In the Major categories, Sampras does lead Federer in two:

– Total weeks as No:1 (Sampras has 286 weeks, to Federer’s 285)

– Year-End No:1 (Sampras has 6, to Federer’s 5)

To summarize, Federer easily beats Sampras in terms of statistics.

(02) Closest since Rod Laver to a Grand Slam:

We have to keep in mind that Grass was the prevalent surface during Laver’s time. It was not like present where the Grand Slams are on Clay, Grass and two types of Hard Courts (one rubberized and one cement). It is definitely much tougher nowadays to achieve a Grand Slam. Even then, Federer missed a Grand Slam in 2006 and 2007 by a grand total of 1 match (losses to Best Clay Court Player in history, Rafael Nadal, at French Open Finals) and in 2009 by 2 matches (losses to Rafael Nadal at Australian Open Finals and Juan Martin Del Potro at US Open Finals).

(03) Impact on the game and off-court impact:

Roger Federer is a student of the game. He mingles well with players and has won the Stefan Edberg Sportmanship Award 5 consecutive years. Why is this a big deal? Because it is voted by the current players, I.e. Peers! He spends a lot of time promoting the game (E.g. Inaugurating the Shanghai Egg-Nest Tennis Stadium and other ATP promotions) and gives Press Interviews very liberally. He runs his own Charity and is actively involved in its operations and organized a Hit For Haiti Tennis Exhibition with other Tennis players. He is the most visible and recognizable Champion Tennis has ever seen.

(04) Aesthetics:

Only a blind man would claim to not love the grace and fluidity of the Federer game. As complete an All-Court game the sport has seen. Even Rod Laver claimed that watching Federer gives him the most pleasure as a Tennis fan. His one-handed backhand (Meant to be his “weakness”!) is a thing of beauty. He has all the shots in his arsenal and more (How about the famous “Tweener”, which he has successfully executed multiple times in Grand Slams). Many a magician has played the game, with Miloslav Mecir being an example, but none of them could win titles and create records as proficiently as this Champion. Imagine grace and beauty along with the killer-instinct, in one player. That is Roger Federer.

(05) The best Clay-Court player of his generation, if not for You-Know-Who:

History has seen a lot of Champions: Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors etc. who failed to tame the Clay Courts., but have won on all the other surfaces. Federer is definitely not one of them. In 2004, after his loss to Gustavo Kuerten, he retooled his Clay game and there after only 1 man (almost) has stopped him at French Open and other Clay Court Tournaments, Rafael Nadal. As Andre Agassi says regularly, even though a subjective argument, does anyone believe Federer would have only 1 French Open Title (still way better than the Champions mentioned above) had it not been for his Nemesis. 4 French Open Finals, 1 French Open Semi-Finals and 1 French Open Quarter-Finals. He has (almost) hardly put a foot wrong on Clay.

Clay is an unrelenting surface where a single big weapon will get you nowhere. A huge serve means nothing on it. You need to have the range of shots and the acumen to create openings, a great ground game and above all boat-loads of patience.

(06) Deeper ATP Tour:

A common argument being said is that Federer bullied a weak field of players. Tennis has expanded a lot and is expanding every year. More countries, players, coaching camps, technology, fitness regimen etc. I have never heard of a player (current or former) saying that the game is easier now than in the past. Nowdays the quality of the opponent in the 1st Round itself is such that you could lose to anybody if you are not on top of your game. With such a background, Federer’s consistency truly approaches the stratosphere. In my opinion, Federer should not be penalized for dominating the field in such a manner that he hardly ever lost to a player he had no business losing to (More on that later). His opponents appear weak because, other than Novak Djokovic and Del Potro, no one was able to break the strangle-hold of Federal on Grand Slams, 26 between them! It is more a testament to his/their dominance than to the below par quality of his opposition.

Consider two players, A and B, whose games are such that their matches are always close. So, A and B ends up sharing the available titles. It appears like a great rivalry.

Consider two other players, C and D, with C dominating D so much that C almost wins at will.

Is D worser than A and/or B? How can we know? One can never know for sure. A player can play only the opponent facing him. He/She has no control over who makes it to that round or the “quality of the talent pool” etc. It is very subjective to say “opponents were weaker etc.”. Also, it is not that easy to compare across eras. That is when we have to turn to experts and statistics. More on Experts later.

“Quality of rivals”. Two players playing each other, depends on their games and how well it matches, mental strength, court conditions etc. Players adapt to an opponent and conditions. It is very tough to say if A or A’s tough opponent, B, will beat D easily or not. Records are the most objective method to evaluate a player, barring all the other subjective notions, like opinions, impressions, taste, superstitions, grudge, hair-style, wardrobe etc. which will all vary a lot.

