Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the greatest of them all?
Crack! It seems this question is too much even for a magical mirror. For between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, there is very little to choose.
One thing is sure though. The contest to be crowned the “Greatest of all Times” is between Federer and Nadal as they are undoubtedly the two most successful players ever to have walked onto a tennis court.
Federer and Nadal have a jaw-dropping 31 Grand Slams between them. With the maverick Swiss currently stuck at 17-slam haul, Nadal is fast gaining on this mark and has been backed by many to surpass Federer’s tally and become the most successful Grand Slam player of all times.
However, between the two, who is the better player?
Just taking a glance at their head-to-head stat, the above statement hardly remains a question. Nadal has tormented Federer throughout the full stretch of their rivalry spanning over a period of almost ten years.
He has compiled a remarkable 23-10 head-to-head record over the Swiss, which includes a 9-2 lead in Grand Slam matches. Such has been the dominance of the Spaniard over his great rival that he has not lost a Grand Slam contest against him since 2007!
Apart from the fast courts of US Open, where the duo is yet to face off, Nadal has got the better of Federer in all the other three majors. He has decimated Federer on his beloved French Open turf having floored him in four finals and one semi-final, has got the better of Federer in all three of their duels in the Australian Open and has also beaten him once in their three Wimbledon clashes.
The other side
Well, everything said above indicate Nadal to be a better player, but there is the proverbial ‘other side of the picture’ too.
Federer has dominated the men’s game like no other player. While there is no question that Nadal has remained his nemesis, Federer has been the number one player in the world for a record 302 weeks as oppose to Nadal’s 141. That is more than twice of Nadal’s tenure at the top!
The Basel native has thrice won three Grand Slams in a year (2004, 2006, 2007) as compared to once for Nadal (2010). On two occasions he has won two majors in a calendar year (2005, 2009). Nadal has emulated that feat, having twice won two slams a year himself (2008, 2013).
Federer has also got six ATP World Tour Finals to his name, a silverware which is still missing on Nadal’s trophy shelf.
However, Nadal has collected more ATP Masters 1000 trophies and leads Federer by 27 titles to 22.
Clay court success
Though Federer has been the more dominant force in Grand Slams and has staked up a plethora of records throughout his sparkling career, perhaps none of his achievements are as impressive as what Nadal has accomplished in the French Open.
In his ten tournament appearances so far – which makes it ten years – Nadal has blown away all his rivals at the red dirt of Philippe Chatrier. The burly Spaniard has triumphed 9 times in Paris and has lost only one match so far. His record at the competition, an unfathomable 66-1! If you think Federer and Sampras’ haul of 7 Wimbledon titles is astonishing, how would you rate Nadal’s reign at the French Open?
Many have cited Nadal’s credentials in other Grand Slam competitions and his underachievement on hard courts as the major reason for not labelling him the greatest ever player. However, he moved to quell those doubts too last year, as he went on to sweep the US Open series, capturing titles in Toronto and Cincinnati and culminating it with his second US Open title; a feat only achieved by Andy Roddick before him.
Djokovic in the mix?
Besides, Federer has a big blemish of having a nemesis in his profile as oppose to Nadal, who has not been dominated by any player on the tour. Novak Djokovic came close of being labelled as his nemesis but Nadal seems to have solved that riddle too, having won their previous four Grand Slam battles.
Everything said, the game’s adherents are fortunate to be witnessing the two greatest players of the game in the same era. Who is the better of the two? I am more inclined towards giving my vote in favour of Nadal purely because of how he has dominated Federer throughout their rivalry. And this is coming from the most ardent Roger Federer fan.