Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sampras, Agassi Endorse Nadal as Potentially the Greatest Tennis Player of All-Time

Andre Agassi believes that Rafael Nadal has earned serious consideration as the greatest tennis player of all-time. During a recent interview with HuffPost Live, Agassi said, "Nadal has an argument to make for the best of all time. If Nadal is sitting at a table with Federer and Federer says, 'I'm the best ever,' my first question would be, 'Well, then how come you didn’t beat me, because I beat you twice as many times? And, hey, by the way, you know I won everything, including a gold medal [in singles at the Olympics] and Davis Cup [with Spain].' But at the same token, Federer has separated himself during a few years like nobody else. And he's done it more consistently. To be able to make the argument for both guys playing in the same generation is pretty remarkable."

Agassi's main rival Pete Sampras still picks Federer as the greatest tennis player of all-time but Sampras concedes that Nadal is gaining ground and could surpass Federer: "It's always been so clear to me that Roger is the greatest. But I would say that, with Rafa doing what he's been doing, he has an argument to be in the conversation. Rafa isn't done yet. He could win more majors. He's got a winning record against everyone that he has played in his generation. He's won the Davis Cup [with Spain], he's won the Olympics [singles]."

Federer is a great champion and he has been remarkably durable and consistent but Agassi's comment goes right to the heart of the issue: Nadal has won everything--just like Federer--and Nadal has dominated Federer in their head to head encounters. The greatest tennis player of all-time discussion should not be limited to Federer and Nadal--Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg also deserve to be mentioned--but at this point it is not logical to rank Federer ahead of Nadal in tennis' pantheon. As I noted after Nadal won the 2013 U.S. Open to claim his 13th Grand Slam singles title, "While Borg-Nadal is difficult to call, it is very hard to understand how anyone who supported Federer's greatest player of all-time candidacy circa 2006 would not be even more strongly in favor of Nadal now: Nadal has achieved more at a younger age than Federer did, Nadal has a much better Grand Slam winning percentage, Nadal has consistently dominated Federer head to head and Nadal does not have a problematic individual matchup or surface. The only advantage that Federer has ever held over Nadal is that Federer has been healthier/more durable, which will make it even more remarkable if Nadal wins four more Grand Slams to tie Federer's mark."

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