(07) The Nadal factor:

It sure looks bad when we try to claim Federer is GOAT when he is having a 8-17 record against Nadal. Whats up with this? Let us look at it more closely.

The 8-17 record is so skewed because Federer is a much better player on Clay than Nadal is on Hard-Courts/Grass. What do I mean by that? Federer is a very good shot (until recently) to reach all the Clay Finals…, where, guess who he plays? The best clay-courter in history. (A high % of Federer’s losses to Nadal are on Clay. The record is not so skewed if other courts are considered). Whereas when Federer reaches all those other Grass/Hard Finals (until recently), he plays a variety of players (including Nadal). The difference is the consistency. The Clay one is 12-2 (out of overall 17-8)!

For good or bad, taking nothing away from Nadal, Federer has a beautiful one-handed backhand which does not gel with the Nadal special (loopy and high spinning backand above shoulder-height) on clay (especially). Imagine having to hit one-handed backhands over the shoulder over and over, when the opponent is such a heavy hitter, with super spin on the balls.

Right now, Federer is still the GOAT. But as I say, Nadal is well on his way …

https://gattokaran.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/is-nadal-on-way-to-be-the-goat/

(08) Not losing to players you are not supposed to:

Federer won his 1st Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2003. Since then his GS losses have been:

– David Nalbandian (US Open 2003, 4th Round. A solid player who has won Year-End Championship and has a very good record against both Federer and Nadal)

– Gustavo Kuerten (French Open 2004, 3rd Round. 3-time French Open winner)

– Marat Safin (Australian Open 2005, Semi-Finals. 2-time Grand Slam winner)

– Rafael Nadal (French Open 2005, Semi-Finals)

– Rafael Nadal (French Open 2006, Finals)

– Rafael Nadal (French Open 2007, Finals)

– Novak Djokovic (Australian Open 2008, Semi-Finals. 2-time Grand Slam winner)

– Rafael Nadal (French Open 2008, Finals)

– Rafael Nadal (Wimbledon 2008, Finals)

– Rafael Nadal (Australian Open 2009, Finals)

– Juan Martin Del Potro (US Open 2009, Finals. If not for injury, a real threat to Federal, as per Experts)

– Robin Soderling (French Open 2010, Quarter-Finals. A loss that should have been avoided, even though Soderling is the only man to have beaten Nadal at French Open)

– Thomas Berdych (Wimbledon 2010, Quarter-Finals. A loss that should have been avoided)

– Novak Djokovic (US Open 2010, Semi-Finals. 2-time Grand Slam winner)

– Novak Djokovic (Australian Open 2011, Semi-Finals. 2-time Grand Slam winner)

– Rafael Nadal (French Open 2011, Finals)

So, the point is, Federer has only lost to Soderling and Berdych, as players he should not have lost to, in the period from 2003-11! That is just amazing. Now let us look at Sampras from 1990 (his 1st Grand Slam) till 2002 (his last). He has lost to players like:

– Theirry Champion (I dont recall much of this “Champion”)

– Tim Mayotte

– Jaime Yzaga (!)

– Gilbert Schaller (!)

– Magnus Norman

– Karol Kucera (?)

– Ramon Delgado (What?)

– Andrei Medvedev

– Todd Martin

– Galo Blanco (Wow!)

– George Bastl

Well, you get the point. It is not easy to stay injury-free and at the top of your game, for each and every Grand Slam. Hence my pure amazment at the 23 successive (!!) Semi-Final streak of Federer.

(09) Game has slowed down and a fast-court player like Federer does not have distinct surface advantage any more:

There has been a distinct shift in ATP Tour priorities. They moved to “more rallies” (against “ace wonders”) and slowed the courts a lot. Grass is more closely trimmed and balls are heavier. Also, with today’s racket technologies (wider racket with looser strings), it is suicidal for a player to be pure Serve and Volleyer. That explains why Federer was Serve & Volley player in 2003 Wimbledon and gave it up since 2004. ATP thinks (correctly) that spectators like to watch more entralling rallies than bang-bang-wham matches. This is also why the Indoor Carpet surface (where Federer would have been almost unbeatable) is no longer in prominence nowadays. Recall that this was a surface where fast-court greats like Sampras/Becker shined a lot in their time. Hence the trickling down of Kracjicek/Ivanisevic/Stich/Kafelnikov etc. Ace-Machines to just Isner/Querry/Karlovic nowadays, and these guys get out in the 1st rounds itself :-). You just need to look at the wear and tear on Wimbledon grass in 2nd week to see where players play from. In the 1980s (and prior), the W&T was mostly near the net. Nowadays it is near the Baseline. So, even Wimbledon nowadays is not meant for fast players and mimics a French Open in its slowness. My point is: Surfaces which would have given Federer a distinct advantage (based on his game) are no longer there whereas a player like Nadal has one Grand Slam and 3 Masters on his favorite surface (the surface which shows his game in the best light). Imagine Federer’s record if faster courts were around.

