Sunday, June 19, 2011

How Can Federer be the Greatest Player of All-Time if He is Not Even the Greatest Player of His Time?

I don't know who the greatest male tennis player of all-time is but I may be the only person honest enough to admit that I don't know; prior to Rafael Nadal's convincing four set victory over Roger Federer in the French Open finals, commentator John McEnroe declared that Federer could cement his place as the greatest player of all-time by beating Nadal. McEnroe knows a lot about tennis but that is a ludicrous statement; discounting the not insignificant detail that the likelihood of Federer defeating Nadal anywhere--let alone on clay--is slim, why would one match totally define not just the Federer-Nadal rivalry but the totality of tennis history? With that French Open victory, Nadal now enjoys a 17-8 head to head advantage against Federer, including 7-2 in Grand Slam matches and 6-2 in Grand Slam finals. Any rational, objective observer would need to see Federer win nine straight matches against Nadal before seriously entertaining the notion that Federer is even as good as Nadal, let alone better than champions like Borg and Laver who did not suffer at the hands of their top rivals the way that Federer has been tortured by Nadal.

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert enjoyed the greatest rivalry in tennis history; they each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles--clay court master Evert captured a record seven French Open titles, while grass court master Martina Navratilova claimed a record nine Wimbledon crowns--but few knowledgeable people would rank Evert equal with, let alone above, Navratilova mainly because Navratilova won the head to head series 43-37. Nadal has not yet matched Federer's total for career Grand Slam titles but Nadal is accumulating those laurels at a faster pace than any male player other than Borg and Nadal's mastery of Federer far exceeds Navratilova's edge over Evert. We will never see Federer play on equal footing against Borg or Laver, so comparisons of their careers involve making judgments about different eras, styles of play, equipment and so forth--but we have seen Nadal pummel Federer on multiple surfaces at numerous venues around the world for the past half dozen years. That accomplishment alone does not prove that Nadal is better than Borg or Laver but it gives a very strong indication that Nadal is better than Federer.

91 comments:

tennis said...

Nadal has a losing record against a perennial top 10 player in Nikolay Davydenko. Is the casual tennis observer supposed to believe that davydenko is a superior tennis player than nadal? i doubt it. tennis, just like any other sport, is a game of matchups and form. i would only consider head to head records if both players are on equal footing. so once nadal reaches 16 grandslams (assuming federer doesn't win any more), then most tennis observers will consider their head to head record as the defining factor in determining who the better player is.

on a side note, several commentators during the french open made an interesting comment regarding nadal's game, specifically, on how he is adjusting his game in light of his recent struggles against djokovic. he has lost four consecutive matches against djokovic, all in finals. two of those losses were on his favourite clay court surface. i think it's fair to say that federer assisted nadal's french open win by defeating djokovic in the semifinals.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

It is true that "matchups and form" play a role not just in tennis but in many forms of competition. I am a U.S. Chess Federation rated Expert yet there are some lower players who I have a losing record against and some higher rated players who I have a winning record against--but the overall body of work of the various players provides strong evidence regarding the correct way to rank us.

Davydenko leads Nadal 6-4 in head to head competition, with none of the matches taking place in Grand Slams. One of Davydenko's victories happened because Nadal had to retire due to injury. Davydenko has never won a single Grand Slam tournament. It is clear that Davydenko's slight head to head edge over Nadal in a small sample size of matches does not in any way prove that Davydenko is a better player than Nadal.

Even with his recent four match winning streak versus Nadal, Djokovic still trails 16-11 head to head versus Nadal.

It is easy to cherry pick various numbers to try to skew the discussion but the reality is that Nadal has put together a good enough body of work to be in the greatest player of all time conversation (unlike Djokovic and Davydenko) and Nadal has consistently beaten Federer like a drum in head to head play; that does not prove that Nadal is the greatest player of all time but it provides strong evidence suggesting that Federer is NOT the greatest player of all time. How is it possible to seriously suggest that the greatest player of all time is someone who consistently loses to one of his contemporaries?

It is funny that you say that Federer "assisted Nadal's French Open win" by beating Djokovic; the truth is that if Nadal had not been injured in 2009 then Federer would still be seeking his first French Open title: Nadal's injury "assisted" Federer far more in 2009 than Federer "assisted" Nadal this year.

James said...

I've been saying this for a long time, totally agree. Borg won 5 french followed by 5 wimbledons when the surfaces where polls apart not like today, plus he retired at 24 with 11 slams in the bag. He is not better than Borg in my opinion and the 18/7 winning head to head record of nadal says everything to me. He is not as graceful to watch but if you wanted anyone to play for your life. choose nadal. It seems to me the media has fawned over Federer because admittingly his game is beautiful to watch and they seemed to be obsessed with sampras record to be beaten. I believe Sampras would have been more than a match for federer on any given day, even Henman was Rogers worst nightmare for 1st 7 matches, whilst sampras beat Henman in all but 1 match.I think Borg & Nadal are mentally stronger under pressure. Please understand I am in no way dissing Fed but I think writer of article has hit the nail on the head

David Friedman said...

James:

Borg actually won six French Opens.

You made some excellent points and I agree that both Borg and Nadal seem to be mentally stronger than Federer, who is a great champion but cannot seriously be considered the greatest player of all-time.

tennis said...

david,

i'm not responding to your statement that awarding the "greatest of all time" label to federer is premature, i agree with that. but i'm responding to your statement when you said nadal is a better player than federer. let both of them finish their careers before we start comparing them to players in the past, or to contemporary players

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

Media pundits have been declaring for years that Federer is the greatest of all-time but you think it is premature for me to say that Nadal--with his 17-8 head to head advantage over Federer and with his 10 Grand Slam wins achieved at an earlier age than anyone except Borg--is better than Federer? The Nadal-Federer ship has already sailed; the better, more interesting questions concern Nadal versus Borg on clay and Nadal versus Borg (and a select few others) in the all-time rankings--and I agree that we should let Nadal's career play out before making those determinations.

tennis said...

yes, it is premature. the media have their low standards. no need to match theirs :)

you never know with nadal. if he gets injured, and struggles to maintain a high level of tennis for the rest of his career, it's possible. or if djokovic prolongs his rediculous form for another few years. anything can happen.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

If Nadal gets hurt tomorrow and has to retire, how does that change his crushing dominance of Federer and his ranking as the second fastest man to win 10 Grand Slam singles titles? I am not saying that Nadal is the greatest player ever--for that we will indeed have to see how his career plays out and what other players do--but it is very doubtful that Federer is going to suddenly start dominating Nadal and it is impossible for Federer to go back and win 10 Grand Slam titles at a faster pace so I feel quite comfortable ranking Nadal ahead of Federer.

Anonymous said...

Nadal 17 vs. Federer 8

Clay 12-2

Hard 4-4

Grass 1-2

Yes, Nadal is probably the greatest clay court player or tied with Borg. When you look at the number of clay court finals Fed has made, he is definitely one of great clay court players.

Just looking at what Fed has done compared to Nadal . . ..

Roger Federer-August 8th 1981
First Slam: 22 years and 11 months old
(Wimbledon 2003)

First slam to today
From 22 years and 11 months old to 29 years old and 11 months (7 years): 16 slams

At age 25 years old (2006)
9 Grand Slam

Grand Slam wins history: 16
Australian Open 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010
French Open 2009
Wimbledon 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
US Open 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Grand Slam finalist history
Australian Open 2009
French Open 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011
Wimbledon 2008
US Open 2009

Calendar Year Achievements
Three Slams: 2004, 2006, 2007
All Four Finals: 2006, 2007, 2009
All Four Semi-Finals: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
Consecutive Grand Slams finals: 10 & 8 (3. Crawford 7, 4. Budge 6, Laver 6,……9. Hoad 4, Laver 4, Agassi 4)
Consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Finals: 23 (2. Lendl 10, 3. Lendl 6, 4. Becker 5, Djokovic 5, Nadal 5, 5. McEnroe 4)

Career Grand Slam: 2009
Career Golden Slam: none

World Tour Finals wins (Top 8 Players)
2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010
-World Tour Finals finalist
2005

Masters wins: 17 (1. Nadal 19, 2. Agassi 17)
Clay- 5
Hard -11
Indoor Hard- 1

Masters finalist: 12
Clay-7
Hard-4
Indoor Hard-1

ATP singles titles: 67 (1. Connors 109, 2. Lendl 94, 3. McEnroe 77, 4. Federer 67)
Clay-N/A (not in top 10) (1. Vilas 45, 2. Muster 40, 3. Nadal 32, 4. Borg 30, 5. Orantes 28, Borg 30)
Hard-45 (1. Agassi 46, 2. Federer 45, 3. Connors 44, 4. Sampras 36, 5. Lendl 31)
Indoor-16 (1. Connors 54, 2. McEnroe 52, 3. Lendl 42, 4. Becker 30, 5. Borg 23, Sampras 23)
Grass-11 (1. Federer 11, 2. Sampras 10, 3. Connors 9, 4. McEnroe 8, 5. Becker 7, Hewitt 7)
Winning streaks: (2006-2007) 41, (2005) 35 (1. Vilas 46, 2. Lendl 44, 3. Borg 43, Djokovic 43, 4. McEnroe 42)
Clay: N/A (1. Nadal 81, 2. Vilas 53, 3. Borg 41)
Hard: (2005-06) 56, (2006-07) 36 (1. Federer 56, 2. Federer 36, 3. Sampras 34 & 34)
Grass: (2003-08) 65 (2. Borg 41, 3. McEnroe 23, 4. Sampras 23)

ATP rankings Weeks at No. 1 (as of June 13, 2011): 285 (1. Sampras 286, 2. Federer 285 , 3. Lendl 270, 4. Connors 268, 5. McEnroe 170, 6. Borg 109, 7. Agassi 101)

ATP rankings Consecutive weeks at No. 1 (as of June 13, 2011): 237 (2. Connors 160 3. Lendl 157, 4. Sampras 102, 5. Connors 84, 6. Sampras 82, 7. Lendl 80, 8. Hewitt 75, 9. McEnroe 58)

Anonymous said...

Rafael Nadal- June 3th 1986

First Slams: 19 years and two days
(French Open 2005)

First slam to today
From 19 years and two days to 25 years and 1 week old (6 years): 10 slams

At age 25 years old (2011)
10 Grand Slams

Grand Slam wins history: 10
Australian Open 2009
French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
Wimbledon 2008, 2010
US Open 2010

Grand Slams finalists history
Wimbledon 2006, 2007

Calendar Year Achievements
Three Slams: 2010
All Four Finals: none
All Four Semi-Finals: 2008
Consecutive Grand Slams finals: N/A (1. Federer 10, 2. Federer 8, 3. Crawford 7, 4. Budge 6, Laver 6,……9. Hoad 4, Laver 4, Agassi 4)
Consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Finals: 5 (1. Federer 23, 2. Lendl 10, 3. Lendl 6, 4. Becker 5, Djokovic 5, Nadal 5, 5. McEnroe 4)

Career Grand Slam: 2010
Career Golden Slam: 2008

World Tour Finals wins (Top 8 Players)
none
-World Tour Finals finalist
none

Masters wins: 19 (2. Agassi 17, Federer 17)
Clay-13
Hard-4
Indoor Hard-1

Masters finalist: 10
Clay-4
Hard-5
Indoor-1


ATP singles titles: 46 (1. Connors 109, 2. Lendl 94, 3. McEnroe 77, 4. Federer 67)
Clay- 32 (1. Vilas 45, 2. Muster 40, 3. Nadal 32, 4. Borg 30, 5. Orantes 28, Borg 30)
Hard- N/A (not in top 10)(1. Agassi 46, 2. Federer 45, 3. Connors 44, 4. Sampras 36, 5. Lendl 31)
Indoor- N/A(not in top 10)(1. Connors 54, 2. McEnroe 52, 3.Lendl 42, 4.Becker 30, 5.Borg 23,Sampras 23)
Grass- N/A (not in top 10)(1. Federer 11, 2. Sampras 10, 3. Connors 9, 4.McEnroe 8, 5.Becker 7, Hewitt 7)

Winning streaks: (2008) 32 (1. Vilas 46, 2. Lendl 44, 3. Borg 43, Djokovic 43, 4. McEnroe 42, 5. Federer 41)
Clay (2005-07): 81 (2. Vilas 53, 3. Borg 41)
Hard: N/A (1. Federer 56, 2. Federer 36, 3. Sampras 34 & 34)
Grass: N/A (1. Federer 65, 2. Borg 41, 3. McEnroe 23, 4. Sampras 23)

