Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rafael Nadal Is Coming for That Number One Spot

"Whoa! Don't slip up or get got! (Why not man?)
I'm comin' for that number one spot!"--Ludacris, "Number One Spot"

The official computer rankings still say otherwise but Rafael Nadal's 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon Final certainly seems to signal a changing of the guard at the top of the tennis world. Nadal became the first male player to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg, who incredibly accomplished this feat three years in a row (1978-80). Federer retains his number one overall ranking but no one can really consider him to be the best player in the world now: Nadal not only owns a 12-6 head to head advantage over Federer but Nadal defeated Federer in this year's French Open and Wimbledon Finals. The clay at Roland Garros is Nadal's best surface and he has won four straight titles there, matching Borg's record (1978-81), but Wimbledon's grass had been home turf for Federer, who was seeking to break another Borg record by capturing a sixth straight Wimbledon title.

After Federer beat Nadal in a tough five set match in last year's Wimbledon Final, I predicted that Nadal would flip the script this year: "I think that Nadal is closer to beating Federer on grass than Federer is to beating Nadal on clay and that 2008 could very well be Nadal's opportunity to match another Borg feat: winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year." Then, when Nadal destroyed Federer in straight sets in this year's French Open Final, I declared, "For quite some time, people have been trying to anoint Federer as the greatest tennis player of all-time but despite his impressive accomplishments it makes no sense to confer that title on him when it is not even certain that he will be considered the best player of the current era: his main rival Nadal owns an 11-6 head to head record against him and has come much closer to beating him on the grass at Wimbledon than Federer has come to defeating him on the clay at the French Open. Considering that Nadal is almost five years younger than Federer it is entirely possible that he will eclipse what Federer has done; after all, five years ago Federer had just won his first Grand Slam, while Nadal already owns four Grand Slam titles, beating Federer along the way each time."

It is interesting that it takes the combined efforts of the two best players of this era to challenge the marks that Borg set three decades ago; Nadal has been taking aim at Borg's French Open records, while Federer has been pursuing Borg's Wimbledon standards. By winning at both venues this year Nadal has elevated himself above Federer and if Nadal adds some more Wimbledon and French Open trophies to his collection then it will be possible to compare his career to Borg's.

Prior to the Federer-Nadal Wimbledon Final, three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe recalled his two Wimbledon battles with Borg. In the 1980 Wimbledon Final, McEnroe won the fourth set tiebreak and seemed poised to end Borg's Wimbledon winning streak at four titles, but Borg bounced back to capture the fifth set and thus earn his fifth Wimbledon crown. McEnroe recalled, "When I won that fourth set breaker, I said, 'This thing is over. I think I'm going to get it done. He's won four in a row. He can't dig that much deeper and want it that much more badly.' He taught me a lesson that true champions--great, great champions--find another gear and find some more willpower. He made me hungrier. I think there is a very similar situation with what happened last year with Federer. He was in the fifth set and Nadal had him on the ropes...I know Nadal thought he should have won the match and I know I thought that I should have won that match in 1980. Federer showed that extra will...(In 2008) Nadal has found another gear and he's gotten quite a bit better." McEnroe's words proved to be very prescient.

McEnroe added, "We should really appreciate this moment for what it is, the magnitude of the occasion for our sport. We do try to build up every Final but in this particular case I think that it is justified. When I played Borg in 1981 and won that match little did I ever think that that would be his final match here at Wimbledon. Who would have thought that (Justine) Henin would quit 10 days before the French Open? I'm not suggesting that's going to happen with Federer...but I think that we should enjoy this for the spectacular occasion that it is."

Nadal jumped on Federer right from the start, taking advantage of three of his first four break point opportunities to claim a two sets to none lead; Federer actually had more break point opportunities during those sets (six) but he only converted one of them. As ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe put it late in the second set, "Every crucial point somehow Nadal has found a way to win it." While Nadal was making points, Federer was making excuses, visibly upset that gusts of wind affected some of his shots; of course, the same thing happened to Nadal as well and Patrick McEnroe said, "Federer has to get it out of his head because nobody is going to remember that it was windy if he loses this match."