(10) What fellow greats say about Federer:

First up, Sports Illustrated’s article about GOATs.

         http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/1009/top.ten.tennis/content.10.html

Ken Rosewall: “If you gave Roger Federer the old wooden racquets we used, I think he would still be very, very good. I would say the level of his play at the moment is at the highest standard you could hope to get.”

Pete Sampras: “He is the greatest – I have to give it to him – some people say Rod Laver and Rafael Nadal but Roger has won all the majors and he’s going to win a few more. I am amazed at what this guy has been able to do. He is so consistent. I won a lot of majors, but was never this consistent. Roger is a stud”

Boris Becker: “I believe he is the greatest player of all time – he has won grand slams on all four surfaces. He is only 27 so he has a couple of good years left in him. His all-round game makes him so special and he really doesn’t have a weakness.”

John McEnroe: “Roger is just the greatest player of all time. He is the most beautiful player I’ve ever seen and I don’t ever get tired of watching him. Rod Laver is my idol, Pete Sampras is the greatest grass court player ever, but Roger is just the greatest player of all.  I think we can all appreciate how incredible he is even more lately, because he’s shown a bit more emotion on court and he’s become a father so he seems a bit more human, more relatable. That makes what he’s doing seem even more amazing.”

Jimmy Connors: “It’s certainly a different style of game that they play now, more of a power game. But that’s the way the kids are taught now. They’re taught growing up with big racquets, and to play one way, which is to hit the ball hard. And if that doesn’t work, they try to hit the ball harder [smiles]. That’s why I kind of like watching Federer. He’s an old school player with a modern day game. And he’s able to mix his game up and change gears if need be, to try to offset his opponent when one thing doesn’t work. To do that and have the results he’s had the last four, five years is pretty strong.“

Stefan Edberg, in 2010: “He is not done yet. The best player ever. Yes. Federer and Nadal have taken the game to another level”.

Marat Safin: “The most complete player I have every played against.”

Mats Wilander: “ In terms of what he has done for the sport, he is definitely the most important tennis player of any time”.

Andre Agassi: “Roger is the best I’ve ever played against. There’s nowhere to go. Roger makes you play on the edge. You need to play the craziest tennis you’ve ever played. Pete Sampras was great. I mean, no question. But there was a place to get to with Pete, you knew what you had to do. If you did it, it could be on your terms. There’s no such place like that with Roger. ‘He’s changed the game … he’s raised the standard. To me he’s the best of all time – maybe Nadal has a chance in his career to prove differently, but right now I think Roger’s the all-time best, and to watch what he did against Djokovic was so special, so good for tennis, and I think, win or lose, he has so much to be proud of.”

Jim Courier: “He’s quite the most complete tennis player that I think has ever played in the men’s game. Roger in the locker room is I think pretty unique in terms of players of his stature. I have several friends who are still playing on tour full time. They talk about Roger minutes before he’s playing a grand slam semi final. They’ll still be there playing doubles, and he’ll be listening to their ipods and asking them what their favorite new songs are. And this is literally minutes before he’s going out to play a prime time semi final grand slam match. . .Roger just has this very light energy around him. He’s not a tortured artist by any means. He’s someone who loves being around the courts. Loves hanging around tennis, loves talking tennis, loves being in this world. And it’s this very special lightness of being that I think the other players marvel at because he doesn’t show any mercy when he plays. But he knows how to make people feel comfortable around him. And for many, many years there were champions whose M.O. was to make everybody else uncomfortable. So it’s a very different energy that he brings to the table.”

Rod Laver: “We can only completely comment once Roger retires. He is definitely right up there and is definitely the best of the Open Era. My greatest pleasure as a tennis fan has come from watching Roger play. He can play at the net, he can play at the baseline, he’s got moving, he’s quick. Yeah, the competition is just unbelievable now.”.

Well, Roger Federer, Thank you for the wonderful Tennis memories. The above is my hat tip to a wonderful career.

