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Nadal v Federer: Who is the greatest?

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Jonathan Overend | 13:41 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

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 share a joke

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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  • Comment number 1.


    We all enjoy "the who is greatest?" thing but the question I prefer is "have we ever had such a rivalry between true greats?". As my list (I am 41 and so I only include people I have watched) of true greats is Borg, Sampras, Federer and Nadal-in-waiting the answer is probably not.

    There is only one other rivalry which is close to this one and that is Borg v McEnroe. Borg a true great and McEnroe at that time appearing destined for the same accolade. Although McEnroe did not perhaps ultimately deserve the TG accolade because he "only" got 7 majors the dynamics between the two were similar - even if the styles were reversed.

    But Federer v Nadal tops that in my book due to the time during which these guys have been rivals - Borg disappeared after 18 months of McEnroe reaching his level. Federer and Nadal have now been at it for more than 5 years! I would love to see Fed come back and win one more - but time is not on his side.

    Finally we must really congratulate the standard of sportsmanship amongst these top players and we must be fair and include Djoker in this (remember he was in the final and more than played his part.) Can I suggest a further question - "Has there ever been a sportsman of Nadal's class who has displayed as much humility as he does"

    Anyway, Nadal now has 3 at once and we will soon be talking about the Spain Slam or whatever when we travel to Australia.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think when both players retire, then comparisons can begin. I think the one statistic that will answer the question will be the head to head in Grand Slam finals which currently stands at 5-2 Rafa. Time will ultimately decide whether Rafa will surpass Rogers haul of Grand Slam titles. If he can have sustained success like this year by winning 3 Grand Slam titles in a year, and repeat ot better that success in the next 4 years there will be no telling how many he can win. Roger from 2004-2007 Won 11 Grand Slam Titles out of 16 and that is what Rafa would need to do to put himself up there.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ref to number 2: Nadal leads the Final head-to-head because of the three French Open titles on a surface where he is generally acknowledged as the greatest clay court player of all time. (He also beat Federer in the 2005 FO semifinal). What's left is 2-2: Federer with 2 Wimbledons to Nadal's 1, plus Nadal's Australian Open title.

    For Nadal to match Federer, he'll have to be as consistent as he has been this year on grass and hardcourt for the next few years. It would be great to see him achieve that, if he can fend off the other players.

    For the record, looking at title distribution (AUS, FO, Wim, US)
    Nadal: 1 5 2 1
    Federer: 4 1 6 5

  • Comment number 4.

    ' I think the one statistic that will answer the question will be the head to head in Grand Slam finals which currently stands at 5-2 Rafa'

    This statistic is somewhat skewed by the fact that Roger reached all those French Open finals, which is Nadal's preferred surface earlier in his career. Nadal never challenged Federer during his dominance at the US Open as he never met him in a final there. The one statistic that will stand the test of time at the end of both of their careers is the number of Grand Slam majors won, which we can't measure until they both retire. The debate rages on.

  • Comment number 5.

    Roger Fededer and Rafa both diffrant types off players! Rafe will wear him self out with in 2 years!! you just can not do it! Roger will win 2 may be 3 more slams! thats for sure! he's in the form! ok he made mistakes in NY,he should have beat novo!come next Year Roger will show the world that he's still there,and that he is the best off all time! the GOAT!

  • Comment number 6.

    Nadal is a fantastic player. Undoubtedly the best clay court player. Unfortunately, it is difficult to compare him with Federer because when Federer was in his prime, they only really met on clay courts. Nadal overtook Federer in the rankings when it was obvious that Federer's (absolute) best days (in terms of his abilities, physically and technically) behind him.

    They are the best two players I have ever seen (although I have only been watching tennis for 8 years) but I would say that Federer will ranked above him in terms of the greatest of all time debate. People usually only look at the statistics when comparing players, however when we are talking about great players, we should compare their respective capabilities; skills, shot making, court coverage, performance on the big points, etc.

    Put simply, I have enjoyed watching Federer more than I have in watching Nadal. Federer elegance and controlled aggression has been a joy to watch. Nadal has recently added more to his game but in the early part of his career he was very tiring to watch. He would almost torture his opponents with his highly physical game. However Nadal is only half way through his career and we will see in the coming years whether he ill surpass Federer abilities.

  • Comment number 7.

    Federer has set the target of 16 GS so far but he hasn't called it a day yet. Nadal has 9 GS and 7 more to add to his tally. Two players with two different personalities and skill-sets. If you ask Who is the greatest? right now. The answer is we don't know yet. But one thing for sure is it will be Nadal if he is injury free next year or two.

    Common Nadal you can do it!

  • Comment number 8.

    Two very different styles of player, each remarkable in his own way and both an absolute credit to the game.

    We should celebrate the fact that their rivalry has kept tennis on edge for the past few years.

    Impossible to say who is the greatest tennis player of all times, the game evolves and you can only compare them to their peers.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think for now Federer has to be considered the greatest of all time. The reasons I believe this are purely on his achievements.

    As of now Federer has 16 Grand Slams while Nadal has 9, a difference of 7 grand slams is still a long way to go, only just past half way.
    I would also point out that the next most important tournament (in my eyes anyway) is the Masters Cup against the best players in the world, and Federer has won this 4 times, and Nadal is yet to win it.

    Federer has also been ranked number 1 for 285 weeks, 237 consecutive. Nadal has been number 1 for 54 weeks, surely an indication that Nadal is yet to dominate in the way that Federer has, put simply Federer has been the best player in the world for 285 weeks while Nadal just 54.
    The head to head between the two players is of course a factor but not a decisive one. There are all the arguments that most of their matches have been on Federer’s worst and Nadal’s best surface, clay. Also when Federer was at his best about 2004 – 2007 Nadal was not reaching regular finals to play against him on hard court. Another good example of this is the head to head scores of Nadal versus Davydenko, Davydenko is winning 5-4, is this because he is a better player? No its because the majority of the matches have been on hard court where the Russian has an advantage.

    Another point I would make is that Federer has reached greater heights at any one point than Nadal as well as having greater overall achievements. The best year Nadal has ever had is winning 3 slams, and getting to 1 quarter with a winning percentage of 89%. Federer has on 2 occasions won 3 slams as well as reaching the final of the other, he has also had yearly winning percentages of 93% and 95% twice.

    I am not disputing that Nadal is a great player, or that he is the best player in the world right now, however I just believe people are being premature calling him the GOAT especially when considering his achievements next to Federers.

  • Comment number 10.

    Looking at these posts it just goes to show that it is, as most agree, impossible to say who is the greatest of all time. I think 'whitecoats' at comment 8, probably has the right of it. Personally I prefer watching Nadal play and i do think he is a far more gracious sportsman than Rog, who gets a bit huffy when things don't go his way. I also think it is worth pointing out that Federer had several majors undr his belt before there was any real challenger, whereas Nadal has amassed his while Federer was still playing some fabulous tennis and adding more majors.