ATP rankings Weeks at No. 1 (as of June 13, 2011): 100 (1. Sampras 286, 2. Federer 285, 3. Lendl 270, 4. Connors 268, 5. McEnroe 170, 6. Borg 109, 7. Agassi 101)

ATP rankings Consecutive weeks at No. 1 (as of June 13, 2011): 54 and 46 (1. Federer 237, 2. Connors 160 3. Lendl 157, 4. Sampras 102, 5. Connors 84, 6. Sampras 82, 7. Lendl 80, 8. Hewitt 75, 9. McEnroe 58)

tennis said...

ofcourse it changes things. if nadal has intermittent injuries for the rest of his career, just like he did during the 2009 season, then it is unlikely that he will be able to match federer's 16 grandslam mark. Doesn't matter that nadal has won 10 grandslams quicker than federer, everyone peaks at different times during their respective careers. The bottom line is that if nadal goes on to play as many years as federer does, but is unable to match his grandslam mark, then it will be held against him, just like fed's head to head record against nadal is held against him. Part of being a great player is to be durable.
We have also seen that when djokovic and nadal are playing at their best, on hard court and clay court, djokovic is the better player. Nadal didn't know how to handle djokovic. I watched all four matches, and djokovic convincingly defeated nadal in three of them. the closest encounter was actually on the hard court. so like i said, if djokovic prolongs this incredible form, which is possible, and wins some grandslams, then he will be another obstacle for nadal.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

Your pretzel logic is proving nothing except that you prefer twisting yourself into knots instead of addressing my main point. I never said that Nadal is the greatest player of all time nor did I predict that he will break Federer's record of 16 Grand Slam singles titles. All I said is that Nadal's head to head dominance of Federer is so great and so statistically significant that it is bizarre for anyone to rank Federer ahead of Nadal. Nadal has enough of a resume right now that we can safely say that he is not just some specialist who has Federer's number on a particular surface; Nadal has beaten Federer on all surfaces and has won a career Grand Slam. Comparing Federer to Borg, Laver and other retired greats involves making a lot of assumptions but we don't have to assume anything when we compare Federer and Nadal: the tale of the tape is quite conclusive.

Djokovic versus Nadal is a totally different issue that is not relevant to this article but it is worth remembering--as I noted in a previous comment--that Nadal still owns a 16-11 head to head advantage over Djokovic. In other words, your "logic" states that because Nadal has only beaten Djokovic 16-11 Nadal should not be considered greater than Federer, who Nadal has beaten 17-8. Forgive me if I am less than impressed by the reasoning skills you are displaying during this exchange.

Anonymous said...

Nadal 17 vs. Federer 8
(Clay 12-2, Hard 4-4, Grass 1-2)

Does it not matter the number of times they have played on clay? Or the fact that Nadal has won most of his Grand Slam(clay-6, grass-2, hard-2) and Masters titles(clay 13, Hard 4, Indoor Hard 1) on clay.

Nadal matured at an earlier age than Fed. Everybody likes to talk about how Nadal is on a faster pace (by 1 slam)to reach 10 slam at 25 years old than Fed. But Fed won is 16 slams in seven years while Nadal won 10 slams in six years.

Where was Nadal when Fed was dominating from 2005-2007. Nadal was making mostly clay court finals and winning, and losing in earlier rounds in hard court to lower ranked players. Can't make the excuse that Nadal was young. He matured early and won a grand slam in 2005.

Fed is a different player now. He does show signs of brilliance at times but makes more errors and looks almost a step slower from his dominating years. And the players have caught up to Fed in which he raised the bar.

Nadal vs Novak
16 vs 11
(clay 9- 2, hard 5-9,grass 2-0)
Novak is a different player. It is hard to comment on this. But it is telling with Novak's back to back clay wins and back to back hard court wins. Novak is a better hard court player than Nadal. Can't comment about grass because Novak retired in the semis at Wimbledon (2007) which was pathetic and last played each other in 2008.

Anyway, I would consider Fed based on what he has done to be the greatest player during this time (Safin, Hewitt, Roddick 2004-2007) and tied with Nadal has the greatest player in the current time (2008-current)or in second place.

Currently, Fed's resume makes him the greatest player of all time due to his number of wins on all surfaces and of course, the other unbelievable records. Pete and Borg are up there. What Borg has done is more impressive than Nadal because the clay and grass were completely different.

tennis said...

you also seem to be missing my point. i don't know how else i can clearly express myself. i am responding to your comment that nadal is a better player than federer, which you did say in your original post. i'm not responding to the "greatest of all time" part of your comment. my response was that if nadal goes to play as many years as federer does, and is unable to reach his 16 grandslam mark, then it will be held against him, just as much as fed's head to head record is held against him. it's as simple as that. it's basic logic.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

If your point is that simple then why did you bring up so many red herrings? You are trying to make something complicated out of something that is indeed simple but not in the way that you mean.

My point is based on the facts: Nadal has dominated Federer head to head and Nadal has a more impressive career Grand Slam record to date--10 wins in 28 appearances, reaching 10 Slam wins faster than anyone other than Borg, while Federer needed 48 appearances to amass 16 Grand Slam wins. Federer is tennis' Emmitt Smith; Smith holds the NFL's career rushing record and is well respected for his durability but is not considered the greatest running back of all-time. Federer is similarly durable but it has always mystified me that people have been so quick to tout Federer as the greatest player of all time and it really makes no sense to do so now that we have several years' worth of head to head evidence that Nadal is simply the better player.

Neither you nor I know what will happen in the future--maybe an alien will arrive on Earth who can beat Nadal and Federer simultaneously--but rather than dreaming up hypothetical scenarios I prefer to rely on hard evidence: Nadal's head to head advantage and his superior Grand Slam career to date strongly suggest that he is simply a better player than Federer. Even if one of your scenarios comes to pass it would not change the reality that for the past several years Nadal was in fact better than Federer--and it is extremely unlikely that Federer will suddenly start beating Nadal at this stage of their careers.

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I don't think that the number of times Nadal and Federer have played on clay "matters" now that Nadal has completed a career Grand Slam and has beaten Federer at Wimbledon. The record shows that Nadal has dominated Federer on clay and played roughly even with him everywhere else--how does that make a case for Federer being superior? If Nadal dominates on "his" surface and is roughly equal on "Federer's turf" doesn't that prove Nadal's overall superiority?

Way too much significance is placed on raw Grand Slam totals. If Laver had been eligible during his prime then he would have won more Grand Slams than anyone by a country mile. If the tennis establishment's bizarre qualification rules had not sent Borg into early retirement then Borg likely would have won a half dozen more Grand Slam titles. Federer came along at a perfect time and he is very durable but 16 Grand Slam wins in 48 tries hardly is definitive proof that he is the greatest player ever, particularly when Nadal has so dominated their head to head struggle.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn’t it matter the number of times Nadal and Federer have played on clay? I think it does matter the number of times they have played on clay. It shows Nadal as a beast on clay and Fed as one of best clay courters for making it to all those French Open finals and clay Masters finals.

Federer completed a career slam (2009) has well and won three slams in 2004, 2006, 2007. Yes, Nadal has dominated Fed on clay but you can’t make the argument about the other surfaces, and beating Fed in Wimbledon in 2008 doesn’t add weight to your argument about Nadal’s overall superiority. When Fed was making the finals of all the majors and masters on hard court between 2004-2007 where was Nadal? Nadal was losing before the finals.

And you say 16 slams in 48 tries for Fed and 10 slams in 28 tries for Nadal. Just because you turn pro at 16 or 17 and played in the slams doesn’t mean crap. Fed took longer to mature into his game. Borg, Nadal, Pete, Becker, and a few others matured earlier.

First slam to today
From 22 years and 11 months old to 29 years old and 11 months (7 years): 16 slams

16 slams in 7 years is called domination
(I’m actually more impressed with the 10 & 8 consecutive slam finals record, the 23 consecutive semi-final record, and the 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 . . . which none of the greats don’t even come close to matching.)

First slam to today
From 19 years and two days to 25 years and 2 weeks old (6 years): 10 slams

10 slams in 6 years is also great

The Laver and the grand slams debate, I’ll let Mr. Pistol Pete do the talking:
"What he's done over the past five years has never, ever been done – and probably will never, ever happen again," Sampras said. "Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever. This just confirms it…… Now that he's won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion," Sampras said. "I'm a huge Laver fan and he had a few years in there where he didn't have an opportunity to win majors. But you can't compare the eras and in this era the competition is much more fierce than Rod's.” –Pete Sampras 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jun/08/tennis-roger-federer-pete-sampras
Borg sent himself into early retirement. Let’s not make excuses for him.

Anonymous said...

marcel

i agree wit anymous and tennis i consider fed better till nadal passes him on all time gs list. cause fed peak he was more dominant. nadal was better had to head. clay really he dominated. but fed overall career better far as titles atp number 1 ranking longer grand slams. u kno too me that puts fed at top. just there overall indivudal head to head doesnt make nadal the guy wit better career. and fed would have advantage outside of clay i might add. fed is number one from this time. he better than borg or laver i dont know

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

It doesn't matter now because Nadal has beaten Federer on Federer's best surface, completed a career Grand Slam and pushed his Grand Slam total to 10. Prior to those accomplishments, one could perhaps have argued that Nadal had only proved his superiority to Federer specifically on clay but now Nadal is not only superior to Federer on clay it could be argued he is at least as good as Federer on other surfaces (based not only on head to head but also on Nadal winning each of the other Slams at least once).

If Nadal had only beaten Federer one or two times at the French but had not beaten Federer anywhere else or won any other Slams then one could say that this is an anomaly--but Nadal has proven himself to be an all-around champion with a decisive head to head advantage over Federer. It simply makes no sense to rank Federer ahead of Nadal anymore. The only advantage Federer possibly has is durability; if you want to cling to that last reed of "hope" that is fine, but if Nadal has another four or five solid years he will at least match Federer's Grand Slam win total on top of owning the head to head advantage.

We don't know what will happen in the next four or five years but we have seen enough for now to rank Nadal ahead of Federer.

As for Borg, contrary to popular belief he did not retire prematurely; he simply stopped playing on the ATP Tour because he objected to the ludicrous rules that would have compelled him to either play in a minimum number of events or else qualify to enter the Grand Slams. Borg was not only active in the years immediately following his "retirement," he was beating the tar out of McEnroe in so-called exhibition events that offered bigger prizes than the Slams did at that time!

David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Do you consider Emmitt Smith to be the greatest running back in NFL history purely on the basis of his career rushing total? That is the argument that you are making on Federer's behalf but it makes even less sense in Federer's case because Nadal beats Federer like a drum nearly every time that they play each other; if Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith had played in the same era and Jim Brown won eight rushing titles--beating out Smith each time--would you rank Smith ahead of Brown purely because Smith hung around longer and gained more total yards? Federer and Smith deserve credit for their durability and consistency but that does not make them the greatest of all-time in their respective sports.

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Regarding the Sampras quote, context matters; a lot of those kinds of quotes are coaxed out of people right after someone has won an event. If Sampras would answer, "No, I don't think Federer is the greatest" then it would sound like Sampras has sour grapes or is raining on Federer's parade. One time McEnroe asked a similar question to Laver right after Federer had won Wimbledon and I was hoping Laver would punch McEnroe but Laver was classy and found a way to answer the question without insulting Federer or saying that Federer was better than Laver had been.

Federer is a great, durable champion--but he has proven that he cannot beat Nadal consistently and he has not been as dominant a Grand Slam winner as Borg or Laver were in their primes (Laver won 19 out of 55 Grand Slam and Pro Slam events that he entered, a better percentage than Federer even though those stats include Laver's declining years and are thus skewed somewhat in Federer's favor).

siddharth said...

@ David:

Are you saying that the number of times Federer and Nadal have played each other on clay is irrelevant to the head-to-head being "skewed" in Nadal's favour?

"Skewed" is a term you have used very often in your arguments. Things seem to be skewed in Federer's favour. But when it comes to Nadal everything seems to be just and in order... Funny isn't it?

Getting thrashed by the same opponent in 4 successive masters (1000) level tournament is nothing to be ignored Mr. Friedman. Djokovic soundly thrashed Nadal not just on hard courts but also on clay bringing their head-to-head record to 16-11 in favour of Nadal. If Nadal's 6-4 record against Davydenko is irrelevant then so is his head to head against Djokovic. What about the fact that federer has never been beaten by Nadal on indoor courts in 3 meetings?