Adios …

Is Nadal on way to be the GOAT?

In my humble opinion, Yes!

Note: GOAT means “Greatest Of All Time”.

Let me try and explain my point of view.

I am the biggest Roger Federer fan around. Ever since I saw that wonderful performance at 2003 Wimbledon. It was so refreshing to see a Serve & Volley player after the Leyton Hewitts of the World. (It is true that within a few months, Federer retooled his game to be what is now called “All-Court Game”, which involves sporadic Serve & Volley, as the situation demands). I am such a big fan that I can recount all major highlights of his career off the top of my head! I am not kidding 🙂 After a golden period from 2004-2007, he is still going quite strong, with a solid performance at the Slams. As is understandable, he is toning down his performance (and in some cases, his appearance) at the other tournaments, including the Masters Series. No one can fault the logic behind trying to focus just on the Slams, at his age. Who would have thought in 2002 September, after the great Pete Sampras set the bar at 14 Grand Slams after winning his 5th US Open, that his record would be broken in 7 years? I remember going on and on about Federer to my friends in early 2004 and them thinking “Whats up with this guy?”. But, as a fan, I had a gut feeling that this guy was something special. And he turned out to be very very special.

Even more weird is the thought that probably in another 3-4 years even Federer’s record would be broken.

Let us look closely at Federer and Nadal.

When Federer was the Top Gun, in early 2005, a youngster by the name Nadal (19 years at that time, wearing clam-diggers) was coming up. I remember that Miami Masters Final in March 2005 when Nadal led Federer 2-0. Though Federer managed to come back and win in 5 sets, viewers were left with the thought “Hmmm …. Look out …”. In just a few more months, Nadal won the French Open and thereafter started a long stint at No:2 (3 years). On Clay, without a doubt, Nadal was the king. There were tags like “Clay Court Specialist” hung on him. That all went away once he started retooling his game to be more like Federer’s (All-Court). He reached Wimbeldon Finals in 2006 and lost in 4 sets. He reached Wimbledon Finals in 2007 and lost in 5 sets and finally, he reached Wimbledon Finals in 2008 and beat Federer in (easily) the best match I (and a lot of people) have ever seen. I am mentioning this to illustrate the journey of a “Clay Court Specialist” towards a Wimbledon Title. It was not that he was bad on the Hard Courts (he kept reaching 4th Rounds, Quarters, Semis etc.) at US Open and Australian Open. Once he won his 1st Wimbledon, he really improved on aspects of his game which makes him a real threat in any tournament (forgetting the surface). Now, he has won a Career Slam and is ranked No:1 by a margin of over 5000 points!

Federer and Nadal have played 21 times, with Nadal winning 14 times. They have played in 7 Grand Slam Finals, with Nadal winning 5 of them (3 of them on Clay). A lot of their matches have come on Clay, Nadal’s favorite surface, and we should be careful in reading too much into their head-to-head records. Federer has been so other-worldly consistent on all surfaces that he manages to reach all/most of the Clay Court Finals, where he promptly loses to the best Clay Court Player of all time (Nadal), whereas Nadal until recently never showed up too much in the Finals on Federer’s favorite surfaces.

Nadal is relentless and fearless. If you see Nadal volleying nowadays, you would think that he has been a Serve & Volley Player all the time 🙂 His court coverage and defense is outstanding. Above all, I think we need to consider his remarkable improvement from being a “Clay Court Specialist” in 2006 to being a “Career Slam Winner” in 2010 (and that too in the Era of Roger Federer)!

Federer, 29 years old, has another 2-3 years of good tennis left in him, assuming his back does not detoriate too much. Considering that his movement is so smooth and his shots are fluid, there is a decent chance of his health holding up till 2012 Olympics. In such a case, he would win another 1-2 Slams (remember that he was 1 point from reaching the 2010 US Open Finals). That would leave him at 17-18 Slams overall.

Nadal, 24 years old, has a couple of problems. Foremost is his style of play, which puts a lot of strain on his body, especially his knees. That is part of the reason Federer was able to regain his No:1 ranking in 2009 (while Nadal was not at his best). Secondly, there is the presence of Big Shots like Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling, along with the “Why the heck am I in this generation?” Djokovic. Djokovic is a great All-Court player and he will be a big threat at US Open and Australian Open. These guys can hit through the ball and their height makes it easier for them to handle Nadal’s spin and bounce.