Federer did not convert any of his break point opportunities in the third and fourth sets but he scored "mini breaks" in both tiebreakers to win those sets. Nadal raced to a 5-2 lead in the fourth set tiebreaker and later squandered two match points, including one on his serve. Incredibly, after taking a two sets to none lead Nadal came within three points of losing the match in the fifth set before rallying to win the 14th game. Nadal then broke Federer--the first break by either player since the second set--and held serve to win the match.

Nadal and Federer both played at a very high level in this match and it is doubtful that any other player in the world could have beaten Federer on Sunday. Nevertheless, Federer's candidacy for the hypothetical title of greatest player of all-time has taken a serious beating this year. The lack of a French Open title is a giant hole in Federer's resume, as is the fact that his main rival is much younger than he is and has a dominant score in their head to head encounters; it does not seem likely that Federer will be able to do much to address either situation: if Federer could not win the French Open or have an overall advantage versus Nadal during his prime years then it is not logical to expect him to reverse those trends now.

Even when Federer was at the absolute peak of his powers Nadal still held the head to head advantage, a fact that some people dismissed by noting that the vast majority of Nadal's wins over Federer came on clay--but that is not relevant in a discussion about the greatest player of all-time, because the greatest player of all-time should be able to win on multiple surfaces and should not have a losing record against his main rival. Nadal is just entering his prime years but he already owns four more Grand Slam wins than Federer did at the same age. Just like I thought that it was too soon to call Federer the greatest of all-time two or three years ago, I think that it is too soon to call Nadal the greatest of all-time now--but in many ways Nadal seems to be making a more potent case to claim that title than Federer ever did. Who can say for sure that in four or five years Nadal won't own more career Grand Slam titles than Federer's 12? Nadal has more speed and hits with more power than Federer and Nadal is also in better physical condition; perhaps Federer has a more delicate touch on certain shots but that is not enough to cancel out Nadal's advantages. The closeness of the Wimbledon Final--Nadal scored just five more points than Federer--is a little deceptive because, as Patrick McEnroe noted, Nadal seemed to win all of the big points. Obviously, that is not literally true or else Nadal would have triumphed in straight sets but whatever mystique or aura that Federer has relative to other players simply does not affect Nadal at all.

27 comments:

madnice said...

I didnt see the whole match. I picked it up at 5-5 in the fifth and the play was so riveting. Nadals shot making was just so precise. He had Federer going the wrong way so many times. I havent watched mens tennis (or tennis for that matter as much as I used to except for when Ana Ivanovic is on...wow) because the players dont have as much heart as the Edbergs, and Lendls and McEnroes I used to enjoy watching.

Right now Nadal is better than Federer, but Nadal needs to show up in Queens in a few months. He needs to at least get to the Finals.

David Friedman said...

Madnice:

It is interesting that you brought up Lendl in the context of "heart," because early in his career he was notorious for tanking certain matches, particularly to end up in the loser's bracket in certain events and thus have an easier path to the Finals. Later in his career he did show a lot of competitive desire, though.

I think that Nadal will have his best run yet at the U.S. Open and would not be surprised to see him win it. I don't see any weaknesses in Nadal's game that would preclude him from winning on any surface now.

madnice said...

You are right about Lendls heart. I mentioned as players I like and attached it with heart. I shouldnt have. I remember the Adrian Dantley like shoulder shrug he used to have when he got it going.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

i expect roger to come back to form in us open clearly you was right david that nadal has gotten as good if not better on grass and clearly better on clay. but roger lost a little foous and has gotne a little fat on all the winnning he has done in his great career, nadal is more hungry and he beat him in wimbledon nadal is 22 he in his prime i still expect federe to win 20 grand slams he has 12 right now so i think he will still go down as number 1 all time possibly. he is like bjorg where bjorg was dominant from 76-81 he was 2003-2007 now e has to win a grand slam here and there to pull of the 20 i expect.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I don't think that anyone has won eight more Grand Slams at Federer's age. I will be very surprised if he wins eight more. I am not willing to say that he is done winning Slams--after all, he just made the Finals in the previous two--but it will be all Federer can do to get to 15 to break Sampras' mark by one and I'm not sure that Federer will even do that. If Federer does not win the U.S. Open, next year's Australian or next year's Wimbledon then I will start to believe that he has won his last Slam.

