Thursday 30 March 2017

Tennis: US Open glory puts Nadal in line to surpass Federer on 'greatest' list

Passers-by take their photographs as Rafael Nadal poses with the US Open trophy in New York's Times Square yesterday following his victory over Novak Djokovic. Photo: Getty Images
Passers-by take their photographs as Rafael Nadal poses with the US Open trophy in New York's Times Square yesterday following his victory over Novak Djokovic. Photo: Getty Images

Mark Hodgkinson

For years, the players, coaches and other citizens of the Tennis Republic have considered Roger Federer to be the finest talent to have ever picked up a racket.

In America, they call Federer the GOAT, the greatest of all time. But perhaps he is not even the best of his generation.

As soon as Rafael Nadal had flopped on to the cement and started sobbing into his hands, after winning his first US Open title to become the youngest man of modern times to complete the career Grand Slam, it was time to revisit this debate about who is the greatest of them all.

Nadal (24) has just joined an elite club, as there are only seven career Grand Slammers -- Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Don Budge, Andre Agassi, Federer and now him.

When Federer completed his lifetime Slam last year, by winning a first French Open title, he was 27. Nadal is a greater player at 24 than Federer ever was.

It was a pity that Nadal did not play Federer in the final, as that would have been fun. On the seven occasions they have met in the final of Grand Slams, Nadal has ended up chewing on the trophy five times, losing just two.

Skewed

Overall, Nadal has won 14 of their 21 career meetings, though the record is skewed a little, with a large number of meetings on clay.

Nadal keeps his replica trophies in the family home in Majorca, and now he has a US Open cup to put above the television alongside his five French Open coupes, his two Wimbledon titles and his Australian Open prize.

In all, Nadal has nine Slams, so he is more than halfway to Federer's collection of 16, which is a record for the men's game.

By beating Serbia's Novak Djokovic in four sets, Nadal also became the first man to win the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles in the same season since Laver in 1969, the year that the man known as the Rockhampton Rocket won all four majors.

But for the knee injury which forced him to retire in his Australian Open quarter-final against Andy Murray, Nadal could have gone through the card in 2010. That would have been a greater achievement than Laver's because tennis is so much more competitive and physically demanding than it was 40 years ago.

Nadal had never reached the final at Flushing Meadows. This summer, the only set he dropped all tournament was the second of his 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2 victory over Djokovic. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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