Class, Dominance and Records – Rafael Nadal levels with Roger Federer as the GOAT debate intensifies4 min read
After an incredible performance, Rafael Nadal won his 13th French Open beating his arch-rival and World No.1 Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in a two hour and 41 minutes final at the world-renowned Roland Garros Clay Court on October 11. The Spaniard claimed his 20th Grand Slam title equalling Roger Federer’s record. This historic achievement has been the talk of the tennis community over the last couple of weeks.
Often called the ‘King of Clay,’ Nadal’s dominance at the French Open began back in 2005, and since then, he’s lost only two out of the 102 matches he’s played there. With this record win, Nadal has set a precedent that may not be overtaken anytime soon.
Speaking about returning to playing tournaments during a pandemic, he told AFP, “I couldn’t train in the way I wanted, especially for the first two months after the confinement. My body suffered a little from the whole lockdown. The reality is that for bodies with a lot of kilometers on the clock, a drastic stop makes the return to normal work much more complicated.” Even though Nadal was expected to be rusty upon his return to the court, the Spaniard was at his exhilarating best.
The French Open is played in the last week of May but owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Slam was played in October. In May the conditions are warmer which in turn speeds up the clay court. But the weather in Paris is much cooler in October which makes the clay court slower. This troubled Nadal at the start of the French Open but that didn’t stop him from displaying his skill and superiority.
Even with the challenges, he absolutely dominated the tournament, beating the likes of Mackenzie McDonald, Stefano Travaglia, Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda, and Diego Schwartzmann to get to the finals. The 17-time Slam winner, Djokovic also had an incredible and entertaining journey to the finals, which saw him go against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Pablo Carreño Busta, Karen Khachanov, Daniel Galán, Ricardas Berankis, and Mikael Ymer.
Nadal’s 13th French Open win means that he is now leveled with the all-time Grand Slam titles leader Roger Federer on 20 majors- the most by any player in men’s tennis history. Federer and Nadal are lauded as the best tennis players to have ever graced the court, with their fans often fighting over who’s the best.
However, the two sportsmen share a very healthy rivalry, with Federer congratulating Nadal on social media just seconds after his win. “As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory,” The Swiss player wrote.
Rafael Nadal’s latest victory has taken the ‘Greatest of All Time’ (GOAT) debate in a different direction. While many argue that Spaniard is not a versatile player as the majority of his slams are on clay, he is also the only player to win at least two slams on all three renowned tennis surfaces.
Nadal and Federer have had one of the strongest rivalries in tennis. Although Nadal leads the head-to-head 24-16, they have played some of the greatest matches in history. Both players have a different style of play- Nadal is a baseliner with the occasional foray to the net, and Federer has the traditional style of serve and volleying.
These players have their favorite conditions where they thrive. Nadal likes to engage in rallies and does so well on clay because the bounce is higher and the speed is slower. So, he dispatches shots straight from his baseline. Whereas Federer loves fast courts and having a killer serve, the Swiss master keeps the rallies short with fast winners.
Comparing them is hard because they have had so much control over the game with their own ups and downs, and strengths and weaknesses. They dominated in their own times and have often looked unbeaten. Their 2008 Wimbledon Final clash is regarded as the best tennis match of all time. Also, the 2017 Australian Open final was a treat as both the players displayed their old prowess and took us back to the yesteryears of pure skill and passion for the sport. The future of two of the greatest players to hold the tennis racquet has a lot in store which will undoubtedly be worthwhile for fans across the globe. Along the way, the matchup between Nadal and Federer can go anywhere.
Featured Image Courtesy: Tennishead
Edited by: Bhavishya Mittal