S. Tiku said...

David,

Before anointing Nadal or Federer as the greatest player of this period, it is important to appreciate the superior quality of tennis that was displayed. Apart from all the story lines that were leading up to the "most anticipated tennis match ever", the match really had it all. It involved great service games, remarkable returns from points on the court where most players wouldn't have even reached, involved shots made at extremely acute angles. That is just on a tennis level. However, one aspect of the match that really impressed me, and what made this match, atleast in my opinion, the greatest tennis match, is the mental toughness that both players showed. One has to understand that the nature of the sport makes it extremely difficult to come back. In a team sport, such as basketball or football (soccer), you can be coached intermittently during the match, and you can receive advice from teammates. However, in a tennis match, you have no teammates, and the rules don't allow for any coaching in between matches, and hence, tennis is much more mental than most people understand. During this match, both players showed mental toughness. Roger Federer came back from two sets down, and that is very difficult to do because most players play according to the score. It is very difficult to play with the same approach and attitude that you had coming into the match, and when you are down two sets. Granted, the rain delay might have aided Federer in overcoming this hurdle, but one has to hand it to him. Lot of people speak about how Federer is "soft", such as Mats Wilander, but I think that this match proved otherwise. Similarly, Nadal showed mental toughness as well. Losing those critical championship points in the tiebreaker, in the fourth set, would have dented most players' hopes. However, Nadal, as he does time and time again, showed that Federer’s so called “invincibility” does not affect him, as you pointed out. The rain delay in the fifth set, must have also helped him in regrouping himself, but the way in which he dealt with the shift in momentum, was instrumental in winning the match. After the match, when Federer was interviewed, he felt that the shift in momentum after winning the fourth set, should have been enough in winning the match, since that was the case in last years Wimbledon finals, and against most players, that would probably have been true, but that goes to show how mentally tough Nadal is.

As to the arguments that you have posed, I agree with some, and disagree with others. Like I said in one of my responses in your previous posts, I do agree that it is too early to give Federer the label as “the greatest player of all time”, but as of now, he is still a much more complete player than Nadal. If you compare shot for shot, Federer’s game is more complete. Let’s go through this exercise right now. Federer has a better service game. Federer has the better forehand. One might disagree with this, but Tennis Magazine released an article on the best shots in the history of the game, and Federer’s forehand is chosen as the best forehand in the history of the game. So if this is the case, then his forehand is more superior than Nadal’s (Nadal’s name was not even on the shortlist of names to chose from). Nadal has the better backhand (which has only happened recently), Federer has better volleys. Federer also has better movement (although, this is a very close call) Federer’s movement and footwork was also chosen by Tennis Magazine as the best in the history of the game. I would say that the overhead shot is even. I would also say that the defense of both is even. So after comparing each aspect of the game, Federer leads 4-1. I guess most people are thinking that if Federer has a more complete game than Nadal, then why does he have a losing record against him. The main reason is that Nadal’s strength plays onto Federer’s weakness. Nadal’s top spin forehand is his strength, and it plays directly onto Federer’s backhand, which is his glaring weakness. The way Federer grips his racket, it is very difficult to play the top spin shot, which goes away from him and up to his shoulders. And if you have watched Federer play tennis, one can notice that his shot making is based on pure timing, unlike most players who strike the ball with power. This is why most old school players enjoy watching him play tennis, because it is reminiscent to how tennis was played before. Now, the clay court surface reinforces Nadal’s strength, and Federer’s weakness, since the ball bounces much higher on the clay court than the grass court for example, and since it has lot of top spin, it is very likely to mishit the ball. And since most of the matches between the two have been played on clay court surface, it is easy to understand why Federer has a losing record. David, you said in your post, that this argument doesn’t hold. I think it is a fair argument because I doubt that Sampras would have been able to beat Thomas Muster or Gustavo Kuerten on clay court if he had to play them all the time. The fact is that Sampras’ game did not translate on the clay court surface, and as a result, could not reach far into the tournament to play these clay court specialists. Federer’s complete game is the main reason why he has consistently reached the semifinals for the past 16 grand slams. During the course of Wimbledon, I think it was Federer vs Ancic in the second set, McEnroe (who I think is an excellent commentator) mentioned the importance of this particular fact. I don’t remember what he exactly said, but it was along the lines of “People don’t realize how amazing this is. Most players on the ATP tour don’t even participate in 16 consecutive Grand slams, and yet Federer has consistently reached the semifinals”. This is a feat that still eludes Nadal because of injuries that have plagued him year in and year out, and is something that I have pointed out before in responses to your post. McEnroe and Mary Carillo also spoke about this. They talked about how Federer seemed injury free for the past 4-5 years, and the only illness or injury that he had was a mild foot injury and mono earlier this year. On the other hand, Nadal has been hampered by injuries the past two years during the second half of the season, and do you ever see him without any knee braces? A tennis fan posed this question to Jon Wertheim, who is a tennis analyst for Sports Illustrated, and Wertheim responded with this:

