Nadal v Federer: Who is the greatest?
A terrific US Open final, between two good friends hitting the spirit out of each other with a tennis ball, ended with Rafael Nadal on the ground, body shaking with emotion, secure in the knowledge he had joined the list of all-time greats.
A dazzle of flashbulbs helped capture history as the 24-year-old Spaniard completed the magical tennis set of all four majors. It was his ninth Grand Slam overall.
It was a worthy final. Towards the end, the magnificent Novak Djokovic was smashing winners without a chance of victory. He somehow believed he could do it - that was evident from the ambition he admirably showed. And of course it was possible - but Nadal was in the mood. You could see it in his widening eyes and feel it in the snap of his improved serve and the force of his groundstrokes.
And so, in successive years, we have two players winning the career Grand Slam. Only five men - Perry, Budge, Laver, Emerson and Agassi - had won the set before Roger Federer joined the club last season. Now his great rival Nadal has sealed his place in history. How lucky we are to have been around to see this unique happening.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have dominated the men's game in recent years
So where does this leave the rivalry? Where does Nadal now stand?
Federer has more titles - a world record 16 majors - but Nadal is much younger and - important to the debate - has beaten his rival to win in Australia, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Federer's triumphs over Nadal at the majors have come exclusively on the London lawns.
Add Nadal's Olympic gold from Beijing, a record haul of Masters titles
- including three in a row on clay this spring (never done before) - plus Davis Cup victories, and Nadal arguably boasts a stronger list of accolades.
Brad Gilbert said on Twitter immediately after the final: "There's your GOAT [Greatest of All Time]". Surely that claim is premature.
Nadal in my mind has to match Federer's longevity, consistency and domination. At least come close to it. The Swiss' streak of consecutive major semis, which only ended this year, is something extraordinary and one of the factors which keeps him ahead. Just.
Of course, there is no prize for this and I know some people like to grumble about these comparison pieces but rivalries make sport so compelling. The quest for unmatchable performance and historic accomplishments. The quest for true greatness.
Nadal is improving, adapting, hungry and healthy. On the New York evidence, it is entirely possible that he could become the greatest.
Perhaps you think he is already there. As we just enjoy these modern-day tennis riches, let the debates continue! What do you think?
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