    Perhaps we should be a little less critical of other top players like Djokovic, and especially Murray who gets very unfairly panned by the British media and fans. It can't be easy trying to win a major with Nadal and Federer around. Djoko, Murray, Del Potro and others are all well capable and in another era would win one but the game is so much stronger now and woth the longevity of the top two it may bw a while before anyone else gets a chance.

    PS I think the Borg-Mcenroe rivalry was the most compelling in recent times because there was no love lost between them and they loved nothing better than to beat each other. They only became friendly later after they retired. The mutual appreciation society of Rog n Raf doesn't have the same spice...

  • Comment number 11.

    Amanbro (comment 6) - I think it depends on how you perceive things.

    You state that it's difficult to compare as they only really played on clay when Fed was in his prime.

    I'd suggest that since they've been battling for 5 years, then Fed in his prime couldn't beat Nadal as a teenager/early twenties who was just breaking onto the scene.

    Fed still in his prime in 08 (he would have been 26 at Wimbledon and World number 1) started losing more regularly in the big matches and on favoured surfaces as Nadal continued to improve.

    In fact, it could be considered that it will probably only be over the next 5 years as Fed (most likely) will start declining and Nadal should peak that the statistics between the pair really start to show a significant difference in head to head results.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Roger Federer will be considered the best tennis player even if Nadal ends up winning more GS.

    Both these 2 are phenomenal players.RF will wins at least 3 -4 GS in the next 2- 3 years.

    Hopefully Nadal will be around for another 6 -7 years and Nadal's fitness will be a major deciding factor in the number of GS he wins in the future.

    Nadal had an easy US open this year.( Murray had a breakdown and Del Potro was unable to defend his crown).

  • Comment number 14.

    With regards to 11 Sports Fantic, it quite possible that the two will have different peak ages. Federer didn't win his first Grand Slam until the age of 22 while Nadal won his first one at 18 I believe. It may therefore be the case that while Federer peaked from 23 to 26, Nadal’s peak might be earlier, or maybe even later.different ages. Federer didn't win his

  • Comment number 15.

    Agreeing with some of the comments here, the assignment of the GOAT moniker is way premature following Nadal's latest slam acquisition. Provisionally, and echoing Nadal's own thoughts and feelings, the GOAT is (provisionally anyway) Federer.

    I'm a huge Nadal fan and enjoy watching him play above all others. Federer is graceful, efficient and ruthless whereas Nadal tends to patiently batter his opponents in submission with a searing ground-game, one is which he mixes in shot variety as he needs to. His style means he typically works a little harder on court than Federer, but I find him more entertaining (whilst taking nothing away from Fed, who I enjoy watching also).

    However, whether he can overhaul Federer's tally is anyones guess. If he goes on to take the ATP end-of-year title, the Australian Open '11, and (oh how I wish), the FO, Wim, and USO next year, with such a tough field of players as we have right now (Federer, Djoko, Murray, Roddick, Berdych, Soderling, Del Potro etc) then the GOAT titleholder will need to be reviewed. Even in a circumstances where Nadal finished his career with 16 slams and Fed finished on 20 slams, I'm still not sure you could split them. It's the quality of the achievements, not just the number of them. Nadal has won everything, including the Olympic singles title. If he does take the AO '11 he'll hold every significant title at the same time. That is complete dominance on all surfaces, something that Federer hasn't managed to do (with due respect).

    Anyway, if it's all about the numbers then surely Evander Holyfield would surely be assessed as the GOAT and not Muhammad Ali. While Holyfield is a legend, Ali is my GOAT given the quality of opposition in his day and the challenges he had to overcome.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Nadal v Federer: Who is the greatest?"

    When one of these guys has beaten the other 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in a grand slam final (irrespective of the surface, whose effect we now know was highly exaggerated by pundits who in actual fact know very little) then the answer should be obvious.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think that one thing in particular allows Federer to stand above Nadal and the rest as the peerless tennis player of all time, and that is the unique aesthetic appeal of his stroke play. From his wonderful service motion to the rapier of his forehand, to the finest single-handed backhand of all time, to watch Federer hit the ball is simply to soak in unparalleled elegance.

    Furthermore, the fact that he has gone for so long, with so few injuries, and is so lithe when the men's game is so dominated by musclemen, and yet can still hit with such ferociousness and spin demonstrates unparalleled timing that underpins these beautiful strokes.

    The manner of his play will leave most tennis lovers voting him the greatest even if Nadal thumps and wallops his way past 16 majors. Many things determine how many titles a player wins: Nadal will be denied the opposition that Federer himself experienced from the spaniard unless one of the pretenders significantly ups his game, for example. Attempting this kind of calculus rapidly becomes meaningless, but anyone who knows their tennis can hold Federer's strokes up to those of masters of yore like Ken Rosewall and see just how perfect his form really is.

    We admire the way Nadal plays, and the exhilaration of his game as well as the quality of his sportsmanship. Yet a youngster would be far better off, and far less likely to be injured in future, if they modeled their strokes on Federer's when they took up the sport. To watch him is to see the figure from a classical coaching manual come to life, claiming tennis back from 20 years of servitude to leviathan thumpers, just when people like Thomas Muster and Jim Courier were becoming the model for "No. 1" in tennis. Laver won all his titles, and the Slam etc etc, but apples and oranges! The constant in tennis is the repertoire of shots, and Laver is barely worthy of sitting at Federer's feet when comparing almost any stroke in the book. Too bad that it couldn't go on for a few more years, but how lucky we are for that golden period in the men's game from 2004, when one player elevated a sport to an art form.

  • Comment number 18.

    Federer has won an olympic gold medal..he won the doubles with Wawrinka. Also, the majority of Nadal's titles in his career are on clay courts. Yes, he has won the two hard court slams both once..but that really isn't enough. Federer won 6 Wimbledon's, 5 US Opens, 4 Australian Open's. That is he has dominated two surfaces (grass and hard courts) for so long. The main reason Nadal is close to Fed's record is his incredible strength on clay. Also, Federer won 3 slams a year inside 3 separate years..that is an extraordinary achievement. Nadal still has a long way to go until emulating Federer.

  • Comment number 19.

    Federer is da Vinci, Nadal is Michaelangelo. Greatness is measured not only by amazing accomplishments, but by how those accomplishments stir us emotionally.

    In this age of cameras-in-your-face and investigative tabloid reporting, what sets Federer and Nadal apart as sportsmen is not just their amazing abilities, but their behaviour. They carry themselves with such self-dignity that many other athletes look uncouth and ill-mannered in comparison.

    Nadal and Federer remind us that GREATNESS can be a package deal again, that you don't have to worry if your kids emulate these sportsmen. When Nadal accepted his championship trophy yesterday, he mentioned how important it is for athletes to be good examples to all the kids watching. And isn't it just that kid in ourselves that makes us love watching sports, love jumping up and yelling in the victory at the end of a game?

    The age of gentlemen has effectively been killed off in the world of sports (football, hockey, basketball, baseball, cycling, etc.), but somehow tennis has been blessed with these two men. They remind us of something that has been robbed from sports for much too long a time. Tennis fans are lucky to have had these two gentlemen play in the same era. They are both great.