“I think this is a huge issue. Any casual fan can see how grueling and physically demanding Nadal's style must be. He pulled out of this week's event with that knee injury and if you chart his career year-by-year, that's par for the course. His body tends to give out on him as the year progresses. Already, he has a lot of miles for 22. You hate even to think in these terms, but realistically, I think it's natural to wonder whether he'll be sufficiently healthy to play at this level for many more years.

As a fan of the sport, I have always been a supporter of good quality tennis, and that is what both Nadal and Federer display on a usual basis. So these injury problems that keep hindering Nadal’s ascendancy to the top is obviously not good for the sport, but one has to question whether his game is conducive to a long tennis career or not.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

he should win us open and austalian the nect two years there no nadal there. wimbledon will be difficult but sampras won his last major at 31 if he could win 2 year the next 4 why cant he win 20 majors. he 27 now he has peaked but aggasi won at 30 and theres been other examples.

my point is he still is getting to fina he would be at 20 if no nadal he took 5 away from him. he's the only person consistenly beating him right now none else is in grand slam.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Yes, Agassi and others won some Slams after age 30 but nobody won eight Slams at those ages. If Federer does not win on his favorite surfaces in the next year/year and a half then he will have trouble passing Sampras, let alone winning 20 Slams. I think that winning 20 Slams is a fantasy and I would be shocked if Federer does that.

The U.S. Open will tell us a lot about Federer and Nadal's futures. If Nadal wins that one, too, then Federer's future may be, to paraphrase the words of George Clinton and P-Funk, "behind him."

David Friedman said...

S.Tiku:

That is a very well thought out comment and you make several excellent points.

I agree with you completely about the mental toughness displayed by both players. I certainly have never characterized Federer as "soft." He seems very tough to me and I can't imagine how someone could win so many titles without being tough.

I'm not interested in anointing either player as the greatest of all-time yet. My point is that people were premature to put that tag on Federer but if they were going to do that then they simply have to put Nadal in the discussion as well.

I don't think that Federer has a 4-1 lead over Nadal in the skill set areas that you mentioned; he may have had such a lead prior to this year but Nadal has narrowed or simply closed the gap completely this year. For one thing, I don't think that there is any way to say that Federer's movement is better than Nadal's now. Nadal is like an automatic ball returning machine.