As for your point on Nadal being Federer's contmeparory. I'd like to draw your attention to their respective ages. Federer is going to be 30 this year and Nadal is 25. Five years constitutes a generation in Tennis Mr. Friedman. Nadal was never in hard court slam finals during federer's peak years. Beating a 27 year old federer after he had been recovering from Mononucleosis in wimbledon 2008 was no bravery. Nadal peaked on clay very early. He is without any doubts the greatest player on clay courts. But I'd like to see how many slams he wins after he turns 27...

More importantly, does he have it in him to pick more trophies at the Australian and the US opens. There is a big difference in winning one title at a major and winning 4 or 5. Federer has 6,5 and 4 at Wimbledon, US and Australian open.

Andre Agassi won one french open title, 4 Australian open titles, one Wimbledon title and 2 at the US open. Your 'kind/type' of analysis would suggest that he was 'as good as Sampras on all surfaces' if not better and therefore better than him because he won the french which Sampras never did!

It is very apparent that you are a Nadal Fan. I am not going to curse you for that. But, if u cannot keep that out while analyzing statistics then kindly refrain from doing so. Because your results will always be "skewed" towards your favourite player. :)

James said...

David again youve got it right in my opinion, Sampras is too classy to argue with stats because he too was chasing the elusive number of emmerson if I'm not mistaken. Admittedly most of the figures seem to back Federer but my gut feeling is he seemed to be beating players who have gone past there peak, Ok that may be unfair & weak argument as you can only beat the players put up against you. I felt in one of my other favourite sports boxing, commentators were very quick to install Ali as greatest heavyweight which I thought was based on the sheer force of his personality & the media rather than his actual achievments & my instinct tells me the same here with Federer. The media has been too much obsessed by federers image of gentlemanly sportsmanship which again I don't always see in defeat.Very grudging when beaten unlike Rafa or Djokovic who never seem to offer excuses. Any way all said & done its only my opinion & I love the rivalries that are developing at the top of tennis now

tennis said...

david,

you place way too much emphasis on head to head record. if there are only two players on the atp tour, then only is it appropriate to place so much weight on the head to head record. but nadal and federer are not the only two players on the atp tour. do you watch any other tennis matches? nadal was the better player in 2008 and 2010, however federer was the better player in 2004-2007, and 2009. this year, djokovic has been the best player thus far. nadal was beating federer even before he became a top 5 player, that goes to show that it is much more of a matchup problem for federer than anything else. granted nadal has obviously improved his game dramatically, and won 10 grandslams since then. but the point is that the better player between the two should not be decided by the four or five matches they played against each other that year, but by the whole season. so you're saying during 2004-2007, and in 2009, that because nadal had a better head to head record than federer for those years, he was a better player? despite the fact that federer finished with the number one ranking those years and won more grandslams than nadal in those years? i don't understand your reasoning. players play close to 80 matches a year. to place so much emphasis on five or six matches (however many matches they played against each other) does not make sense.

David Friedman said...

Siddharth:

I made it quite clear what I am saying but I will repeat myself just one more time: the fact that most of the Nadal-Federer matches have taken place on clay might "matter" if Nadal had never beaten Federer anywhere else and if Nadal had never established himself as a Grand Slam champion on multiple surfaces but since Nadal has accomplished both of those things it is no longer valid (if it ever was) to assert that Nadal is "merely" an anomalous matchup problem for Federer on one surface. Nadal has proven that he is one of the greatest players of all time (as is Federer) and when one great player has a decisive head to head advantage over another great player it is quite peculiar--if not unprecedented--to suggest that the player on the short end of the stick is greater. Do you think that Evert was greater than Navratilova? That head to head rivalry was much closer than Nadal-Federer (and was also similarly "skewed" regarding clay and grass).

The Australian is the least important of the Slams by far; Borg, McEnroe and their contemporaries often skipped it entirely.

I love how you discount Nadal's 17-8 advantage over the purported greatest player ever but then twist yourself into knots arguing that Djokovic has an 11-16 "advantage" of some sort over Nadal. That makes no sense but it is entertaining to watch a biased person pretend to be objective.

Sampras owned a decisive head to head advantage over Agassi, which is a major reason that few people--if anyone--considers Agassi to be greater than Sampras even though Agassi was unquestionably more versatile. Nadal is just as versatile as Federer and Nadal owns a head to head advantage over Federer. Please choose your examples more carefully if you want to be taken seriously, because the example you cited actually reinforces my point!

Thanks for trying to be a mind reader but my favorite player of all time is Borg, not Nadal (and my second favorite player is Sampras). Borg still has a legit claim to be the greatest of all-time but Nadal is knocking on the door (and it is difficult to compare Borg to Laver and the other pre-Open era greats). One thing that we can sort out fairly easily is Nadal>Federer--we have seen the head to head matches when they were the top two players in the world (i.e., contemporaries) and we know how those matches turned out, while Borg-Nadal and Borg-Federer matches are just speculation (and Borg-Laver took place at the beginning of Borg's career/end of Laver's career, though according to the ITF official website Borg did have a 4-2 advantage for whatever that is worth).

David Friedman said...

James:

I think that Ali has a better claim on greatest of all-time status than Federer--56-5 career record, won the "series" against Frazier, three-time World Champion despite being deprived of his prime years--and I don't think that we have to rely on "gut feelings" regarding Federer: the cold, hard facts show that Nadal has a decisive head to head advantage over Federer and this is not an instance of a one surface specialist winning a couple matches against a great player while not accomplishing anything else of note.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

Head to head record--given a large enough sample size--is an excellent way to rank players. As I said, if Nadal had just beaten Federer a couple times at the French without accomplishing anything else then that would be a different story but Nadal has proven that he is decisively better than Federer on clay and at least as good as Federer on Federer's preferred grass at Wimbledon. Nadal's career arc is more impressive than Federer's and Nadal does not have any matchup problems comparable to the one that Federer has with him so it is just illogical to continue to assert that Federer is better than Nadal. If the facts change then my conclusion will naturally change but speculation and pretzel logic do not sway me.

Your season by season breakdown is irrelevant; Federer has some seasons in which he was better overall than Nadal and vice versa but I am talking about the overall body of work and 17-8 is an irrefutable statistic. Instead of cherry picking numbers and trying to boost up Djokovic I have a challenge for you: cite me one example from tennis history in which one great player is considered to be better than another great player despite suffering a decided disadvantage head to head. The consensus would be that Borg>Connors, Navratilova>Evert and Sampras>Agassi regardless of who was more versatile, who had more total titles or who had more weeks ranked at number one, etc. Fans of Connors, Evert and Agassi can cherry pick certain numbers/facts but the head to read results speak volumes.

Anonymous said...

And you never did answer my question: Why doesn’t it matter the number of times Nadal and Federer have played on clay?

Again take a look at both their current resumes which I posted a few posts back. Fed blows Nadal out of the water with his record on ALL the surfaces except clay because he was losing the clay FINALS to Nadal the King of Clay. And Nadal’s resume is clay heavy . . . his 10 Grad Slams (6 clay, 2 grass, 2 hard) and 19 Masters (13 clay, 4 hard, 1 indoor) wins are mostly on clay. And he has never won a World Tour Final (only top eight players play). Fed has won FIVE World Tour Finals.

Funny thing is John McEnroe said this right after the Nalbandian/Federer match today when he was talking about the number of times Nalbandian has beaten Federer.

“And a lot of those losses to be fair with Nadal, I mean he’s got that 17-8 losing record are because he’s there all the time and there were times where I believe he would have beaten Rafa at the Open in a hard court where he didn’t make it to play Roger so sometimes even though you say of course that would impress people, Nadal’s obviously say this guy is amazing which he is, it can be you know a little misleading the win/loss record. –John McEnroe (6/25/2011, after Federer/Nalbandian 3rd Wimbledon match)”

Asha

David Friedman said...

Asha:

I answered your question repeatedly; perhaps you need to work on your reading comprehension.

Here is the first paragraph of my first reply to that question:

I don't think that the number of times Nadal and Federer have played on clay "matters" now that Nadal has completed a career Grand Slam and has beaten Federer at Wimbledon. The record shows that Nadal has dominated Federer on clay and played roughly even with him everywhere else--how does that make a case for Federer being superior? If Nadal dominates on "his" surface and is roughly equal on "Federer's turf" doesn't that prove Nadal's overall superiority?

Here is the first paragraph of my second reply to that question:

It doesn't matter now because Nadal has beaten Federer on Federer's best surface, completed a career Grand Slam and pushed his Grand Slam total to 10. Prior to those accomplishments, one could perhaps have argued that Nadal had only proved his superiority to Federer specifically on clay but now Nadal is not only superior to Federer on clay it could be argued he is at least as good as Federer on other surfaces (based not only on head to head but also on Nadal winning each of the other Slams at least once).

McEnroe has been one of the pundits who has been pushing hardest to declare Federer to be the greatest of all time but that does not mean that McEnroe is right. McEnroe said prior to this year's French Open that if Federer won that match it would cement Federer as the greatest player ever--but when Nadal trounced Federer that did not cause McEnroe to seriously reconsider and admit that Nadal is in fact better than Federer, something that has been proven repeatedly over the past few years.

McEnroe says a lot of things that don't make sense--why would one win over Nadal wipe out Nadal's career-long domination of Federer, let alone supposedly prove that Federer is greater than Borg, Laver, et al.? Furthermore, if that one match was so significant then how come Nadal's victory did not make him the greatest player (in McEnroe's mind) or at the very least conclusively prove Nadal's superiority over Federer? For McEnroe, every Federer win is a reaffirmation of Federer's greatness but somehow every Federer loss is irrelevant.

James said...

Sometimes you only do have gut feeling because ultimateley arguing totally on statistics
will never convince someone who is a fan of whatever player they will skew statistics or reasoning to fit their argumentI can only reiterate the fact that borgs
acheivments at 24 yrs old would be nearly impossible to emulate given the clay to grass transition With all respect to nadal I simply dont beleive he could have won wimbledon on the fast surface borg did.My only argument against Sampras is the fast grass in is era was Taylor made for his game and great serve, conversly he looked like a fish out of water on clay which neutralised his biggest weapon. Federer does show more versatility but again Ithink him and Sampras would have been close
Borg was simply a phenomenon and like you pointed outlike Ali in boxing deprived of his best years.
Just do a bit of research on Joe Louis though & you just may change your mind on Greatest heavyweight, or maybe not

Anonymous said...

(This is the first half of my comment that did not post but goes before my second half that did post.)asha

"What he's done over the past five years has never, ever been done – and probably will never, ever happen again," Sampras said. "Regardless if he won there or not, he goes down as the greatest ever. This just confirms it…… Now that he's won in Paris, I think it just more solidifies his place in history as the greatest player that played the game, in my opinion," Sampras said. "I'm a huge Laver fan and he had a few years in there where he didn't have an opportunity to win majors. But you can't compare the eras and in this era the competition is much more fierce than Rod's.” –Pete Sampras 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jun/08/tennis-roger-federer-pete-sampras
Pete did not just say one line about Fed being the greatest. He really explains why Fed is the greatest! Sampras is one of my favorite players ever and he has integrity and for you to say that it was coaxed out is unbelievable. Pete knows what it takes to play at the top level for so long and very few know. Coming from him means a lot. You and I can argue but when one of the greatest players of all time says something like this, it says something big. And other tennis greats have stated the same thing about Fed as being the greatest and even current players on the tour.
(“he has not been as dominant a Grand Slam winner as Borg or Laver were in their primes (Laver won 19 out of 55 Grand Slam and Pro Slam events that he entered, a better percentage than Federer even though those stats include Laver's declining years and are thus skewed somewhat in Federer's favor”).
“skewed somewhat in Federer’s favor” . . . you are unbelievable. You know that Fed has dominated on all surfaces. Borg won only the French and Wimbledon. And when Laver won the two grand slams, three out of the four grand slam surfaces were grass. And I want to reference the Great Pete Sampras quote above again in regards to the competition.
And you are still making excuses for Borg. I don’t care if he didn’t retire or whatever. He chose not to play!!! Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda!!!!
Why the heck are you comparing what Emmitt Smith did in football to what Fed has done in tennis!!!!!! Give me a break. Did you not see the resume of Fed and Nadal I posted a few posts back.
(“It doesn't matter now because Nadal has beaten Federer on Federer's best surface, completed a career Grand Slam and pushed his Grand Slam total to 10. Prior to those accomplishments, one could perhaps have argued that Nadal had only proved his superiority to Federer specifically on clay but now Nadal is not only superior to Federer on clay it could be argued he is at least as good as Federer on other surfaces (based not only on head to head but also on Nadal winning each of the other Slams at least once .”)
So what, Fed has beaten Nadal on his best surface twice. Fed has also completed a grand slam. And how many grass court tournaments do both Fed and Nadal play in every year? ONE! How many clay court tournaments do both Fed and Nadal play in every year? At least FOUR OR FIVE! Where the heck was Nadal from 2005-2008 during the hard court tournaments? LOSING to LOWER RANKED Players while Federer won or made it to virtual every hard court tournament and slam final.