  • Comment number 20.

    It seems that almost everyone are comparing Champion Federer and Winner Nadal with their respective Grandslam titles. It is simply childish to do so.

    If some one can compile a Video comparison of each Tennis shots - both Federer and Nadal play, Nadal will be nowhere near to Federer. I watched US Open 2010 Final. It was lookly absolutely funny to watch Nadal frantically running towards right side to hit the ball with his left hand (forehand) - even when Djoker was hitting the ball to the right most corner of Nadal. He always does that - exhibiting his weak (or non-existing) backhand.

    Federer is a bundle of all skillfull shots. What do we mean by greatness? Just winning? It will be healthy if we analyze these 2 great rivals with their skilss and abilities instead of solely depending on the numbers against their names. Sampras, Lendl, McCenroe, Borg and all such players could not complete career Grandslams. Does that mean that they are not good players? Winning should not be the criteria to decide greatness. Only the skills and class should be.

    Hope GOAT arguments (wherever and in whichever platform it is happening) would be made realistic by comparing players based on their skills.

  • Comment number 21.

    fed makes the game look beautiful, nadal just out-powers his opponents.
    it is like comparing barcelona to chelsea... chelsea may have had more success last season, but they are effective - ruthless - characterised by out powering, out muscling, using proverbial battering rams to break down their opponents... they would not play beautifully just to play beautifully... nadal will never have the aesthetic quality to his tennis because it is simply not in the federer league. he is nicknamed 'moonballer' by some.

    when looking at the GOAT... surely no matter how many trophies they have won, (even though fed currently has more), one of the most important factors is the WAY in which they play tennis.

  • Comment number 22.

    Taiwanosaurus has it right in terms of style of play vs. potential longevity. If I am correct, Federer has rarely had major injuries (yes, some illnesses, but no real ligament or joint issues, I think), whereas Nadal has already been out following quite major knee surgery, presumably a result of the stresses resulting from his playing style. I still worry that Nadal will make it far enough to beat the Federer GS record, given that he currently needs to win an additional nine - implying that his knee would have to hold out for at least a further three-four years of winning two-three GSs a year; at the same time, Federer (whose game looks to be a lot easier on his body) could still win further GSs, thus pushing the target further out. Above and beyond records, just happy to have been able to watch Borg vs Mac (with Connors in the mix as well), Sampras vs Agassi and now these two.

  • Comment number 23.

    First, heartfelt congratulations to Rafa Nadal on winning the US Open. We look forward to his good health and many more victories to come. I think the discussion of the "GOAT" is kind of ridiculous as there are many unique things about both Rafa and Roger and to compare them to other generations of extraordinary tennis players is plain wrong. Instead of the extent of analysis and comparisons that will continue to be written let's be grateful that we had the joy of being able to watch them now and in the years to come. Because of their dominance I cannot but feel compelled to commend the others, like Novak and Murray for their efforts and skills and the ease with which they are able to fly under the radar.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ VS Manian

    "It seems that almost everyone are comparing Champion Federer and Winner Nadal with their respective Grandslam titles. It is simply childish to do so."


    I don't think it is childish at all. The GOAT debates are irksome if you take them too seriously. For me, these debates represent an opportunity to discuss the merits of the tennis you enjoy from those in contention.

    Echoing the OP's own words..

    "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."

    You and I may disagree on what qualities and achievements qualify any player for the title of GOAT and that is fine. However, what I like about this type of discussion is that I often see points of view I hadn't previously considered, and for me this makes discussion more than worthwhile.

    As a final comment, I should let you know that I'm not threatening to beat anybody up if they disagree with anything I've said (as THAT would be childish:-)

  • Comment number 25.

    Nadal himself has made it clear he considers Fed to be the GOAT. I think this assessment is correct at the current time. Nadal if fit, could well match or surpass Feds GS total but there is an "if" in that! Nadal's style is physically demanding, especially on hardcourts. He'd be well advised to carefully manage his hardcourt seasons for the next few years to keep that body in shape.

    Whilst watching Fed is fantastic as his style is so easy on the eye, only matched in my view by McEnroe in his pomp around 83/84. However, watching Nadal is an example of how someone leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to improve! Murray please take note! Perhaps Muzza has been unfortunate to be near the top in an era when there are two greats out there but then didn't we say Henman was unlucky to have been around when Sampras and Agassi were?

    In terms of players I've seen and based on pure talent, not on number of GS's won, I would have Fed at 1, McEnroe at 2, Borg at 3 and Nadal at 4. I know I have discounted Sampras who many would put up there but I think his game was too reliant on his serve, albeit an amazing weapon in itself. I have never seen Rod Laver play (other than old films during rain breaks, but McEnroe thought he was the GOAT for quite a while and his record speaks for itself. But for self imposed exile, Laver's GS total would surely be well beyond Fed?

  • Comment number 26.

    Let us have a look at some logics in Cricket while comparing players. The Sri Lankan spinner Muratharan had claimed 800 (or 900) Wickets in Test Cricket, which is much higher than the wickets captured by spinners like Shane Warne, Derek Underwood, Bishen Bedi, Chandrasekar, Prasanna. Does that mean that the other bowlers mentioned above are less greater than Murali? No way. The variation and planning and thinking differs the bowlers from each other.

    Federer's smooth movements on Court and his majestic forehand as well as backhand (single handed), drop shots and his cleverness to catch the opponent on the wrong foot - all are his mastery. Even if this enthusiastic chap Nadal wins 50 GS titles, he can not even learn anything from the book called Federer, let alone matching from Federer

  • Comment number 27.

    We will never tire of pontificating over The Greatest Ever discussions.
    In tennis, we can't generally figure (other than statistically, and what fun is that???) who the best is this week/year, much less than 'ever'.

    I thoroughly enjoy John McEnroe's thoughts, given his history, but most everyone else's, including Brad Gilbert's, are generally silly.
    Noteworthy (maybe not...) is that I love tennis.
    Back in the day I was an A player and a AAA fan. Today I'm a AA fan of the players, but still a AAA fan of the game.
    Anyway: I totally agree with anyone who considers Nadal, Federer, McEnroe, Borg, and a host of others geniuses on the court.
    Their artistry has excited fans like all of us for decades, and those that succeed them will as well.
    At the end, who really gives a rats ass about who was better? And who can determine that decisively?

  • Comment number 28.

    Although McEnroe did not perhaps ultimately deserve the TG accolade because he "only" got 7 majors


    You forget McEnRoe was around at the same time as Connors, Borg and Lendl all at their prime. He was around at the start of the Wilander and Becker eras. His career spanned two very different ages, the era of wooden raquets and the the introduction of power tennis.

    That is why he only won seven slams. The reason I don't believe Federer is the greatest, or Nadal any better is the same as why I don't believe Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer of all time. Who have they had to compete against? Would you compare Djokovic to Connors? Murray to Borg? Del Potro to Lendl?

    Ditto Woods. Player, Palmer, Trevino, Watson etc v Els, Garcia, Harrington, Montgomerie etc?