Your analysis of why Nadal's game is tailor made to beat Federer--particularly on clay--is spot on but it is significant that Nadal just beat Federer on Federer's best surface. As John McEnroe noted, grass was not Borg's best surface, though Borg became dominant on it; Borg was virtually unbeatable on his best surface (clay), winning the last four French Opens of his career. As I've said, the next year or so will be very telling for both Federer and Nadal. Barring injury, I think that Nadal will have the upper hand from now on versus Federer.

I don't know how significant it is that Nadal wears knee braces. Dr. J wore knee braces and still played 16 seasons at a very high level. I realize that tennis is different than basketball but I think that in the next three years Nadal is going to win a lot of Grand Slams and then we'll see exactly where he stacks up with Federer and Borg. If Nadal ends up with, say, 6 French Opens, three Wimbledons and one or two each at the U.S. Open and Australian then that will be quite a resume, particularly if Federer never wins the French.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

if nadal wins us open it's over but if he cant win us open and ausarlian the door still open to win grand slams for federer it shuts when nadl dominates all 3 surfaces. if he only can do too then he will not domiante and roger not done at wimbledon next year nadla could be upset or get injured what federer has done hardly has ever been done to assume nadal will do it might be wishful thinking or it could be done as well i doubt it.

meaning like 12 grand slams in five years federer done and like 17 18 finals. 12 of last 13

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Keep in mind that Novak Djokovic beat Federer in the semis in this year's Australian, so Nadal is not the only guy who can beat Federer.

I've been saying for a while now that Federer is a great player but that it was premature to call him the greatest ever. I've also been ahead of the curve in predicting that Nadal would beat Federer at Wimbledon. It will be very interesting to see what Nadal accomplishes in his prime years.

Rob S. said...

David -

I just recently found your blog, and I'm enjoying the tennis articles thoroughly. The Borg/Koufax piece is particularly excellent.

I am not ready to nominate anyone the greatest player of all time (the GOAT, as per Peter Bodo's acronym), but my assessment of it all stems not from raw data, but from Grand Slam dominance. "Dominance" does not necessarily mean winning the thing (though that helps) I'm talking about finals appearances and being "the man to beat". Yes, yes, coming in second doesn't look so hot in sports or politics, but unlike politics, one still amasses money and - in the case of tennis - ranking points for being an also-ran.

To look at the issue of Grand Slam performance, Federer is still dominant. No, there is no French Open title for him, nor will there ever be unless Rafa gets hurt on his way to the final. Nevertheless, since '06, Roger has been there at the final. However, there are no Australian nor US Open titles to be had thus far for Nadal, let alone performances up to the same standard as Federer - his best results being this year's AO with a SF loss to Tsonga and a USO '06 QF loss to Youzhny. If we're going to talk about dominance on diverse surfaces, it seems as if Nadal has yet to master the hard courts. It seems as if there are more players OTHER than Federer who can push Rafa on hard courts as opposed to Rafa being (truly*) the only one who really can push Federer on clay, and recently, on grass. My ultimate point being that Federer is a force to be reckoned with on all Grand Slam surfaces, while Rafa has yet to rise to the same level during the two hard court Slams.

*[I still feel that Fed's '08 AO loss to Djokovic was an anomaly due to Fed's condition]

I won't dispute Borg as perhaps the most dominant player of the Open era thus far, but there's no USO title there. Sampras, for all of his titles - which Fed is chasing - went without an FO trophy. Fed is (and, as stated above, will most likely forever be) in the same boat, even if he surpasses Sampras' 14. It remains to be seen how many Slams Nadal will acquire, but I have a funny feeling that the USO will continue to elude him as it did Bjorn. I'm curious to find out, though, because it practically guarantees some amazing tennis in Flushing this year.

David Friedman said...

Rob S.:

I'm glad that you like the site and my articles about tennis.

You make some interesting points but there are two unavoidable facts that don't receive enough consideration when Federer and Nadal are compared:

1) Nadal has won more Grand Slams at this age (22) than Federer did--and it is not close: 5-1.