Side Note: Isnt Djokovic one of the unluckiest players? First he got throttled by the Federer Era. After patiently waiting around for it to end, he sees the rise of Nadal Era 🙂 Already he has lost 8 times to these guys at Slams!

Let us say, Nadal stays healthy till an age of 29. I am not giving him the 31 years we are giving for Federer (because of his wear & tear style of play). That gives him another 5 years of top flight tennis. He currently has 9 Slams. Another 5 French Opens (where he is the King/Emperor/Shah/Da-Man/Tsar), will net him another 4. I am bracing for atleast 1 major upset (similar to Soderling in 2009). That takes him to 13. In 5 Australian Opens, he can realistically win 2 (allowing for the other 3 to be spread amongst Federer/Djokovic/Others). In 5 US Opens, he can realistically win 2 (allowing for the other 3 to be spread amongst Federer/Djokovic/Others). This takes him to 17 Slams. In 5 Wimbledons, he can at a minimum win 2 (allowing for the other 3 to be spread amongst Federer/Djokovic/Others). This takes him to 19!

But total number of Slams is just one aspect. What about the head-to-head? Going forward, with Federer on an understandable decline (it is not easy to play your best tennis after 30) and Nadal entering his peak, we can assume that the head-to-head will stay in favor of Nadal.

Wont someone who has the most Slams, won on all surfaces, had a great record against another All-Time-Great (No:2 of all time) be considered the Best Ever?

That is why I think that Nadal is on his way to be the GOAT!

Note: Given a choice, whose game would I pay to watch? Without a doubt, it is Federer. Federer at his best is like an artist working his magic on canvas …

Is Federer GOAT when Nadal has had his number?

Roger Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles, reached the Finals of 6 others (where he lost to Nadal (5) and Del Potro (1)). He had reached 10 successive Grand Slam Finals, another run of 8 successive Grand Slam Finals, 23 successive Grand Slam Semifinals, 24 successive Grand Slam Quarterfinals (ongoing streak) and last but not the least, has been No:1 for 285 weeks, 1 week less than Pete Sampras’ overall record.

But there is that lingering doubt about whether he can be annointed as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) when he is being thumped in the head-to-head by another significant competitor in his own era, Rafael Nadal. Nadal currently owns a 14-7 record against Federer. Nadal has won Grand Slams on all the surfaces, Clay, Grass and Hard Courts. He has beaten Federer in 5 of the 7 Grand Slam Finals they have played and the only 2 losses were at Wimbledon, when he was still learning the ropes on grass. Nadal is only 24, with atleast another 4 years of peak tennis left. He can easily win another 4-5 French Opens. This would take his tally to 12 (he currently has 7 Grand Slams, 5 French, 1 Wimbledon and 1 Australian). Throw in a couple or more other Grand Slams, we are talking Federer territory here! Please note that the only Slam he has not won, US Open, is not a far stretch for him. He has reached multiple Semifinals. Nadal has also overtaken Federer in Tennis Masters Series victories. Many of Federer-Nadal matches makes it appear that Federer is in a trance, trying to outhit Nadal from the backcourt, backhand to Nadal’s looping forehand twisters (Nadal is a lefty player).

Following is my take.

– Nadal’s head-to-head of 14-7 contains a 10-2 record on Clay, his best surface. Without a doubt, by the time he retires, he would be considered the greatest clay court player of all time. It is more a testament of how Federer is the solid No:2 Clay player of his time, that Nadal holds such a record. I.e. most of the time Nadal has made the Finals of a Clay tournament, Federer was his opponent. In a wierd way, if Federer was not the No:2 Clay player, his head-to-head would not be so bad! If he was a lousy Clay player, his head-to-head would have been 5-4, in his favor!

– Other than the period from March 2008 to Jan 2009, Nadal has not been able to dominate the game as Federer has done from February 2004 till January 2008 (almost 4 years) and set up streaks like the ones mentioned above. Note: This does not mean Nadal cannot put up such a streak from now on. As I mention, he is only 24!

– Tennis (the No:1 ranking and Grand Slam titles (the main barometer)) is not a one-on-one game. It is a game of tournaments, with a wide variety of opponents.

Calling Nadal GOAT (over Federer) is akin to annointing Charlotte Bobcats the NBA Champions, because they have thumped the Los Angeles Lakers in their head-to-head matches.

In my opinion, it takes continued/sustained excellence to be called GOAT.

Though I prefer Federer’s game a notch more than Nadal’s and am a bigger fan of Federer, I have a lot of respect for Nadal’s records, his abilities and above all, the way he conducts himself. His interviews give a lot of insight into how he respects his opponents.