    Same with Fergie. Busby had to face the great Spurs team of the early 60's, Shanklys Liverpool, Revies Leeds, Joe Mercers best ever Man City side. Fergie lost the title to a Leeds side with Lee Chapman in it!!! Another to Blackburn, until Abramovich arrived Fergie had 19 years where he had significant financial advantage over every team in Britain and most of Europe.

    Just because someone is great now doesn't necessarily mean they are the greatest. You have to look deeper than the number of trophies won, if Borg hadn't retired so young he may have more slams than Fed now. I mean if Evert hadn't been around at the same time as Martina one of them would have won thirty slams plus.

  • Comment number 29.

    Some of the comments show clear bias towards their favored player yet very little knowledge about tennis. I might end up being biased too but I will try to avoid it. I like Nadal all the way but that doesn't mean I can't recognize the brilliance of Roger Federer.

    Nadal forces his way into the GOAT discussion because of one obvious reason and that is despite all of Roger's dominance in his era, he has not been able to match Nadal let alone dominate, on the other hand Nadal hasn't dominated rest of the players as Roger has. Rogers style of play let him dominate others, and his style of play cannot be duplicated, he is naturally gifted and he just honed his skills to perfection.

    On the other hand Nadal has his never die attitude and his willingness to improve and keep on improving. He most likely will not dominate the rest of the players as Roger did but he might end up winning more.

    The two players are pretty much opposites of each other in almost all aspects except that both are Champions of highest quality. The GOAT debate will not be settled unless Nadal's GS haul is significantly lower or higher than Roger's otherwise fans who prefer elegance over willpower, beauty over determination will prefer Roger while the others like me will keep on admiring Nadal over Roger.

  • Comment number 30.

    Re #28

    I have to disagree with your comment. The reason they have nobody to compete against is because they are far and away above the rest of the field. Federer took tennis to a new level. I would argue that he would have dominated in any era (although clearly it is difficult to compare different periods). Woods took golf to a whole new level as well. To say that they only won so many slams because the competition was so poor is to pay them a great disservice.

    Whilst I agree, that it is not only about titles you have won, ultimately that is what it boils downs to. More often than not, people don't remember the nearly man who played beautifully but won nothing, but rather they remember the man who won and kept on winning. The man who dominated the sport. The man who changed the game forever.

    At the end of the day you can only beat what is in front of you. Are you going to tell me that Bolt is not the GOAT 100m runner because nobody is at the same level as him to challenge him? Tyson Gay is a great runner and in any other era would be number 1, but if he doesn't win any (more) major championships, who will people remember in 25 years time? The man who was a great runner and won nothing (relatively) or the man who obliterated the WRs in consecutive years?

  • Comment number 31.

    Ref 3 and 4. So Roger winning his 2 GS finals against Rafa on Grass is not a preferred surface? Rafa beat Roger on Grass and Hard court in GS Finals. Roger hasn't. So suggesting the 5-2 head to head holds no substance is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 32.

    Reading through these comments I am surprised at the lack of mention of Sampras and the Sampras-Agassi rivalry. I was never a big fan of Sampras and he certainly had none of the gentlemanly spirit of a Federer or Nadal. But wasn't he meant to be up there with the GOATs? His rivalry with Agassi was intriguing because of their utterly contrasting styles. And although Sampras won more, Agassi bagged the Career Slam.

    Maybe it was just because the 90s were not a great time to watch tennis ;)

  • Comment number 33.

    Both fabulous - once in a blue moon players with careers overlapping. Doesn't happen too often. Shame we only got top Rog v top Raf once or twice, but never mind. I see them finishing 17 v 15 in GS titles; close enough for the GOAT debate to be perpetual. I go with RF since he has the more complete game.

  • Comment number 34.

    The good thing is, Nadal would be the first person to say he still has to actually achieve all these potential accomplishments before he could be considered the number one ever. He's under no illusions about his task and, rather, seems to relish the challenge.

    Injuries and personal problems cost him a possibly dominant 2009 (and helped Federer move further ahead) but he's rebounded with a bang. The next two or three years are crucial to Nadal, to minimise any fatigue and injury threats as much as possible and make hay while the sun shines.

    I wish him the best of luck. The adjustments and improvements to his game over the past year or so will serve him in good stead in the years when those legs and arms might not pump quite as mightily.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think people are understating the importance of Federer's longevity. I know, if you look at my profile, you will see that I am a big Federer fan, but that doesn't mean that I don't repsect Nadal. In fact, I am a fan of his, I especially love him humblessness and his attitude! But injuries and longevity should play a big part in deciding which is better, but this can only be done at the end of their already illustrious careers. It is well known about the stress that Nadal's game puts on his body, so can he really be expected to sustain this level of excellence for as long as, say, Roger has? Who knows. I think Nadal will come close to Roger's record, but I also expect Roger to up his Grand Slam tally maybe to 18, even 20 if he can rediscover some of his form from 2007.

  • Comment number 36.

    Let me try to compare Roger against Rafa on few points :

    Comments : Comparing by current data, Federer is well ahead of Nadal - But if Rafa continues his current performance he could surely overtake Federer.

  • Comment number 37.

    OK, so i think we have to wait until Nadal is done before we can judge their relative merits. As we stand the argument tends to favour Federer, but Nadal is far from done, hence the need to wait.

    Crazy isnt it to think Federer's body of work is being challenged so soon by Nadal. Personally i think there will always be those for whom the combination of grace and power is so seductive that they will never look beyond Roger, and i understand that. No-one has painted their name across the record books so completely in a 5-6 year period as he has, and it cant really be surpassed.

    Against that, as was argued post Wimbledon 08 / AUS 09, he may not even be the best player of this generation, so how can he be the GOAT? Again there is merit in this point. Consider his losing record to Nadal in slam finals, his loss of no.1 to Nadal (he wont get it back), and the break he got last year in Nadals absence (would he have even done the slam if Rafa wasnt injured) astonishing though Rogers record is, its not wihtout caveats (Laver would have won a bunch more if he hadny missed majors for a few years etc)

    So lets wait and enjoy, god its been good.

  • Comment number 38.

    Last year at this time we were all talking about Fed's awesome record (even after his Open final loss), and Rafa's lack of form. Things can change easily between these guys. Fed could find something a little extra next year and dominate, Rafa could win a calendar slam. Its fantastic to witness the greatest rivalry in sport.

    In every aspect, these guys bring something different to the court. Their surface strength’s are all in their slam stats. We can debate who's the GOAT till the cows come home or just embrace the rivalry while it lasts.

  • Comment number 39.

    @ 28 wingcommander thrush.....this argument is trotted out repeatedly Fed / Nadal and Woods. I am sure in both tennis and golf there are times that the top 10s may have been stronger. But, it ignores one very persuuasive point.....particualrly in golf, the field is so, so much deeper...we have seen this numerous times even in Woods era, i.e players low down the rankings winning majors, and the game is much more global tennis , i think Mcenroe said it best at Wimbledon this year, conceding that the top 10 between mid 80s-mid 90s was a bit stronger than now, but the field is much deeper now.....