2) Nadal enjoys a significant head to head advantage versus Federer and this year he beat Federer in a Grand Slam Final on Federer's best surface, while Federer has not beaten Nadal on Nadal's best surface. For some reason, people tend to dismiss the head to head numbers because most of the matches have been on clay but I cannot recall another number one player who had this poor of a record against a top player who he played frequently and I think that is very significant.

As for the USO evading Nadal, if he can beat Federer on grass then I believe that he can beat anyone on any surface.

Also, you contradict yourself in your final paragraph when you mention that Borg never won the U.S. Open. What happened to your idea about the importance of making it to the Finals and finishing second? Borg made it to the U.S. Open Finals four times on two different surfaces. Yes, it would enhance Borg's record if he had won a U.S. Open title but Borg had no weak surface: grass was theoretically his worst surface and yet he set Wimbledon records that have not been surpassed three decades later.

Anonymous said...

James Blake has a winning record against Rafael Nadal. So, maybe that means James Blake is the best tennis player in the world. But...wait...Federer has a winning record against James Blake, so I guess that means Federer is the best in the world after all.

Let's not take away Federer's "Best Ever" status just because, at age 27, he has lost his first grasscourt match in 5 years. And, let's not forget, if Federer wasn't the second best claycourt tennis player by far, he wouldn't have a losing record against Nadal.

That's not to say that Nadal won't take away the "best ever" title from Federer one day. But, let's be serious. He's not there yet. Let's at least see how he does during the upcoming hardcourt season before we decide to crown a new king.

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

How many matches has Blake played against Nadal? How many Grand Slam titles has Blake won?

What I said is that I am not aware of an example of a number one player who has been this thoroughly dominated head to head by the number two player when they have played a significant number of matches. There are of course examples in all sports of a lesser player/team that has a winning record in a small number of games or matches against a superior opponent.

I am not "taking away" Federer's status on the basis of one match. If you read my previous posts on this subject then you know that last year I made the point that Federer should have never received "best ever status" in the first place because he has yet to surpass the multi-surface dominance displayed by Borg, who also has a higher winning percentage in Grand Slam Finals and other winning percentage marks that Federer has yet to match. Federer has yet to equal Borg and Federer has a contemporary who is giving him all he can handle and more so it is very premature to declare Federer to be the best ever. I have been saying that for more than a year now. This year, we are seeing Nadal surpass Federer as the best current player. I don't think that either of them is the best ever but considering Nadal's age and accomplishments he probably has a better chance to legitimately earn that recognition than Federer does. It is very possible that Federer has won his last Grand Slam, particularly if he does not win this year's U.S. Open, next year's Australian or next year's Wimbledon. If he has not won another Slam by this time next year I would give him less than a 50% chance of winning another one.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

yeah we have to see what nadal does. djokovic ran his mouth and got beat in first round if it not nadal he has nuthing to worry about and if nadal does not get good on hard court he has nuthing to worry about federere far from over he is not dominant like woods anymore but on hardcourt and grass he a load clearly nadal is number 1 now but he wont win as many grandslams as federer if he cant dominate 3 surfaces he is not going to win 9 stragit french or 5 or 6 straight wimbledon.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

It will be very interesting to see what happens in the U.S. Open. If Nadal wins that tournament then I think he will officially overtake Federer in the rankings and, in any case, he will have established beyond all doubt that he is the best player right now. Frankly, by beating Federer in the French and Wimbledon I think Nadal has already proven that.

How can you say that Nadal won't win more Grand Slams than Federer when Nadal is way ahead of Federer's pace and he just beat Federer on Federer's best surface?

