When Rafael Nadal raised his sixth French Open trophy June 5, he also vaulted himself into the discussion of the all-time tennis greats. He joined Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg as the only men to have won double digit Grand Slam titles. He also tied Borg for the most French Open titles in history. The best part is, he’s only 25 years old. At this point in Federer’s career, he had won only nine of his record 16 Grand Slam championships. If Rafa keeps up his pace, who knows how many he can win?
How can Federer be considered the greatest of all time, when he is not even the best player in his own time?
While Federer will be worshipped for his graceful, flowing style of tennis, Nadal is the intimidating, powerful force that has bested Federer even in his prime. Once only a strong clay court presence, Rafa has evolved his skills to the point where he has at least one of every Grand Slam title, including two at Wimbledon where he struggled for years. With the Swiss maestro Federer turning 30 this August, his best tennis might be behind him, although he has shown he can still compete. Whether or not he can still win Grand Slams is a completely different story now, though. His last Grand Slam title came more than a year ago, at the 2010 Australian Open.
Wimbledon this year figures to be the answer to a glaring question in the world of professional tennis. Can Nadal keep playing at this high level and defend his title? When Rafa is playing his best tennis, no one can beat him. He wears opponents down and then finishes them off without remorse. But, as they say, that is why you play the game. Only time will tell if Nadal can move his name from the all-time greats discussion, and into the greatest of all time one.
Check out Nadal winning match point against Federer and falling to the red clay at Roland Garros at the 2011 French Open.
This blog post written by VOA Sports intern Nicholas Berault.