    It is exactly the level of excellence of Roger and Rafa that has stopped Djokovic winning a couple more majors at least (they have stopped him many times), and Mickelson, Els have finished second to Woods twice each.

    Even he stops now, Woods will be regarded as in the top 2 golfers ever, Federer / Nadal have lodged themselves in the top 5 tennis players.

    The lack of competition argument is used by those protective of an earlier generation, but in the end it just doesnt really carry that much weight.....

  • Comment number 40.

    Federer faced a peaking Nadal, Nadal faced a faltering Federer.

  • Comment number 41.

    @ foreeverblue 94......did Nadal really beat a faltering Federer in 05 in France, not to mention 06, 07, and 08 in Paris. Was Federer faltering in 2008 Wimbledon? Was he faltering in Aus 09, was he faltering when Nadal beat him on hard courts in 06? Yep, thought are Federers peaks the bits in between the losses?......

  • Comment number 42.

    Most of these comments seem to capture one or the other of the essential basics. But they could all be turned around to suit the opposite. For example nr 34 said injury to Nad helped Fed to move ahead in 2009. One could say Fed's illness of glandular fever helped Nad to move ahead, when if he had not been sick then he would certainly have won at least at Wimbledon at that year. Another good comment also said what might have happened if Delpo was around? The great Rod Laver said that greatness is impossible to define due to technology among other things. Consistency over a long period is key if we simply consider that if a top player stays perfectly fit for 3 years then he could possibly win 12 GS's and be considered fantastic even if he falls flat after that. I recall going to RG this year and looking at the top of Chartrier and saw the name of Borg time after time. Would Nadal have beaten Borg on Clay? On the other hand Borg never completed the 4 but does that mean he is not considered a great player even when winning so many times at Wimbledon and RG? And how come Sampras is suddenly nothing just because he never won at RG. The Aussie Roy Emerson said that Sampras could not be the greatest even with 13 GS simply because he had not won at RG. Perhaps Emerson was saying that Sampras was not greater than himself because he considered himself greater having won all 4 but even with a lesser total overall. Again on a comment above how true it is to mention that Brad Gilbert's comment is silly just because Nadal beat Djoko. In fact pity that our dear friend Andy Murray was not around because if he was then I think he might have thrashed Nad. Let's wait for a few more years and see if Nad can continue to be consistent with Delpo, Murray, Soderling etc running at top speed. As for now if you ask most people who their favourite is and who they would love to watch playing then it would be Fed. Way ahead for sheer class, majestic movement and innovation, single handed backhand and for sure consistent over a very very long period. And he has 16 and counting...

  • Comment number 43.

    Who is the greatest? Is this just dependent on titles won? Or face-to-face records (e.g. Nadal vs. Federer)? I'm not sure that the record is not skewed by turning the greatest grass court tournament, Wimbledon, into a poor facsimile of the clay-court game, slowing down the court, making the bounce more regular and generally doing away with whatever it was that made grass-court tennis so exciting: serve-and-volley, the daring net rush, the quick reflexes. Instead, now it's all biff-bang from the baseline, with the two-handed backhand (an ugly shot at best becoming nearly ubiquitous), and those god-awful hard courts. So, let's reset: who would we be voting for if we had two clay-court Grand Slams and two grass-court Grand Slams (where the grass wasn't slowed down and dumbed down!)? Would it be Federer (who seems to volley without conviction and lets players get into "his head") or Nadal (who as Marat Safin put it scampers around like a rabbit retrieving everything when he isn't banging away on both wings)? Would it matter? Would the game have been better if the two-handed shot wasn't legal? If there was a limit on racket-head size and so on? After all, cricket bats aren't made of high-tech alloy and aren't two feet wide? Why does tennis have this latitude?

  • Comment number 44.

    Rafael Nadal is the greatest tennis player of all time. That would be true even if he retired at this very moment. Federer won most (12) of his titles between 2004-2007 which was the weakest era in men's tennis. Nadal was only a teen-ager who was still developing his game outside of clay. The only great player Roger Federer had to face in those years was Nadal on clay, and he got thrashed every single time. Then the likes of Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro have come up. So Rafa's 9 Grand Slams have much more value than Federer's 16 slams. Add to that his 14-7 H2H record against Federer. So, Rafa is already the GOAT. Anything he wins from now on is a bonus.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think the talk about Nadal winning most of his slams on clay is totally distorted when you compare it to what FEDS has won in Wimbledon and US Open! Add that up plz. If you look at Nadal's age right now and how long it took FEDS to get to his PEAK- i think you are looking at the greatest of all. There's not a single time FEDS beat Nadal so badly on any grand slam final like how Nadal did it consistently at the french open. The next 3 years will say so much. Watch this space.

  • Comment number 46.

    Forget the GOAT, which is surely now a redundant arguement? Fed has 16 slams to Nadal's 9. Can't we just enjoy and admire the incredible achievements and turn of events in 2010?? Rafael Nadal is pure class, no-one can argue that fact anymore. He's a fantastic tennis player, a decent human being and a sportsman many young (and old) people can look up to and admire.

    Let's celebrate the fact that we're here to witness what must be the most golden of eras in tennis. Congratulations to Nadal, the lad deserves all the praise and accolades he is rightfully receiving.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is no quetsion that we've witnessed two of the greatest of all time. Had Nadal not been injured in French & Wimbledon 09 and recovering in US 09, Federer may not have reached 16 GSs.

    The fact that Nadal has recovered from career threatening knee injury, particularly the pounding he gives those knees with his amazing ground strokes, is remarkable!!! Question is, can he sustain the intensity of his power game (an his knees) long enough to beat Federer's 16. Human biology says no.

    After all, Hewitt had similar power play in his day and his knees eventually gave way. Nadal is undoubtedly more talnted and physically stronger but I doubt for long enough to reach 16 GSs.

  • Comment number 48.

    @36: that is a really poor analysis. Basic. And Rafa has beaten Roger 4 times at the French.

  • Comment number 49.

    @36...previous poster is right, i'm not even sure a list even equates to analysis! Poor.
    At least get the facts right....Federer has 16 not 17 slams.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 1 Adrianham......good question. Nadal humility is actually quite touching, cant recall seeing anything similar.

  • Comment number 51.

    Roger & Rafa are both Legends!!!! who cares how many more either of them win - we have been blessed to see them play - god bless HDTV!

  • Comment number 52.

    On the New York evidence, it is entirely possible that he could become the greatest.

    Nadal, in my eyes, will never be the greatest tennis player of all time. He may well win the most titles ever, but that will primarily be down to his incredible athleticism and drive. I do not underestimate his fantastic ability as well, nor am attempting to discredit his achievements, but in terms of who plays the better tennis, who has more natural flair, grace and ability, Federer is so far ahead of anyone it is incredible.

    Yes Nadal is superb, and yes he will soon dominate world tennis, but his achievements for me will never match Roger.

  • Comment number 53.