David Friedman said...

Asha:

You just grabbed that quote from a brief article that is two years old. You have no idea what questions were asked or what the context of the interview was. I have seen many TV interviews in which McEnroe and others essentially badger people to proclaim Federer's greatness and the context of those interviews makes it difficult for people not to do so without appearing petty; I give Laver great credit for both maintaining his composure and not just acceding to McEnroe's badgering when McEnroe asked Laver if Federer is the greatest player. Keep in mind that Federer is the player who ended Sampras' Wimbledon run, so perhaps Sampras prefers to say that he lost to the greatest player.

Also, just because someone is a great player does not mean that he is a historian of the sport or has objectively considered all of the factors involved in ranking players. We have seen great players who did not become great general managers in various sports.

You need to work on your reading comprehension, because first you say I did not answer your question when I in fact answered it more than once and then you fail to understand what "skew" means. Laver's career Grand Slam/Pro Slam winning percentage is lowered because it includes his declining years, while Federer has yet to hit those years; hence, Laver's advantage over Federer in that department figures to increase, not decrease.

It is very interesting that you and other Federer advocates want to give Federer the benefit of the doubt for all of his poor Grand Slam finishes early in his career but then you turn around and ask "Where the heck was Nadal?" early in his career. Nadal won 10 Grand Slams faster than any man in tennis history other than Borg. Nadal's overall career has been more impressive than Federer's was at the same stage, Nadal has dominated Federer on clay while playing him almost straight up everywhere else and thus there is no reason to say that Federer is a better player.

For now, you can still say that Federer has been more durable but that makes Federer Emmitt Smith, not Jim Brown. Yes, I did see the "resumes" that you posted for Nadal and Federer. Am I supposed to be impressed that you cut and pasted a bunch of stuff from Wikipedia without even bothering to format it so that it can be easily read? I know the players' stats and I understand the historical context much better than you do.

The Borg situation is well documented, so I suggest you brush up on your history. Borg wanted to play at Wimbledon and the French Open in 1982 but the authorities insisted that he play in the qualifiers because he had not played in the minimum number of tournaments prior to those events, an idiotic rule that fortunately no longer exists. This is not a matter of making excuses for Borg but rather providing the proper historical context, something that you repeatedly fail to do.

David Friedman said...

James:

The boxing question is interesting, if somewhat outside the realm of this discussion. My point is that Ali has a more legitimate claim on greatest of all-time status than Federer; at least Ali did not have a rival who consistently beat him head to head. Ali completely dominated his era and he beat fighters with various different styles, while Federer has this Nadal problem that his fans want to pretend does not exist. It's just hilarious to listen to them: "Pay no attention to the man who keeps beating our guy senseless, our guy is the greatest of all-time!" If Nadal wins Wimbledon this year then we will hear that Federer has gotten old but if Federer wins then we will hear that this "proves" that Federer is the greatest of all-time. Federer literally cannot lose in the eyes of his starstruck fans (including McEnroe)--even Federer's defeats are twisted around to "prove" his greatness.

Anonymous said...

marcel

the individual matchup is diffrent from looking at total career. i think till he get 16 gs he cannot be better than roger fed all time list. no way u can say it now wen fed had better career than nadal. so till nadal carrer is even wit fed. who beat who indivdually doesnt mean much. fed on clay doesnt match up wit nadal at all thats nadal surface on other two fed is better. so its dicey really but clear fed is best player of era till he is eclipsed wit grandslams.

David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Do you think that Emmitt Smith is the greatest running back of all-time merely because he amassed more total rushing yards than Jim Brown? If one applies your tennis reasoning to the NFL one would have to rate Smith ahead of Jim Brown. Smith played more games than Brown while averaging significantly fewer yards per game and yards per attempt. Federer's durability has provided him many opportunities to win Grand Slams but he has not been more dominant than Laver, Borg or Nadal--and while we cannot directly compare Federer to Laver or Borg we have had 25 opportunities to see Federer face Nadal and the results have been quite ugly for Federer fans, as reflected by the vitriol with which they try to deny the reality that we have all seen with our own eyes: Nadal is just plain better than Federer.

I challenge anyone who still rates Federer ahead of Nadal to cite one example from tennis history when a great player is considered better than another great player who consistently beat him/her head to head. I already cited Borg-Connors, Navratilova-Evert and Sampras-Agassi as three examples in which head to head stats certainly impact how those players are ranked historically. Nadal-Federer seems to be the only situation in which this natural viewpoint is not taken. Note that by referring to "great players" I am discounting situations in which a relatively weak player (by historical standards) enjoys an anomalous head to head advantage against a great player, usually due to small sample size.

Jon Hughes said...

Borg was a greater player than McEnroe in the "all time" debate, and yet he lost to McEnroe in the last three Grand Slam finals between the two - U.S. Open 1980, Wimbledon 1981, U.S. Open 1981. Despite being only in his mid-twenties, the sense was that he couldn't beat McEnroe any more at the highest level. Does that make McEnroe (7 Grand Slams) greater than Borg (11 Grand Slams)? No.

Borg vs McEnroe career head-to-head finished 7-7. However, had Borg carried on until 1984 (during McEnroe's peak years) McEnroe would have built a commanding head-to-head career advantage over Borg. But it still wouldn't have meant that McEnroe was a greater champion than Borg!

In the same way, it cannot yet be said that Nadal (10 Grand Slams) is greater than Federer (16 Grand Slams), despite his career head-to-head advantage over him.

At the present time, Federer is still by some distance the greater champion. If he were to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year, he would probably be out of reach for Nadal. Admittedly, were Nadal to win these two, plus another couple next year, then the debate would get really interesting!

David Friedman said...

Jon:

The "sense" that Borg could not beat McEnroe and/or that McEnroe would be the dominant player for the next several years proved to be wrong on both counts: in 1982 Borg defeated McEnroe (and soon to be number one in the world Ivan Lendl) to win the Akai Gold Challenge, an event with a bigger prize fund than the Grand Slam events of that era; McEnroe did not win a Slam singles title in 1982 and he won just three more after Borg retired, so the idea that McEnroe would have blocked Borg from winning Grand Slams is not supported by the facts.

You can speculate about what might have happened with Borg-McEnroe but their head to head series ended up 7-7 and Borg proved to be the more versatile champion, winning both Wimbledon and the French Open. Nadal and Federer are both more versatile than McEnroe but the tiebreaker with them is that Nadal has dominated head to head when both players were in their primes (they were ranked 1-2 in some order the majority of the times that they faced each other).

Federer is not "by some distance the greater champion" over Nadal. Federer is tennis' Emmitt Smith, a very durable and productive player who should not be considered the greatest of all-time. Can you name one other situation in which a great player repeatedly lost to another great player and yet is considered to be better than the player who kept beating him/her? Pundits prematurely crowned Federer the greatest of all-time years ago and have been unwilling to admit their error even after Nadal emerged to repeatedly pound Federer into dust. I am not convinced that Federer is better than Borg, though that is harder to prove because Federer never played against Borg and because their eras are so different but I see absolutely no credible reason to rank Federer ahead of a contemporary who keeps beating him.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

We're talking Grand Slams here, and McEnroe beat Borg in the last three Grand Slam finals that they played. He would have continued to beat Borg, had Borg carried on for another few years. But that doesn't make McEnroe a greater player than Borg, despite the fact that McEnroe owned him in Grand Slams after Wimbledon 1980.

I was around then, and remember not only watching the matches at the time, but also how tennis fans perceived the eclipse of Borg by McEnroe at the time.

Likewise, when Boris Becker arrived on the scene, he brought a new brand of tennis with him - and McEnroe was very much seen as a throwback to a different era, who could no longer compete with the power players.

Did that make Becker greater than McEnroe? No. Yet Becker had a 8-2 career head-to-head record against MacEnroe.

You can argue that Mac was older and past his peak, but he was still pretty much in his twenties and Becker was barely out of his teens during most of their encounters.

I'm not against the idea that Nadal will go on to be even greater than Federer, but to use your own argument it is 'premature' to suggest that this is the case at the present time.

We're living at a very interesting time, and for both men the next two or three years will be hugely significant regarding the GOAT debate, and where they stand compared with not only the other greats but also each other!

David Friedman said...

Jon:

Did you watch the Akai footage? There is no reason to believe that if Borg had kept playing on tour that McEnroe would have dominated Borg. Tracy Austin looked unstoppable for a brief period but that did not last; McEnroe had a great run in 1980-81 and he had a great 1984 season but he was quite beatable in 1982-83 and then after 1984, when he only made it to one Grand Slam singles final (1985 U.S. Open). Borg won at least one Slam from 1974-81 and if he had kept playing he likely would have extended that streak for a few more years.

I don't have to "argue" that the Becker-McEnroe encounters took place when McEnroe was past his prime; they did not even face each other until 1985, a year after McEnroe won his last Grand Slam singles title. Becker's dominant years clearly came after McEnroe's (brief) prime, which is one reason why his head to head record against McEnroe is not nearly as relevant as Nadal's huge advantage over Federer; Nadal and Federer have met 25 times--the vast majority of which took place with them holding the top two spots in the rankings--so that is a large sample size of two great players butting heads when they were both at the top of their games.

It was clearly premature for anyone to call Federer the greatest player of all time several years ago, because it is far from obvious that Federer is greater than Laver or Borg--but now that Nadal has not only beaten Federer on every surface but also pushed the head to head margin to 17-8 it is just ridiculous to rank Federer ahead of Nadal. Nadal is the better player and he has proven it where it counts the most: on the court.

DanielSong39 said...

The goal in tennis is to win tournaments, not to just beat one guy.

Federer has a losing record against Nadal but he has won 6 more majors than Nadal. Once Nadal surpasses Federer in career majors, we can have this conversation again.

Also, no tennis player in the Open Era has really come close to Federer's level of dominance during his prime. He complied a record of 247-15 from 2004-6, winning 34 of 49 tournaments, including 8 of 12 Grand Slams and 13 of 21 ATP 1000 events. He was considered to be "slipping" as early as 2007 - a year when he won three grand slams, three ATP 1000 events including the year-end championships, and 8 of 16 tournaments - which is better than any season Nadal has ever had in his career!

It's Federer's consistency that puts him above Nadal. He went deep into tournaments and didn't suffer wipeout losses to lesser opponents in Grand Slams - something Nadal is prone to doing once or twice a year. Saying "Nadal is better than Federer" would be the equivalent to saying "it's better to lose to Ferrer, Del Potro, Tsonga, Murray, Youzhny or Gonzalez in earlier rounds than to make the finals and lose to the other guy".

When you look past the head-to-head and look at the overall record vs. the other 50 opponents, Federer's superiority becomes clear. The fact is that you have to beat several players to win tournaments and your career is defined by all the matches you play - there's more to a career than just the 25 matches you play against just one guy.

However, if Nadal surpasses Federer in career Grand Slams I will gladly bestow the title of "greatest player ever" to Nadal and give proper tribute to his accomplishments and longevity.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I get the distinct impression that the vast majority of people who opine on this subject either get all of their information through the filter of the media sycophants who declared Federer to be the greateast of all-time several years ago and/or they simply mindlessly repeat a few tropes regarding Federer peaking late while Nadal peaked early and Federer supposedly being more dominant than any previous champion.

I hate to disappoint you and other similarly minded people by actually bringing facts/logic into the discussion but your comment makes no sense.

1) The idea that raw Grand Slam win totals decide who is the greatest player of all-time is a fairly recent--and not particularly logical--development. Roy Emerson held that record (12) for decades yet I doubt that anyone has ever seriously suggested that he was the greatest player of all-time. Before the Open Era, the Grand Slams were the province of amateur players; otherwise, Rod Laver would likely have put the record well out of reach of Federer or anyone else who is likely to come along any time soon.