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

easy david federer was able to win on 3 surfaces where nadal just won on two if nadal could only win on 2 surfaces it will be harder for him to catch federer. now he can get more grand slams assuming he does everyhting federer as done since he was 22 and win on hard court as well federer got 3 out of 5 austrailian 4 striaght us open and had 5 stragiht wimbledon.

and plus he 22 wit 4 striaght french already is he going to win 8 or 9 straight no? so he cant bank on winning the french every year and winning wimbledon every year the next 5 unless you think he could win 8 straight french and 3 more stragiht wimbledon than he would catch federer 12 assumeing federer doesnt win the next 5 years which is highly unlikely i think federer got another 3 or 4 in him at least so it will be difficult for rafa if he doesnt win on hardcourt.

i think he could catch him if he win on hard court as well as wimbledon and french david.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

My main point for more than a year is that too many people have prematurely called Federer the greatest of all-time. Borg is still the greatest player of the Open Era. Federer has to prove that he is superior to Nadal just to be the greatest player post-Sampras, let alone the greatest player of all-time.

Federer has had a very impressive career but he has a lousy head to head record versus the younger Nadal and Nadal has a 5-1 lead over Federer in Grand Slam wins at a comparable age. There is no logic behind your belief that Federer will win three or four more Slams--previously you said eight more Slams--but that Nadal will not win seven or eight more Slams during his prime years (the next three years). I don't know what will happen, but it is certainly more logical to assume that Nadal will come close to Federer's total than it is to think that Federer will start winning multiple Slams after a younger competitor has beaten him in two Finals in a row.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

you feel he can pass federer up even if he doesnt win on hard court that is tall task for him i believe federe r won so many so quick because he was so good on all surfaces. nadal is a clay court specialist who is now good on grass court it is very difficult to keep wininng same tournaments in a row. he already won 4 french in a row he not going to win 8 or 9 maybe he does a bjorg he won 6 french in a row and 5 wimbledon in a row.

you are right it was premature to call federer greatest of all time i was one of those people becasue the way he was winnng from 03-07 look like he would win 20 slams e sloed now and maybe nadal will be better we have to see.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

what does open era mean wat years do they count from. you said you thougt bjorg was best in open era from 80 to now im guessing.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Maybe I'm missing something but if Nadal can beat Federer on clay and grass then I don't see why Nadal can't beat him on hardcourt. Watching Nadal play I don't see any weaknesses in terms of conditioning, heart, shotmaking or anything else. I think that Nadal is poised to win a lot of Slams in the next few years, barring injury. I don't know how many and I am not going to prematurely call him the greatest the way that others prematurely labeled Federer but I am very impressed with Nadal's growth as a player in the past year.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

That's a good question. The Open Era began in 1968. That is when professional players were allowed to play in most major tournaments. Prior to that, only so-called amateurs could play in the big events, though many of the amateurs were in fact receiving under the table payments. Professionals were banned from the Grand Slam events. Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Pancho Gonzales and many other players excelled prior to 1968 but it is difficult to compare their accomplishments to the accomplishments of the players from the Open Era. So, although many people have been calling Federer the greatest of all-time, I have concentrated on making the case that he has yet to prove that he is the greatest player of the Open Era. In my opinion, Borg is the greatest player of the Open Era. I would put Sampras second and Federer third. Federer could certainly move up but then so could Nadal.

Anonymous said...

I saw the whole match and the announcer said that nadal is now number one and today i was watching a tennis match and it said that nadal is number 2. is he number 1 or number 2?

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

That pretty much sums up a lot of what is wrong with tennis. Federer was still the top ranked player even after losing to Nadal at the French Open and Wimbledon. Now, Federer just lost in the first round at Toronto but at the moment he is still number one, though this loss will probably cost him the top spot, particularly if Nadal wins the Toronto event.

Nadal is the leader by a wide margin over Federer in the 2008 ATP Race, which only includes points from this year's events. So, depending on which point system the announcers were referring to, Nadal is either number one or number two, with Federer occupying the other spot.

Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

nadal has won 29 straight matches he is the best player in world right now he looks good on all surfaces i still just cant fathom federer being as dominat as he has been and then all of a sudden not being able to win anymore this fast lets see what happens at us open.

David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I've been saying for more than a year that Federer was prematurely crowned as the greatest player of all-time and now it is becoming crystal clear that I was right about that.