    The GOAT should surely be changed to a last GASP - Greatest At Some Period. There was a great Western of yester year, the Fastest Gun alive and a blind man cried out to the killer "you aint the fastest". And the killer said "how could you tell, you did not see me draw". And the blind man GASPed "If there's a fast draw there's always a man faster. Watch this space.
    PS. I hope Usain is not in reading this :-)

  • Comment number 54.

    There's a simple statistic to determine who is best. Federer 16, Nadal 9.
    When Nadal overtakes Federer's tally of slams then he can be deemed to be the GOAT. Any other method of comparison is just personal opinion.

  • Comment number 55.

    Statistically if you look at each players record at the Grand Slams you see the following...
    Australian Open (Winner, Runner Up)
    French Open (Winner, Runner Up)
    Wimbledon (Winner, Runner Up)
    US Open (Winner, Runner Up)
    Federer (4,1), (1,3), (6,1), (5,1)
    Nadal (1,0), (5,0), (2,2), (1,0)
    So I believe although Nadal has made great improvements to his game but in the next few years needs to keep winning the Aus Open and/or the US Open as Federer has managed four finals on his least prefered surface.
    Federer on the other hand will be hoping he can win a few more grand slams or at least hope Djokovich, Soderling, Berdych, Murray and others beat Nadal once he retires sometime during or after 2012.
    May the best man win!

  • Comment number 56.

    The debate about GOAT starts again.
    As a Nadal fan I consider him a great athlete, champion and person. If my son were to be an athlete I would look at the Nadal model.
    Candidly I cannot say that Nadal is a greater player than Federer because the stats don't "just" point to it.
    In terms of talent (which most people are either born with or not) Federer's talent is pure and unparalleled. That's the reason why he probably did not win his first GS until 22. His talent was obvious so he lacked graft early in his career. He dominated at a time when all his peers are nowhere near his talent and they also mostly lacked concentration and endurance (does Marat Safin, David Nalbandian, Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko come to mind?)He's won 16 GS, plays elegant tennis and is arrogant to boot. He may well be the GOAT but.....
    1) Could he have completed is career GS if Nadal was fit and in the finals of 2009 RG? That is an argument not worth pursuing. Same as it is useless saying Nadal may not have won the US open if Murray or del Potro were there.
    Nadal won his first GS at 19. Has more Masters series titles than anybody in the open era.And has staedily improved his game even after winning 3 RG titles. This is the most remarkable thing about this young man.
    He constantly seek to improve himself to the point that he becomes the best at surfaces that do not come naturally to him. For me that makes him better than Federer (but Federer still remains GOAT, at least for now.)
    His humility (when compared to Andy Murray who has not won a single GS) and amiability makes him a truly remarkable champion. His utterances make him a role model for everybody (old and young) Remember his remark after Richard Gasquet was suspended for testing positive and when Davydenko was being investigated for gambling allegations.
    So you see in pure tennis playing abilities RF egdes it simply beacuse he has won more GS but for me (and I may be alone) my utmost admiration goes to Rafael Nadal for his resilence, self invention and improvement and I find it easier to relate to his qualities than Roger's.
    I rest my case.

  • Comment number 57.

    ll this crap about federer loosing on clay is just rubbish.. give the guy a break..

    RAFA has beaten fedex on lawn hasnt he? the record is 2-1 (fedex)
    RAFA has beaten Fedex on hardcourts too the record is 3-3 (equal)

    So how do people say that they can not be compared?

    I am a RAFA fan, but if i had to choose i will probably watch fedex play.
    but who is to say that style can be counted as greatness? RAFA has added so much to tennis and so has Federer. Rafa is an absolute role model showing that it is not only gifted players who can do it.. but dedication can take u to new levels.

  • Comment number 58.

    oh and just a little question if rafa was a 100% would federer have won the french in 2009? i doubt it. just food for thought

  • Comment number 59.

    @48, @49 - you are right. 5-2 is for the finals. And Roger has won 16 titles (as detailed in break up). No way to edit it now it seems.

  • Comment number 60.

    Roger is more of a natutral. He does not seems to sweat like others. Nadal is talented,athletic,ever improving hardworking and humble but his track record lacks the consistency of that of Roger's. Look at high percentage of Roger accomplishment (In last 28 slams appearances - 15 w, 6 f, 5 sf, 2 qf). Same cann ot be said for Nadal achievementsas of now. Nadal will have to win 7 more majors in just next two years to match Roger 16 in as many years. All this itself put Roger in a class of its own.

  • Comment number 61.

    I'm not convinced that the number of grand slam titles automatically determines the greatest player (though I can see the logic in the argument). However, growing up in the 80s/90s, all I heard was every tennis lover talk of Laver's greatness - I was stunned to later learn that Emerson had actually won more grand slams. Yet certainly in the eyes (and words) of Sampras, McEnroe, Henman and others, they recognised Laver to be the better player.

    Similarly, many years of watching Agassi and Sampras convinced me that Agassi was actually the more gifted (better?) player of the two, he was simply less consistent (or perhaps, arguably just more interesting and diverse in his lifestyle?).

    I can't define what greatness is if not statistics - but I think saying Laver was better than Emerson or Agassi better than Sampras is still a view that many others would support me on. I think, in my humble opinion, that greatness is partly defined by personality, conduct, sheer isolated brilliance, as much as consistency.

    I can't find it in my heart therefore to say Federer is the greatest of all time. He's a classless, arrogant man who routinely subtly belittles his opponents and is clearly far beyond narcissism to a point that he makes Michael Schumacher look insecure and humble.

    Nadal, on the other hand, lacks the grace of Federer as a player yet more than makes up for it in grace as a competitor. He makes tennis worth watching, and like Agassi and Laver, makes you care. My vote is that Nadal is therefore already twice the tennis player Roger Federer will ever be.

  • Comment number 62.

    As a huge Federer fan, it pains me to witness Nadal's rise. Don't get me wrong, Rafa seems to be a terrific guy--he's just not my guy. If Rafa reaches a total of, say, "only" 12 or 13 majors and continues to rack up Masters 1000 titles, I'd give him the title of G.O.A.T. Considering the Roger/Rafa head-to-head record, and Rafa's gold medal, how could one not concede? He doesn't have to surpass Rog (in majors) to deserve the best-ever tag. Sorry, dear Roger, sorry...

  • Comment number 63.

    Everyone to his own opinion.I don't know about the greatest of all times but i do know one thing: Federer aged 29 now had 7 more GS than Rafa only 24 and has a much better record as far as domination over other players are concerned(In Federer's prime there were hardly worthy players who would give him a run for his money.players like Roddick,Hewitt,Safin,Nalbandian etc).Having said that As for Rafael Nadal,he topped Roger by 3 Grand slams(aged 24: Roger 6,Rafa 9).Won Olympic Gold(single) which Roger has never won and likely not to ever win.Won many Davis Cups for his country which Roger has never done.Nadal Led H2H 14-7.Rafa even made Roger cry in Australian Open(Roger though his chance of completing 14 GS was dead and gone but God had mercy on him and Nadal got injured and Roger took the chance and thats the only reason why he even completed a career slams).Roger was in his prime when Rafa enter the scene as 19 yes old boy and he was not even able to defeat him in Roland Garros and now Rafa has overtaken all Rogers kingdom one by one..First Wimbledon,then Australian Open and Now US open.Right Now Roger might be having more GS under his belt but if anyone ask me who is the GOAT my easy answer to you is RAFAEL NADAL FROM SPAIN

  • Comment number 64.