2) Federer has been a very consistent player but he is hardly the most dominant player in tennis history by any reasonable measure. Borg's Grand Slam winning percentages exceed Federer's; Borg won 11 of the 27 Grand Slams he entered (40.7%, the all-time record in this category) and he won 89.8% of his Grand Slam matches, also an all-time record. Borg's triple-double (winning both Wimbledon and the French Open for three straight years, 1978-80) is an unprecedented feat of multi-surface dominance that had previously been considered impossible. Borg set numerous Grand Slam records in various categories relating to winning percentages, consecutive matches won, winning tournaments without losing a set, etc. Perhaps Asha will cut and paste these here in his next comment or you can look them up yourself. Borg's 1974-81 Grand Slam run was more dominant than anything that Federer has accomplished and Borg did this without even competing at the Australian (save for one time early in his career) because that event simply was not very important during Borg's era (other top players frequently skipped it as well during those years, yet another reason that the Australian-padded Grand Slam win totals of Federer, Emerson and Sampras are not the best way to determine how to rank them on the all-time list).

3) You don't know what you are talking about regarding Nadal's career and his alleged "wipeout losses." Federer lost in the first round of a Grand Slam six times, something that Borg and Nadal never did!

Nadal's Grand Slam match winning percentage is 87.9, slightly better than Federer's 87.3. Nadal has won 10 of the 28 Grand Slams he entered (35.7%), a better percentage than Federer's 16/49 (32.7). Overall, Nadal has won 46 of 63 finals (73.0%), while Federer has won 67 of 97 (69.1%). Nadal's career match winning percentage (82.7) is better than Federer's (81.1). Nadal has won 46 of the 151 events that he entered (30.5%), better than Federer's 67/241 (27.8%).

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

The media pundits keep telling us that Federer is the greatest player of all-time, yet Federer's Grand Slam career has been less dominant than Borg's and there is hardly a meaningful category in which he betters Nadal--including head to head, which is apparently only meaningless when it involves Federer even though it is frequently cited regarding Borg-Connors, Navratilova-Evert and Sampras-Agassi.

Federer plays in a vastly different era than Laver and Borg, so perhaps there is some legitimate grounds for discussion there--though placing Federer ahead of either of his great predecessors seems dubious at best to me. However, it is just illogical to rank Federer ahead of a contemporary player whose career has been more statistically impressive and who beats Federer like a drum virtually every time that they face each other.

I am just baffled that something that is so obvious and should be non-controversial is so hard for people to understand and accept.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

Nobody is doubting that Nadal is great. 10 Grand Slam titles (2005-2011) is an unbelievable achievement, but it is not yet as great as what Federer has achieved: 16 Grand Slam titles (2003-2010)!

What is so fascinating about this debate is that the balance of power can very quickly shift in either player's favour depending on who wins Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

In just over two months time we could be talking about Federer being the greatest ever because of his 18 Grand Slam titles, or we could be acknowledging the likelihood of Nadal usurping him due to his having won 12 by the age of 25.

Whatever the case, please do keep the debate going!

Obviously Nadal does own Federer head-to-head (for psychological reasons in my view - he gets into Federer's head; how did Federer let the first set slip at the French Open, for example?) and it is likely that, were it not for Nadal, Federer would have won over 20 Grand Slam titles - being proclaimed by all as the greatest ever.

This raises another interesting debate about the effect of 'greats' on other 'greats' in the same generation. For example, I've always considered Lendl to be right up there with the all time greats, as he dominated during a period of unbelievable competition; far tougher than what Federer faced when he amassed the majority of his Grand Slam titles.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jon Hughes and DanielSong39.

David you are quite insulting in your responses to people. You sound like some elite person saying people’s comments make no sense and that . . .”who opine on this subject either get all of their information through the filter of the media sycophants who declared Federer to be the greatest of all-time several years ago and/or they simply mindlessly repeat a few tropes….”

The data I posted on Fed were the same categories as Rafa. I apologize if it was not formatted to your liking.

It is your opinion to discount the Federer and Nadal maturation times. I’ve played tennis since the age of seven and played all the way through college. I did not get it from “media sycophants”. You learn as a junior about yourself and others. I remember when my brother used to lose to bigger players in the ten and 12 unders. Once my brother grew physically and mentally he was able to use his tactics and weapons to the fullest. I also remember when Robby Ginepir and John Isner were juniors and how they developed into top junior players. Just look at John, his game took some time to develop. That being said, in my opinion Fed and Nadal matured into their games at different ages. Federer at almost at the age of 23 with the 2003 Wimbledon and Nadal from right after turning 19 when he won the 2005 French Open. Federer’s 16 grand slam wins in a seven year period is domination which compared with Nadal’s impressive 10 grand slam wins in six years.

And I do have respect for the greats of tennis and don’t consider them sycophants. They actually played professional tennis for years unlike “historian of the sport”. I’m not sure why you are saying this: “We have seen great players who did not become great general managers in various sports.” They are not managing anything. Fellow tennis players talking about another fellow tennis player.

Your favorite player Borg said this: “Borg, himself the winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, also believes that Federer can now lay undisputed claim to being the greatest tennis player of all time. “For me he is the greatest player ever to play the game,” he said.
“Now he’s won all the Grand Slam tournaments and he’s probably broken almost every single record you can break. We all know that the competition today is very very tough, there’s a lot of good players out there playing great tennis and to win Grand Slam tournaments year after year is a very difficult thing to do, but he’s doing it.”
http://www.atpchampionstour.com/news23.html

You can say all you want with Borg: “The Borg situation is well documented, so I suggest you brush up on your history. Borg wanted to play at Wimbledon and the French Open in 1982 but the authorities insisted that he play in the qualifiers because he had not played in the minimum number of tournaments prior to those events, an idiotic rule that fortunately no longer exists. This is not a matter of making excuses for Borg but rather providing the proper historical context, something that you repeatedly fail to do.”
But he didn’t play. And it doesn’t mean he would have won. And he retired early, too. John Hughes has a strong argument. This makes me appreciate Fed even more for his consistency and longevity and his love of tennis. It’s your opinion to say “I am not convinced that Federer is better than Borg”. In my opinion Fed is better than Borg. Looking at both Borg’s and Federer’s resume . . . Federer’s resume is better. (three slams in 2004,2006,2007, 10 & 8 consecutive Slam finals, 23 consecutive slam semi-finals, 29 consecutive quarterfinals and the 237 consecutive weeks a No. 1. That blows me away.)

Right now what Federer has done makes him the better player and in my opinion the greatest ever. If Nadal is able to that then I will give him the title but right now he is the greatest clay courter.
And I’m hoping that Fed and Nadal will play for many more years because it will be a sad day when they are gone.

asha

DanielSong39 said...

I think there needs to be a closer look at Federer's prime from 2004-2007, when he put up numbers that no other player in history has come close to accomplishing.

There isn't a single player in tennis history that can come close to the level of dominance he accomplished in those years. I look at Nadal at his best and while he had a fabulous 2010, I also remember three separate three-slam seasons from Federer that were even more dominant. I also looked up Borg's accomplishments, and found that he never had even one season where he could compare to "vintage Federer" - the stretch from 2004-2007 - nor did he win 11 slams in a 16 stretch at any point in his career.

No one had to tell me that Federer was the best. I just turned on the TV and he was winning almost all the time and holding up trophies much more often than any other player in tennis history. The fact that it took him a few years to become a legend didn't magically tarnish the wins that he pulled off when he was at his absolute best.

Note that I'm not just referring to Grand Slams, either. He was winning the other tournaments as well. Then again, when you're winning almost 95% of your matches and 70% of your tournaments over a 3-year stretch, things like that tend to happen.

His pace has slowed somewhat since 2007 and now there are some questions over his longevity. It's a fair argument and it may open the door for Nadal to surpass Federer in grand slam victories. If Nadal does so, I will give him his due as the "best ever", even if he never comes close to matching Federer's brilliance during 2004-7.

Jon Hughes said...

Another way to shed light on the question of who is greater between Federer and Nadal is to take away their most successful Grand Slam tournament, and see what you're left with.

If you take Nadal's French Open success away, he's left with 4 Grand Slam titles. If you take Federer's Wimbledon success away, he's left with 10 Grand Slam titles.

This strongly suggests that Federer is (thus far) the more consistent and durable of the two - and therefore the greater player.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

I don't agree that the balance of power shifts (or can shift) so dramatically from one event to the next; there may be a perception that the balance of power is shifting but that is just as fallacious as the nonsensical assertion an idiot made a few years ago that one single playoff game would be the defining moment of Kobe Bryant's career if Bryant's Lakers lost (not surprisingly, after the Lakers won this author did not say that the victory had been a defining moment--when someone is biased he decides which moments are "defining" and he decides exactly what those moments "define").

Federer and Nadal have both been around for years and they have established their respective resumes. Federer is a great grass court player who is very consistent and durable but he has not won at the rate that Nadal has overall or in Grand Slam competition and Federer has a very poor head to head record against Nadal. One event will not drastically change those percentages or reverse any of those realities.

Federer's fans are trying to grasp at straws to cement his alleged status as the greatest of all-time: they search for random quotes as "proof" and/or they declare/hope that Federer will win event X (2011 French Open, 2011 Wimbledon) and that this particular triumph will supposedly put Federer forever out of reach of mere mortals. I'm not buying it. If Nadal beats Federer at Wimbledon that moves the score to 18-8 and if Federer beats Nadal then the score is 17-9; neither result represents a dramatic change. If Federer beats Nadal 10 straight times then Federer's fans will truly have something to crow about; if Nadal wins seven more Slams without Federer winning another one then Federer's fans will have to come up with some even more creative excuses, though from what I have seen here I have no doubt that they are up to the task.

David Friedman said...

Asha:

I find it "insulting"--and tiresome--when people blatantly disregard reality. I also find it quite revealing that none of Federer's passionate advocates have taken up my challenge to cite even one example of a situation in which a great player who was dominated head to head by another great player is considered better than the player who dominated him/her.

I don't think that it takes a particular talent to cut/paste Wikipedia entries (and it may even violate their copyright). Citing a specific stat in proper context is much more useful (but also more difficult to do).

I am not "discounting" the supposed differences in the maturation of Federer and Nadal; I am just pointing out that Federer's fans tend to dismiss Federer's early failures in Grand Slams but then turn around and ask "Where was Nadal?" when Federer was winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. If you are going to cut Federer slack for supposedly maturing late when he kept losing in the first round of Grand Slam events then give Nadal the same accommodation. I prefer to look at both of their careers overall--and, as I showed, Nadal has better winning percentages than Federer across the board.

I don't consider great players to be sycophants; please don't take my comments out of context. I said that media sycophants are praising Federer too much and then conducting interviews in which it is awkward for the great players to do anything other than praise Federer. You seem to enjoy linking to brief articles that are essentially "quote dumps" from other sources without any context. I have seen many of these kinds of interviews on TV so I know how the quotes are extracted; I have also worked as a credentialed media member so I fully know exactly how certain media members make sure that they get the quote that they want.

Experiences in the 10 and 12 year old age bracket do not have much to do with Federer and Nadal's Grand Slam resumes. Nadal simply has been better overall and Nadal has repeatedly beaten Federer head to head when they were the top two players in the world, not when they were kids just entering their growth spurts.

I agree that Borg versus Federer is open for debate but the reason for that is that they played in different eras and never met head to head--the same reason that there is little room for debate left regarding Nadal versus Federer.

I simply do not understand how the "better" player could repeatedly lose to an inferior player. It is fine to say that Federer is more durable and has enjoyed more longevity than Nadal but that is not entirely fair since Nadal is younger; again, it is funny how Federer's fans let him slide for supposedly maturing late while then giving him credit for being durable but it is apparently Nadal's fault that he is a prodigy who has not yet grown old!

It will be quite amusing to see what Federer's fans come up with if Nadal stays on top for another five years or so and breaks Federer's Grand Slam record. Then the durability/longevity issue will be a non-factor but I suspect that more excuses will be forthcoming. At least Federer's fans have several years to work on those excuses and/or hope that Nadal gets hurt or decides to retire.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

Please consider tennis history in context. Laver did not have the opportunity to do what Federer did because the Grand Slams were restricted to amateurs during his prime years, while Borg and the top non-Australian players of his era routinely skipped the Australian Open.

As for what you saw when you turned on your TV, please reread your previous comment regarding Nadal's supposed bad losses and then reread my response. Apparently your TV was not working on the days when Nadal was winning matches and tournaments at a higher percentage than Federer, so perhaps you missed all of the times that Nadal was holding up trophies--including some times when Federer was standing behind him literally crying because he just could not beat Nadal.

Borg's "triple-double" has yet to be duplicated and is more impressive than anything that Federer has done; it certainly means more than padding one's resume with some Australian Open wins and X amount of consecutive semifinal appearances in Grand Slam events.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

Why are you trying to make things so complicated? Isn't 17-8 pretty simple? What about Nadal having better overall and Grand Slam winning percentages than Federer? You don't evaluate a player's career by "taking away" a certain accomplishment; you look at what he has done overall.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

You've not been paying attention. No-one's coming up with creative excuses. In fact, people have admitted that, should Nadal overtake Federer's Grand Slam record, he will be considered the greatest ever.

The problem is that he hasn't yet, and therefore isn't now; and it remains to be seen whether he ever will be.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

I think you know the point I was seeking to make. Nadal needs to win more of the other Slams to match the overall brilliance of Federer.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

I could throw your argument back on you. Isn't 16-10 pretty simple??

DanielSong39 said...

Nadal has been a better player than Federer since 2008 and does have a winning head-to-head record.

I wonder whether we'll be having the same discussion if Djokovic dominates Nadal for the next 3-4 years, wins a handful of Grand Slams, and manages to tilt the head-to-head in his favor.

If that happens, I hope Nadal's fans will show a bit of consistency and concede that Djokovic is a better player than Nadal because he is a great player and has a winning head-to-head record.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, calm down. You will have a heart attack.

Again 17-8 record is misleading. 14 times on clay. I predict that Novak will be leading the head to head against Nadal in a few years.

I like your snide “talent to cut/paste” comment.

[“I am just pointing out that Federer's fans tend to dismiss Federer's early failures in Grand Slams but then turn around and ask "Where was Nadal?" when Federer was winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. If you are going to cut Federer slack for supposedly maturing late when he kept losing in the first round of Grand Slam events then give Nadal the same accommodation.”…. “Experiences in the 10 and 12 year old age bracket do not have much to do with Federer and Nadal's Grand Slam resumes.”]

Dude, I’ve been playing tennis a long time. I said I noticed my brother’s development in the 10 and 12 unders. I, of course, have seen him and others play well into college. I was in the same age bracket as Bobby Reynolds and Robby Ginepri. I have experience from playing collegiate tennis. I was explaining that I didn’t follow some media sycophant to discover it myself.

Nadal matured earlier than Federer. It’s your opinion to dismiss it. Again Nadal won the French Open at almost 19 years old and soon after that became No. 2 in the world . YEAH, WHERE WAS NADAL . . . losing to lower ranked players from 2005-2008. Look at how Novak matured into a top player in the summer of 2007 and went on to win the Australian Open.

[“again, it is funny how Federer's fans let him slide for supposedly maturing late while then giving him credit for being durable but it is apparently Nadal's fault that he is a prodigy who has not yet grown old!”]

Yes, Federer matured later. Nadal matured into his game at an earlier age like Becker, Sampras, Wilander….and yes Federer is five years older than Nadal. I’m pretty sure five years is a big difference for a tennis player when a player is about to turn 30 years old and not 25.

“Borg, himself the winner of 11 Grand Slam titles, also believes that Federer can now lay undisputed claim to being the greatest tennis player of all time. “For me he is the greatest player ever to play the game,” he said.
“Now he’s won all the Grand Slam tournaments and he’s probably broken almost every single record you can break. We all know that the competition today is very very tough, there’s a lot of good players out there playing great tennis and to win Grand Slam tournaments year after year is a very difficult thing to do, but he’s doing it.”

Please do explain how the media sycophants got this out of Borg since you worked as a credentialed media member. So, Borg didn’t mean it? What did he really mean? Borg doesn't know how to think for himself?

[“It will be quite amusing to see what Federer's fans come up with if Nadal stays on top for another five years or so and breaks Federer's Grand Slam record. Then the durability/longevity issue will be a non-factor but I suspect that more excuses will be forthcoming. At least Federer's fans have several years to work on those excuses and/or hope that Nadal gets hurt or decides to retire.”]

I hope you’re not directing this comment towards me. I don’t understand what you gain by saying insulting comments like this. I already said that if Nadal can do what Federer has done I will call him the greatest ever. I hope Nadal and Federer play for many years. Like I said in my previous post it will be a sad day when they stop playing.

Definitely my last post. Can’t wait for the matches tomorrow!!! Good luck with your next blog post :)asha

Curious, which records blow you away. For me: three slams in one year: 2004,2006,2007, 10 & 8 consecutive Slam finals, 23 consecutive slam semi-finals, 29 consecutive quarterfinals and the 237 consecutive weeks a No. 1.

David Friedman said...

Asha:

My point regarding players becoming general managers is that there is not necessarily a correlation between playing at a high level and being able to accurately compare players/evaluate talent. John McEnroe certainly knows more than I do about proper tennis technique and could provide much better analysis than I could in that regard but that does not automatically make him an authority on tennis history. Also, some players are biased toward particular eras.

Here is one final point regarding quotes taken out of context. Consider two hypothetical interviews:

Interview One:

Reporter: "Now that player X has just won tournament Y doesn't he have to be considered the greatest player of all-time?"

Answer: "Winning tournament y is a great accomplishment and certainly puts player X among the best players ever."

If the person being asked that question replies in the negative then he sounds petty or self-centered (if he is a former player).

Interview Two:

Reporter: "What factors do you consider to be most important in ranking all-time great players?"

Answer: "I think that the greatest player of all-time must dominate his era and prove his versatility."

One line of questioning would be called "leading the witness" if it took place in a courtroom; the other line of questioning requires the respondent to actually put some thought into his reply and to support his answer with some kind of logic.

When I interview basketball players and coaches, I utilize the second line of questioning but I have been in enough press conferences and locker rooms to realize that many reporters think that they have the right answers before they ask any questions and thus they frame their questions to get the quotes that they want. I am pretty sure that I could do a series of interviews with various tennis players/experts and, depending on how I phrased the questions, get quotes to "prove" that Laver, Borg or Federer is the greatest player of all-time--but a serious journalist should seek the truth as opposed to merely trying to find quotes to support what he thinks the truth is or should be.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

The "creative excuses" include calling Federer a late bloomer but then asking "Where was Nadal?" in Wimbledon and the French Open; that is applying one standard to Federer but a different standard to Nadal. Of course, the most "creative excuse" is simply disregarding the head to head record, which is not done in any other comparable situation. Nadal and Federer have been butting heads for years as the top two players in the world and Nadal consistently beats Federer. That is pretty simple.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

No, 16-10 is not "simple." Federer has been around longer than Nadal and thus has amassed more total wins but Nadal has a better winning percentage. Again, this is the Jim Brown versus Emmitt Smith argument. I have no problem conceding that Federer has been extremely durable and it is certainly possible that Nadal will not match Federer's durability--but that does not make Federer a better player than Nadal any more than Smith is better than Brown.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I don't have a crystal ball so I have no way of knowing what will happen. I doubt that circa 1987 anyone thought that Michael Jordan would win six championships or that Larry Bird had already won his final title. Nadal has established that he is better than Federer. Will Djokovic ultimately be better than Nadal? I don't know.

David Friedman said...

Asha:

Why is the head to head record "misleading"? One guy beat another guy 17-8. I saw it happen; this is not a Spiderman comic book with Mysterio playing tricks on us. Nadal has consistently dominated Federer on clay and then Nadal proved that he could beat Federer on other surfaces as well. Federer has yet to solve the clay problem and now he struggles to beat Nadal even when they play on "Federer's" turf.

The purported greatest player of all-time should not be trailing his number one rival in head to head play AND Grand Slam winning percentage AND regular tournament winning percentage AND the assorted other stats that I mentioned a few comments ago.

I have no doubt that you are a better and more accomplished tennis player than I am but I am not trying to instruct people about tennis technique; I am discussing tennis history/how to compare players from the same era and how to compare players from different eras. The skill set required to play tennis well has nothing to do with the skill set required to make such comparisons.

It is fine to talk about different rates of maturation but if one "excuses" Federer for his first round losses in Grand Slam play then one cannot turn around and say "Where was Nadal?" in Wimbledon/U.S. Open and one cannot say that the clay/grass split in the head to head stats matters. After each player went through his maturation and reached a top two ranking Nadal has proven that he is better than Federer on clay and at least Federer's equal everywhere else.

Prior to reading your most recent comment I made a comment about how the media works, so please scroll above for that reply; I don't know the specific origins of that Borg quote but I have a good idea of how it came about and I have seen other Borg quotes that effusively praise Nadal. Borg is not the type who is going to go around beating his chest saying "I am the greatest." It would be funny if anyone went up to Michael Jordan with those kinds of questions, because I guarantee you he would not play along one bit.

The tennis records that most impress me are Laver twice winning all four Slams in one calendar year amd Borg's Wimbledon-French Open "triple double." The streaks that Sampras and Federer compiled as the number one player are impressive to some degree but I think that there are some flaws in the ranking system so I don't value those accomplishments as highly; if you're the number one player but you can't win the French (or you only can win it one time when your top rival is not around) then what does that ranking really mean? Laver and Borg were clearly the best players of their respective eras even though Laver's prime predated the ranking system and even though Borg only spent a fraction of the time at number one that Sampras and Federer later did.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

I think the difference is that you're fixated on head-to-head, while most observers (and posterity) will look at Grand Slam titles.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

I am not "fixated" on anything other than accuracy. Can you cite a historical example paralleling Nadal-Federer in which the head to head loser is considered the better player? I have cited three examples supporting my side: Borg-Connors, Sampras-Agassi and Navratilova-Evert. Connors won more overall titles than Borg, Agassi completed a career Grand Slam and Navratilova & Evert each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles but in each case the player who won the head to head matchup is generally considered to be greater.

Also, Nadal's Grand Slam career is more impressive than Federer's: Nadal has better winning percentages across the board (as does Borg). Federer's only edge over Nadal is longevity, which naturally Nadal has yet to have the opportunity to match--but even if Nadal leaves the game earlier than Federer has (a la Jim Brown compared to Emmitt Smith) we have seen enough to determine that Nadal is the better player.

Agboola ibrahim said...

Though i dont really know much about tennis but i think frm d little i knw i disagree wit d claim that fed is the greatest ever bcos d best ever shoud'nt be second best to another player. And that nadal has most of his wins from clay is not enough excuse bcos a professional is a professional and should be able to show why u are a proffesional on any surface even if u have a favourite surface and i think it will be very difficult for borg to choose himself as d best ever even if he's d best. So u can't decide until d end of both nadal/federers career. But u still can't take it away from nadal even if he's unable to match the 16 of fed. Federer d greatest? With nadal in the history of the game it's a capital NO but without nadal i think yes.

tennis said...

what did i say. djokovic is going to turn the tide. he's won eight out of the last 10 matches against nadal. and the last five have been convincing wins.

David Friedman said...

Tennis:

What does six months of excellent play by Djokovic have to do with the subject of this article? Nadal has demonstrated career-long superiority versus Federer, trouncing him head to head, winning Grand Slams at a faster pace and posting better Grand Slam winning percentages. Even if Djokovic ultimately proves to be the superior player to Nadal (for a career, not just for six months) that does not at all change the reality that Nadal is better than Federer (it would just move one more person past Federer on the all-time list).

DanielSong39 said...

I think Djokovic is starting to get to Nadal's head, just like Nadal did to Federer. Five losses in a row to Djokovic and counting, including the latest one in Wimbledon.

At this point one has to wonder whether Djokovic has surpassed Nadal for the time being and will have better chances to win Grand Slams going forward.

I think it would be best to appreciate the fine tennis being played by the new wave instead of arguing over whether Federer was better than Nadal. We can always add things up at the end of the day and figure out which players accomplished the most.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

You're missing the point entirely.

This year Nadal and Djokovic have been the clear number 1 and 2, both playing well; both in their prime. Djokovic has totally dominated Nadal during this period, and will probably continue to do so.

When both men play at their best, Djokovic wins! It's a clear case of horses for courses, as I'd still fancy Federer to beat Djokovic far more often than Nadal will beat Djokovic. We saw an example of this at the French Open. Federer beats Djokovic (who would certainly have beaten Nadal) but then loses to Nadal in the final.

But that doesn't mean that Djokovic is a greater player than Nadal, just as it doesn't mean that Nadal is a greater player than Federer.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

Nadal has admitted that he has been 100% this year, and yet has still lost five times in five finals (on three different surfaces) to Djokovic.

He has lost 8 out of the last 10 of their meetings. Meanwhile Federer and Djokovic are 5-5 for their last 10 meetings.

The simple truth is that Djokovic's game matches up well against Nadal's, much in the same way that Nadal's does against Federer's. Yet no-one would claim that Djokovic is a greater player than Nadal.