    For me Rafa's achievements have always been greater than Federers and I'll tell you why I think that. Rafa has achieved his records at a much younger age than Roger and has broken more records than Roger, if you want to compare stats google it. Rafa was the first man since Borg to win the French and Wimbo back to back, and so on so forth. But, in my opinion, destroying Fed at the French in 2008, flying to London to play Queens the next day and beating Djokovic at Queens on grass by the end of the week and then beating Federer at Wimbledon and then winning the gold meal at the Olympics and then reaching the semi-finals at the US open.. those four months in 2008 was greater than Roger's 16 grand slams put together! I know Rog won Wimbo and the French the following year but hey, what was the caliber of his opponents like? When you look at who Rafa has played in the finals of grand slams well, compare this to who Roger has met: Rafa has beaten Roger on grass, hard courts and clay five times out of seven meetings at slams and lest we forget, Roger is suppose to be the greatest of all time.. Ok, who has Roger beaten in his slams? Hewitt, easy to play well when your lording it all over an opponent who is getting utterly thrashed. Bahgdatis gave a good performance by winning the first set then checked out. Gonzalez, I'll never forget his face when he arrived on court at the Aussie final, with a face that said it all: I don't believe im going to win this. Gonzalez lost before he began. Roddick, who has never beaten Fed in a slam and probably never will but at least Roddick goes in there giving it his all; its just when you have a losing record of such proportions against an opponent do you really thing you can beat them? Murray, who turns up to a slam final having already lost the match in his head before he even starts! Personally if i had paid to watch Murray vs Fed at the US Open and the Aussie I would have asked for my money back such was Murray's lack of believe and confidence. Agassi, who at 34 years old took a set of a younger Federer! Now when you look at the truly great matches Fed has been involved in he's almost always lost them: Safin at the Aussie and Nadal in Wimbo 2008 and Australia. The point im trying to make here is that winning 16 slams sounds great but if over half your opponents turn up with little or no believe they really going to win then I question the caliber of those wins. Rafa on the other hand turns up believing he can win if he tries hard enough and my word he really does that. Another thing Fed's always had an easier time in slams as he gets to play first. Remember Rafas rain delayed Wimbo matches in 2007, how he got to the final was a testament of what an incredible force of nature Nadal is.

    I guess this argument is split into two camps: those that want Federer to play non-opposition so he can lord it over them and everyone can say "look how great he is, what did I tell you" and those that actually want to see a competitive match. I'm sorry to say but apart from Nadal, most of Roger's other slam opponents turned up not really believing they could beat him. Faced with real opposition however, Roger just doesn't cut the mustard, no matter how much he jumps around like a ballerina waving his racket so that we can all swoon, ooh! and aah! at his grace and majesty.

    Federer is a bit like admiring a John Sergeant painting with all its flamboyant brush strokes and artistry but does it really tell you anything about life, anything about the world around us? On the other hand a Picasso might not be as aesthetically pleasing but it reveals the real world around us so we can learn something about life and the struggle between man and his environment and himself. Nadal show us something that is truly incredible, he is where most of us could never be, he digs deeper into his heart and soul than most of us could ever imagine and probably given the chance to go there we would turn away in fear that we would somehow come up short and disappoint ourselves so we don't go there; its easier to cope that way. Federer on the other hand, nice eye candy, classical but if I want to find out what makes us tick and what we could really achieve in adversity I need to look elsewhere.

  • Comment number 65.

    Consider the stats below. In the achievement stakes, Nadal isn't that far behind Federer pound for pound. If he can stay healthy, there's no reason he couldn't eventually usurp Federer.

    Nadal turned pro in 2001
    Federer 1998

    Nadal: 1st #1 ranking after 7 years of turning pro
    Fed: .. after 6 years..

    Nadal: 1st slam after 4 years of turning pro
    Fed: ..after 5 years..

    Slam titles after 6 years of turning pro
    Nadal: 3
    Fed: 4

    Slam titles after 8 years of turning pro
    Nadal: 6
    Fed: 9

    Career slam
    Nadal: after 9 years of turning pro (aged 24 & 3 mths)
    Fed: ..after 11 years (aged 27 & 9 mths)

    # of years to amass 9 grand slam titles
    Nadal: 9 years
    Fed: 8 years

  • Comment number 66.

    davis cup and olympic gold completes every possible achievement for nadal, (bar the tour ending championships)
    this puts him ahead of federer, as nadal is only 24 and has more majors to win.
    he will win at least another 3 or 4 french opens, and a few others along the way.
    federe may only pick up 1 or 2 more.
    nadals head to head over federer seals the argument, how can federer claim to be better if he cant even beat nadal? theres no comparing era's here, we've seen the 2 of them in their prime head to head in big matches. nadal has prevailed far too many times.
    Aus Open, French, Wimbledon, US Open, Davis Cup, Olympic Gold

    a far superior resume

  • Comment number 67.

    Of the 21 times that Nadal and Federer have played, one match was a round of 32 (which Nadal won), three were semi-finals (of which Federer won two), and an incredible 17 of them were finals (of which Nadal has won 12). That, my friends, is what you call a 'rivalry', one which Nadal clearly dominates.

    From their first match (in 2004) to the most recent, it goes...

    Nadal (R32), Federer, Nadal (S), Nadal, Nadal, Nadal, Nadal, Federer, Federer (S), Nadal, Federer, Nadal, Federer, Federer (S), Nadal, Nadal, Nadal, Nadal, Nadal, Federer, Nadal.

  • Comment number 68.

    A very serious problem with this debate is the enemy of time. As it passes, the young look to their generation for their idols and, as we have all done, refuse to even look at the idols of their parents as anywhere near as good.

    For example, my elders talk of Roger Laver as the best. When I see footage, he looks slow, tennis seemed to be played by 4 men only - just not interesting.

    As Federer leaves the scene, so will his impact on the game as far as the present generation and young are concerned.

    The Federer/Nadal followers have already discarded Sampras, despite many of us believing his 14 slam record would be untouchable!

    Federer v Nadal has been tough for Federer. He never looks like he really believes he can beat Nadal, especially when the matches are close.

    But I still would say Federer is the better tennis player - Nadal the better match winner.

  • Comment number 69.

    If it was just up to the number of slams won etc., would use a formula like the LPGA America does to determine Hall of Fame qualifications.

    It surely is more than just numbers. But if we're talking numbers, how can anyone match Laver's two calendar year grand slams? That achievement, when the game was flush with great players, is monumental. But don't hear anyone talking about Laver as GOAT anymore. Grew up in tennis in this era, so players like Laver and Emerson (who drew me to the game because we share a name), are still very special to me.