Do you see the point now? Yesterday's Wimbledon final has inadvertently weakened the thrust of your argument against Roger Federer.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I agree with you that Djokovic has gotten into Nadal's head; you could see it just by watching Nadal's body language during the Wimbledon Finals and then Nadal admitted it in the post match interview.

Djokovic is the best player in the world right now but that does not mean that he is better than Nadal overall or even that Djokovic will be the best player by the end of the year; if Nadal has a good second half of the year and wins the U.S. Open then he will have matched Djokovic in 2011 Grand Slam titles and may even reclaim the number one ranking.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

Are you are a fortune teller? How do you know that Djokovic would have beaten Nadal at the French Open? Using your "horses for courses" analogy, Nadal is one of the two greatest "horses" in the history of the French Open "course" and he handled Federer pretty easily once again. The Wimbledon grass is Nadal's worst "course" and yet he has won two titles there while making it to the Finals five times; Federer's only title on his worst "course" (the French Open) came when Nadal was out of the picture.

Djokovic's dominance over Nadal is a very recent phenomenon. Nadal's dominance over Federer dates back several years, so the analogy that you are making is not very logical. Nadal has proven that he is better than Federer by trouncing him head to head AND by compiling a more impressive Grand Slam resume (better winning percentages, faster to 10 titles, etc.).

I don't know what Nadal "admitted" but he injured his foot earlier at Wimbledon and clearly did not play as well after the injury as he did before the injury; that is part of the sport and I am not making excuses for Nadal but I am merely clarifying the issue since you brought it up: it is a bit disingenuous for you to suggest that Nadal was 100% healthy during the Wimbledon Finals.

Djokovic's game matches up well against everybody's right now; he has only lost one match in 2011. No one would claim that Djokovic is better than Nadal (from a career standpoint as opposed to just looking at the current rankings) because Nadal has won more Grand Slams, posted better career winning percentages and still--even with Djokovic's recent streak--enjoys a head to head advantage of 16-12. Nadal has been beating Federer head to head for years and he has had a better Grand Slam career (in terms of winning percentages) than Federer, so it puzzles me that you think that Djokovic's win over Nadal on Sunday somehow disproves my statement that Nadal is a better player than Federer. Nothing that happened on Sunday changes the Nadal-Federer head to head comparison, nor does Djokovic's first Grand Slam victory over Nadal mean that Djokovic suddenly is better than Nadal (in terms of their overall careers; Djokovic is obviously playing better than Nadal--and everyone else--right now). McEnroe's 1984 season did not make him the greatest player of all-time, nor did Tracy Austin's success in 1980-81. If Djokovic stacks up Grand Slam successes and surpasses Nadal in the head to head matchup then we could say that Djokovic is better than Nadal overall--and that still would not move Federer past Nadal.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

There is not really an "end of the day" to add things up; new blood is always rising (Djokovic), so rankings will tend to be fluid. My point is that however one ranks players one should be consistent. Ranking players from different eras is difficult and clearly subjective but even if we have not reached "the end of the day" (i.e., Nadal and Federer are both still active) it is late enough in the day to conclude that Nadal is better than Federer. If Federer somehow beats Nadal 10 times in a row and begins dominating the French Open then I will of course change my opinion but that is obviously unlikely to happen; we have reached evening--if not late night--in the Nadal-Federer "day."

DanielSong39 said...

When Nadal surpasses Federer in career Grand Slams I will give Nadal his due.

For now, what Nadal has been able to do vs. Federer is being paralleled by what Djokovic is doing to Nadal. While Djokovic is undoubtedly the best player right now, I will hold off crowning him prematurely as the best player of his era - even if he wins a handful of Grand Slams in the next couple of years and manages a positive head-to-head vs. both Federer and Nadal.

David, it's interesting to read your past articles on Federer, where you repeatedly criticized the media for crowning Federer prematurely. I hope you will show some consistency and refuse to crown Nadal prematurely until his career accomplishments match those of Federer.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

The 'horses for courses' comment was about match-ups, not surfaces! The fact is that Nadal's game matches up well against Federer, Djokovic's game matches up well against Nadal, and yet Federer holds his own against Djokovic (5-5 on their last 10 meetings).

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

If you are ranking tennis players strictly based on career Grand Slam win totals--without factoring in the differences between eras or head to head records or winning percentages (to name three of just many factors that should be considered)--then that means you must have ranked Roy Emerson as the greatest player of all time until the latter stages of Pete Sampras' career and that Emerson still must be in your top five.

However, if you acknowledge that tennis players should not be ranked strictly in the order of their Grand Slam singles titles then you also should be able to understand why Nadal's head to head supremacy over Federer combined with Nadal's superior Grand Slam record (10 wins by age 25, superior winning percentage than Federer, fewer first round exits, etc.) demonstrate that Nadal is in fact better than Federer.

What I object to regarding the mainstream media's coverage of Federer is their haste to crown him as the greatest player of all when it was far from clear that he had surpassed Laver and Borg (to name just two). Then Nadal came along soon after the media crowned Federer and displayed head to head superiority spanning several years and continuing to this day--and we are not talking about a handful of matches but more than two dozen matches on a variety of surfaces.

Nadal is better than Federer; where each player should be ranked on the all-time list versus Laver, Borg et. al is a subject worthy of debate but Nadal must be at least one slot ahead of Federer.

Ranking Nadal ahead of Federer based on the logic described above is reasonable and objective--quite the opposite of declaring circa 2005 that Federer was the greatest tennis player of all time; media members painted themselves into a corner with that premature proclamation and have been straining to justify it ever since that time.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

I understand what you meant but of course the original, literal meaning of that phrase pertained to different courses (which would be equivalent to surfaces in tennis parlance) and it is quite telling that Nadal has done better on his "worst" Grand Slam surface (Wimbledon) than Federer has done on his "worst" Grand Slam surface.

You have to really ask yourself why you find it so important to rank Federer ahead of Nadal that you are bringing a third party (Djokovic) into the discussion. Nadal trounces Federer head to head and Nadal's Grand Slam career is at least as impressive as Federer's. Djokovic's career accomplishments do not even entitle him to be in this discussion (never mind the fact that Nadal still has the head to head advantage versus Djokovic as well).

Jon Hughes said...

David,

I've already made this point, but here it goes again. The reason why Djokovic is relevant to the debate is because he is now in his prime and has played Nadal (also in his prime) five times this year in five finals on three different surfaces. He has convincingly won all five matches. This does not, however, make him a greater player than Nadal. At the present rate, he will eventually move ahead of Nadal in the head-to-head department. That, in and of itself, would still not make him a greater player than Nadal. What is clear is that his game matches up well against Nadal's. Once again, they are both in their prime and Djokovic 'owns' him. When they both play well Djokovic wins.

Now apply the same reasoning to Nadal/Federer...

You mention Borg. A very similar situation to the above. He was a greater player than McEnroe, but lost to him three grand slam finals in a row while still in his mid-twenties. McEnroe would have built up a significant career head-to-head advantage over Borg, had Borg not prematurely retired, but carried on for another three years. But Borg (11 Grand Slam titles) was a greater player than Mac (7 Grand Slam titles).

I like the way you make your case, and it is a great debate - and I do take your point regarding Emerson - but posterity will invariably measure the greatness of these guys by the number of Grand Slam titles that they have won.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

I understand what you are saying; I did not need for you to repeat it. My point is that your entire argument is based on faulty logic. Rather than deconstructing everything that is wrong with your position--which I have already done to some degree in my previous responses--I'll just focus on the two big problems:

1) You are relying on assumptions and projections (just reread your comment and notice how many times you allude to things that would have happened and things that you are sure will happen). My Nadal-Federer comparison is based entirely on things that have already happened.

2) You are building up Djokovic--who had nothing whatsoever to do with my article--based primarily on six outstanding months. We don't even know for sure that Djokovic will be the player of the year for 2011, let alone be worthy of comparison with Nadal and Federer from a career standpoint; if Nadal wins the U.S. Open and has a strong second half of the season he could tie Djokovic's 2011 Grand Slam total and retake the number one ranking.

Did I just fall into the same trap you did by projecting something? No; the uncertainty of what will happen in the next six months is precisely the reason that I left Djokovic out of the discussion entirely. Right now, Djokovic is the player of the past six months. Meanwhile, Nadal has established his superiority over Federer and must be ranked ahead of him on the all-time list, the same way that Navratilova is ahead of Evert, Borg is ahead of Connors and Sampras is ahead of Agassi.

Maybe Djokovic is about to go on a four year run that will blow everyone out of the water; in that case, we can revise the all-time list accordingly--but that one possible future in no way changes the relative positions of Nadal and Federer on the all-time list and that is the main point of this article, not speculation about what Djokovic may or may not do.

Jon Hughes said...

David,

I do take your point, and (believe it or not) have made the case in conversation with others that Federer is the greatest of all time but not the best of his generation! It is a somewhat unique and dubious honour.

But I still don't think that you lend enough weight to Grand Slam titles. Nadal is different to Navratilova, Borg and Sampras in that he is some way behind Federer in terms of Grand Slam titles; whereas they were either significantly ahead (Borg and Sampras) or tied (Navratilova) with their great rivals in this significant department.

For this reason you are being premature in claiming that Nadal is greater than Federer. And once again Djokovic is relevant to the debate due to the fact that he may personally scupper Nadal's attempts to catch Federer.

David Friedman said...

Jon:

Sorry, but that just makes no sense; a player cannot be the greatest of all-time if he is not the greatest of his generation and it is pretty clear that Federer is not the greatest of his generation.

We really are just going in circles at this point in the discussion. I have already explained that I am certainly taking Grand Slam titles into account; the only way to say that Federer's Grand Slam career has been better than Nadal's is to employ the kind of "logic" that would assert that Emmitt Smith is the greatest running back in NFL history--and it would also require believing that Roy Emerson was the greatest tennis player of all-time until the end of Sampras' career. Emerson won six of his 12 Grand Slam titles in Australia and he benefited from the rules prohibiting professionals from playing in Grand Slam events during his prime. The Australian Open has always been the least important Slam by far, so much so that Borg, McEnroe and many other greats of the 1970s and 1980s skipped the event entirely, rendering comparisons of their Grand Slam win totals to Federer's irrelevant. Federer won four of his 16 Grand Slam titles in Australia, while Borg only played in Australia once. Federer actually only leads Nadal 12-9 in non-Australian Grand Slams and Federer's Grand Slam career overall is just less impressive than Nadal's, as I have repeatedly documented throughout this thread: Federer lost in the first round of a Grand Slam five times and his Grand Slam winning percentages are not as good as Nadal's.

As a fan, you are entitled to root for anyone you want to root for but really liking somebody does not make that player the greatest player of all-time.

Mr. X said...

Hmm.. A very interesting read i must say.. However, if you compare players just by head to heads then you cant comment on who the better player is.. Agreed, Rafa has a wonderful record against Roger but the truth is that Rafa has changed his game so that he could tackle Roger.. Over a period of time that has produced results on surfaces apart from clay.. But now look at the guy.. He has no answer for Djokovic.. His goal now will change to finding a game to beat him.. Thats wat his tennis career is about..

Federer is definitely the best shot maker of all time.. And he plays the "beautiful game".. So many tennis players and experts cant be wrong.. i believe its incorrect to compare them at this stage and criticize Federer... Roger was at his prime from 2004-2007 and rafa couldnt do anything against him at that time apart from Rolang Garros... Now you compare them after Federer has peaked.. If you actually wanna go by head to heads then compare the record when Roger was at his prime.. The only matches Rafa won were on clay..
No one could beat Roger when he was at his prime.. But in Rafa's case, Djokovic has shown that rafa not only can be beaten.. But destroyed..

Renegade said...

David,

How is it that you refuse to factor the following in your analysis,

The consistency that Federer has shown during his peak years is unrivalled. He was number one for 237 consecutive weeks. No tennis player, let alone Nadal has even come close to breaking such a record. To top it all his total number of weeks as number 1 is second only to Sampras and there is still the possibility of him bettering Sampras in that.

17-8 seems to be the only argument you have in your favour.

A lot of people in previous comments have tried to disillusion you but in vain.

Let me attempt to break it down for you as well.

The very fact that 14 of their 25 meetings till date have taken place on clay would clearly suggest that Nadal lacks Federer's consistency on the other two surfaces.

I would like to point out that Federer has the longest winning streaks on both grass and on hard courts.

Nadal failing to do well on hard courts for most part of his career has resulted in their meetings so often being on clay.

I did not go on to say Nadal has not been inconsistent on grass as he has made it to the Wimbledon finals on five occasions and won twice. But grass, is a tricky surface to discuss as we hardly have any tournaments played on this surface.

However, you must note that Federer has the longest winning streaks on both grass and on hard courts. His staggering success on both these courts puts the success Nadal has had on these surfaces to shame.

And come on, Borg, Sampras, Connors, Agassi, McEnroe all agree to Federer being the greatest of all time.

With all due respect to your sporting intellect, I don't suppose all of these greats could be wrong at once.

However, I do think its possible that Nadal will dethrone Federer as the greatest ever but to make such a conclusion so many years before we've seen the last of both these players is very unjustified.

As of now, most statistics barring the only statistic Nadal has in his favour which is the head to head record against Federer, would suggest that Federer is the better of the two.

DanielSong39 said...

I think accomplishments count for something and Federer has accomplished more than any other male player in the Open era. However, it seems like his immense achievements are being ignored in favor of:

(1) Negative head-to-head vs. Nadal
(2) Lower career winning % due to a slower maturation process

The problem with (1) is that it can overlook the greater goal: to win the tournament, or to advance as far as you can within a tournament. The goal in a tennis tournament is to win the tournament, not to finish with a 1-0 head-to-head vs. one guy. Federer in his prime years went deeper into tournaments and won a greater percentage of them than any other player in the Open Era.

The problem with (2) is similar to (1): ultimately, career accomplishments are defined by trophies. Federer has won more grand slams than any other player in the history of the sport; does it really matter whether he lost in the first round 5 times or 15 times before he won those 16 slams? You can't unilaterally water down the 16 he won because of a few first round losses.

Now it gets trickier when comparing Federer to greats of yesteryear: as late as the 80's, tennis didn't have a true "Grand Slam" structure and things were even hazier before the Open Era. Nevertheless, two facts hold true: no other men's player in the last 40 years can match Federer's level of dominance in 2004-7 nor match his consistency in the biggest tournaments (16 slams, 10 & 8 consecutive slam finals, 23 straight slam semifinals, 29 straight slam quarterfinals).

David Friedman said...

Mr. X:

I did not "compare players just by head to head." Please reread the article and my comments in this thread.

When you mention that Nadal "changed his game" to beat Federer you imply that this is a bad thing--but I'm sure that if Federer could "change his game" to beat Nadal then Federer would have done so many years ago.

I love the "logic" employed by Federer fans: in your mind Nadal's 17-8 advantage over Federer is meaningless but Nadal has "no answer" for a player who he still has a 16-12 head to head advantage against. In other words, you discount years of Nadal's dominance over Federer but put great stock into what Djokovic has done in the past six months.

Why is Federer "definitely the best shot maker of all time"? How good would his shots be with a wooden racket like the one Borg used? How good would Borg's shots be if he had grown up and trained using modern rackets? All we can do is compare players against their contemporaries who used similar equipment on the same surfaces under the same conditions. How do you know that Bill Tilden or some other great from 70 years ago wasn't a better shot maker than anyone else?

Why can't "so many experts" be wrong? Many experts have been wrong on a large number of subjects ranging from the economy to politics to war, so experts can certainly be wrong about sports.

Nadal has "beaten" and "destroyed" Federer many more times than Djokovic has defeated Nadal, not that Djokovic has anything to do with this particular discussion.

If Federer is the greatest player of all time then why is it necessary to make so many excuses for him--all I keep hearing in this thread is that Federer peaked late, that his losses to Nadal on clay don't matter, that Federer's game is so beautiful. The greatest player of all time does not need anyone to provide excuses for him--and Federer only needs such excuses precisely because he has been handed a crown that does not fit, a crown that Nadal repeatedly slaps off of Federer's head.

David Friedman said...

Renegade:

Being ranked number one is based on a computer formula that does not always reflect reality. How many times have the Williams sisters had low rankings (relatively speaking) when they won Grand Slams? Borg is widely considered the best player from circa 1976-80 but he was only the number one ranked player for part of that era.

I simply don't understand how you can say that my position is based entirely on "17-8." Did you read the article and my subsequent comments in this thread? Nadal's Grand Slam record/winning percentages are better than Federer's.

You are wrong about one thing: various comments here have "disillusioned" me (perhaps you don't know what the word means), because they have removed the illusion that people can be convinced by logic. Actually, though, this has not really disillusioned me because I never fell for that illusion in the first place; I have realized for a long time that most people are much more content to believe what is comfortable for them to believe as opposed to using logic and critical thinking skills.

I did not know that all of the great players you mentioned met somewhere, had a conference and "agreed" that Federer is the greatest player of all time. You are using the same poor reasoning skills as an earlier commenter who loved to clip and paste Wikipedia entries/out of context quotes as supposed proof of Federer's greatness. If you dig enough you can find quotes supporting greatest player of all time status for several players and you can also find contradictory quotes from the same individual. I prefer logic to out of context quotes.

You, like all of the previous commenters, have failed to even address--much less refute--the simple challenge that I offered, namely to provide an example of a great player who is considered superior to another great player despite being on the wrong end of a lopsided head to head score.

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39:

I have not ignored Federer's "immense achievements." All I said is that Federer simply has to be listed at least one notch lower than Nadal on any legitimate all time rankings list.

Your most recent comment simply repeats a comment that I completely refuted earlier. Since you chose to repeat yourself I will simply repeat my previous answer:

"I get the distinct impression that the vast majority of people who opine on this subject either get all of their information through the filter of the media sycophants who declared Federer to be the greateast of all-time several years ago and/or they simply mindlessly repeat a few tropes regarding Federer peaking late while Nadal peaked early and Federer supposedly being more dominant than any previous champion.

I hate to disappoint you and other similarly minded people by actually bringing facts/logic into the discussion but your comment makes no sense.

1) The idea that raw Grand Slam win totals decide who is the greatest player of all-time is a fairly recent--and not particularly logical--development. Roy Emerson held that record (12) for decades yet I doubt that anyone has ever seriously suggested that he was the greatest player of all-time. Before the Open Era, the Grand Slams were the province of amateur players; otherwise, Rod Laver would likely have put the record well out of reach of Federer or anyone else who is likely to come along any time soon.

2) Federer has been a very consistent player but he is hardly the most dominant player in tennis history by any reasonable measure. Borg's Grand Slam winning percentages exceed Federer's; Borg won 11 of the 27 Grand Slams he entered (40.7%, the all-time record in this category) and he won 89.8% of his Grand Slam matches, also an all-time record. Borg's triple-double (winning both Wimbledon and the French Open for three straight years, 1978-80) is an unprecedented feat of multi-surface dominance that had previously been considered impossible. Borg set numerous Grand Slam records in various categories relating to winning percentages, consecutive matches won, winning tournaments without losing a set, etc. Perhaps Asha will cut and paste these here in his next comment or you can look them up yourself. Borg's 1974-81 Grand Slam run was more dominant than anything that Federer has accomplished and Borg did this without even competing at the Australian (save for one time early in his career) because that event simply was not very important during Borg's era (other top players frequently skipped it as well during those years, yet another reason that the Australian-padded Grand Slam win totals of Federer, Emerson and Sampras are not the best way to determine how to rank them on the all-time list).

3) You don't know what you are talking about regarding Nadal's career and his alleged "wipeout losses." Federer lost in the first round of a Grand Slam six times, something that Borg and Nadal never did!

Nadal's Grand Slam match winning percentage is 87.9, slightly better than Federer's 87.3. Nadal has won 10 of the 28 Grand Slams he entered (35.7%), a better percentage than Federer's 16/49 (32.7). Overall, Nadal has won 46 of 63 finals (73.0%), while Federer has won 67 of 97 (69.1%). Nadal's career match winning percentage (82.7) is better than Federer's (81.1). Nadal has won 46 of the 151 events that he entered (30.5%), better than Federer's 67/241 (27.8%)."

David Friedman said...

Daniel Song 39 (continued):

You say that careers are "defined by trophies" and yet you ignore the fact that Nadal has collected trophies at a superior rate than Federer both overall and in Grand Slam events. So, even framing the argument in the terms you define (winning tournaments trumps head to head) you are wrong! Of course, the way that you framed your argument blatantly ignores the fact that I have clearly and repeatedly referenced Nadal's superior tournament record, so it is incorrect and puzzling that you keeping acting as if I am only talking about head to head results.

Head to head results are important--and no one has yet even attempted to refute my contention about their importance in tennis history--but Nadal's overall career is more impressive than Federer's unless you buy into a bizarre way of thinking that crowns Emmitt Smith as the greatest running back of all-time based purely on total rushing yards and that crowns Roy Emerson as the greatest tennis player of all-time up until the moment that Pete Sampras surpassed Emerson's record for Grand Slam singles titles.

Unknown said...

David,

Thanks for the informative posts. Also want to thank Federer supporters for keeping it polite.

I agree with David that GS number should not be the only criterion, or even the most important one, when debating who is THE best of all time. That would not be fair for those tennis legends, during whose time, GS were not what they are now.

The Media needs a tennis hero, an icon. That's why Federer was prematurely named THE best ever before even breaking Sam's GS record. Now Nadal beats him day in and day out, and even puts how to beat him black and white in his book, the Media has no choice but to turn to naming this the greatest rivalry in tennis history, whatever sells. But seriously, is this really a rivaly? 17:8 and counting?

Have no problem with calling Federer ONE OF THE greatest playerS.

Anonymous said...

For those Federer fans who repeatedly keep arguing that NADAL leads their head to head battle because of the fact that they've played more often on clay. Let's break down their rivalry and take a closer look at the numbers.

14 matches on clay, 11 on hard courts and 3 on grass. Now I'm about to propose a hypothesis that would make at least a few federer fans smile. We all know that hardcourts have tormented nadal throughout his career (in part due to injuries) and Federer is the best hardcourt player of this generation. Let's assume that they play the next five matches of their rivalry on hard courts. For the benefit of all the federer fans, let's say he wins all five (which is unlikely in my opinion) of those matches.

Now lets take another look at where their rivalry stands in this hypothetical scenario

They've played 16 times on hard courts,( nadal's worst surface ) which is a larger number than their encounters on other surfaces.
But Nadal still leads 18-15.

Well now how could that be ? Playing most of the matches on nadal's worst surface but still trailing????

The explanation is pretty simple if you're a rational thinker. Nadal is BETTER than FEDERER:)

Anonymous said...

Regarding the DJOKOVIC-NADAL rivalry. They've had 16 matches on hard courts, 14 on clay and three on grass. So I don't really need a hypothesis here for convincing the federer fans about the surface factors . Most of their matches have been played on nadal's worst and novak's best surface and yet nadal leads their head to head 19-14. Nadal has beaten Novak five times on his preferred hard courts with 2 of them being historically significant ( US OPEN 2010 and BEIJING OLYMPIC GAMES 2008). Novak Djokovic has only beaten Nadal twice on clay( historically insignificant non major events played with best of 3 set format). As a matter of fact , it took Djokovic six hours of gruelling tennis to fend off NADAL on his ideal
plexicushion surface in the prime phase of his career(oz open). That says a lot!!! When he played nadal later this year He could only manage to win 1 set in 3 matches . I hope federer fans didn't miss it . NADAL is therefore better than novak in their rivalry.
Nadal beat Djokovic at his one and only appearance in an olympic event at beijing ( he missed london games due to hoffa's syndrome ). He holds the golden slam , an honour that still eludes federer. Federer has had four appearances at the olympic games as opposed to nadal's one and has failed repeatedly , most recently losing to the likes of MURRAY on his favorite surface grass.
Nadal is not the best player in the world right now but he's the best player of this generation overall.

David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

Your reasoning is very logical, which sadly means that the Federer fans to whom you addressed your remarks will neither understand nor accept what you just wrote.

Anonymous said...

The media sycophants are responsible for the delusional tennis community which struggles to come to terms with the reality of the present day world . They are still stuck with the Scenario of 2005 when Nadal was in deed a clay court specialist and Roger Federer who had a stellar season was hands down the best player in the world . The media had sown a seed that painted federer as the best and Nadal as a clay courter which was true in 2005. The legion of Federer fans that fertilized from this seed was so awestruck with this reality of 2005 that it became the eternal truth and Federer a "Tennis deity" . The implanted idea still remains in their minds and they frown to accept the truth as if it were an illusion bringing up reasons to live within a fantasy where Federer rules to this day . The truth hurts them and hence the vitriol. This will never change until the media finds a new hero some twenty years from now who I'm sure they'll prematurely crown as the GOAT to sell the sport . But I hope their predictions do come true so that another arch rival does not have to suffer the same fate due to these sycophants .