    We, as tennis fans have to marvel that our game is so well represented. To hear both Nadal and Djokovic articulate their thoughts (in 2nd languages for both) so clearly and eloquently, only adds the sheer joy of watching these men compete so honorably.

    The debate over the GOAT is not going to be settled any time soon. Nadal is staking a very strong claim, but cannot dismiss Federer and his amazing accomplishments just yet. While Feds game and confidence seem to be on the decline, would not be hard to imagine another couple of slams before he packs it in.

    With Nadal, what can you say? The wonderful humility and understanding that he displays is off the charts. Simply the most amazing dominant athlete i've ever seen. They kept quoting Conner's observation of Nadal, where he said: "Nadal plays like he's broke". If he keeps that hunger burning, the sky's the limit. Just glad to be around to witness all of this unfold. What a treat!

  • Comment number 70.

    I like some of the statements I have read but it seems to me that most comments echo the fact that if you like Rafa then Rafa is The GOAT or if you like Roger then he is the GOAT. There is more to being the greatest than just skill or strength or shot making. Being the GOAT takes Skill, mental strength, playing each point like its the last, peer review(Fellow great tennis players acknoledging you as they know best than Fans and reporters), accomplishments, longevity. It is wrong to disregard Rafas dominance on clay saying thts the only reason he has a better record than Roger, remember that in his prime Federer was unable to unseat Nadal on clay but when Nadal hit his stride he did beat Federer in his turf, grass and hard court, Saying Federer is the best because of beautiful play or Nadal is the best because of power is just wrong there is simply more to it than that, disregarding accomplishments is unwise since there are players out there that played and some who still play beutiful graceful tennis but lack the other qualities that make plays of the caliber of Nadal and Federer. You cant say I am the best beacause my stroke looks smoother than yours, NO, you are the best beacuse, when its said and done, its about all those things I mentioned earlier. As of now Federer is Better than Nadal but Nadal is on his way. Nadal is still too young and got ways to go before we can compare him to Federer in terms of GOAT, we can compare them on thier accomplishment as of that age but still not in terms of the GOAT. Wait until both men have retired and look at thier overall game: style, mental strength accolades records and all that to crown the GOAT. I will Say Federer is the GOAT when he has retired and then compare him to Nadal when Nadal has retiered, because remember each guy can improve, Nadal might end up playing a more graceful game three years from now or federer might adopt power-play from time to time to help him win more and more

  • Comment number 71.

    For me at this moment in time, Federer is still greater. I still believe that Nadal will surpass him. I have never enjoyed Federer's game, and whenever he can't impose his stye on the match, he gets frustrated. Also, when coparing their slams, You have to look at the people they beat, Nadal has faced the number 1 and 2 in mos of his matches, wheas federer has payed a lot of people outside top 5 for moost of his finals. I also truly believe that at the moment, Nadal can beat Federer at his very best, 2006-2007. He would just play it to Fed's backhand as usual and destroy him. All Nadal needs now is the year end title and Australian open.

  • Comment number 72.

    If I had to wager on a Nadal-Federer match, as long as both players were healthy I would choose Nadal everytime. The surface would not matter, though I clearly would be a bit more nervous if it was a US Open type of hard court. Federer is certainly the most graceful player of the current generation, but I would counter that Nadal is by far the more intelligent player of the two. He has displayed greater adaptability both within a match and between seasons. I'm certain that the latter statement may disputed by some but just look at the evidence. Over the last several years, Nadal has added the slice backhand, the flat backhand drive, the volley and now a 130MPH serve. He's also adapts his court positioning to the surface and the opponent. Federer has added the drop shot.

  • Comment number 73.

    None of this bodes well for Murray's chances of winning a slam!

  • Comment number 74.

    Well for me Federer is the greatest ever and there's so many reasons for it.

    1. the elegance he has in his game
    2. the durability he has shown
    3. you take away any one surface from his records and still he has a great great career where as for rafa take away clay and its a good one and thats it.
    4. ask any one of the top players and they will not want to play federer on any surface where as for rafa they'll say no to clay and wouldn't mind facing him on any other surface.
    5. to those who say federer didn't had any challenger in his prime well its not because the quality of tennis was low he had roddick, hewitt, aggasi, safin but such was his dominance that they didn't stood a chance against him. he made them look like simple push overs.
    6. if federer plays his best tennis then if its not rafa on clay it just doesn't matter who the opponent is and how he plays ask hewitt about us open final
    7. apart from clay if fedrer plays his A-game against rafa there is only one ouotcome and thats fedrer winning comfortably

    rafa is a great player but his greatness is magnified due to the length of clay season he won 81 matches n just three years where as fedrer went unbeaten for more than five yers on grass and won only about 50 matches. there are on two three touurnaments of grass of some worth where as there are about 7-8 clay tournaments every year that has some worth. had this been the case on grass fed may have won 200 matches before losing.

  • Comment number 75.

    We should just enjoy the privilege of being able to see two of the greatest tennis players ever. GOAT debates will always be inconclusive and subjective.
    In terms of their rivalry, it is clear that Nadal has a considerable advantage over Federer and always will have; this is due more to psychological factors than to ability. Whilst Fererer has the greater artistry and a better tactical brain he is sometimes a bit fragile mentally, witness losing his semi final to Djokovic when holding two match points.
    Nadal on the hand has incredible mental strength and is ruthless; he closes matches out with little fuss, especially on the big occasions. This coupled to his determination and ever improving all round game makes him the most formidable of opponents.

  • Comment number 76.

    Nadal is a wonderful player, but conventional thinking would be that Federer with his haul of Grand Slams is the greater and Nadal still has to prove he can match that longevity.

    And of course, conventional thinking in this case is correct.

    End of story, no contest - yet.

  • Comment number 77.

    Surely one very important fact everyone seems to be ignoring is the number of weeks each player has spent at number 1 thus far. Federer has spent 285 weeks as the best player in the world at that time, while Rafa has only around 50. This is a perfect illustration that although Rafa was beating Roger, on clay consistently Roger was still a better all round player for all that time because he was more successful and won more ranking points.

    As for those who highlight the head to head records, does that mean that Davydenko is a better player than Nadal because he has a better head to head record, or that Murray is a better player than Federer because he has a better record against him? Of course not. Those stats need qualification. Most Fed Murray matches were past Federer’s prime and on hard court and all the Davydenko Nadal matches were on hard court.

    Another point worth thinking about is this, according to some posters if Federer had not lost to Nadal in 3 French Open finals he would be considered a greater player because he would have a better head to head record against Nadal in slam finals. Therefore they are saying that Federer would be a better player if he had lost in the 3rd round of the French those years and never reached the final to play Rafa in a similar way to Nadal has in many US and Aussie slams which I think is surely not the case.

    If you break down the surfaces I believe that is shows, Nadal is clearly a better clay court player, and Federer is clearly a better grass and hard court player.

    As incredible a season Nadal has had it is still not as good as seasons Roger has had, 3 slam wins one final, 4 masters, one masters cup, winning percentage of 95%.

  • Comment number 78.

    One more point. I think RF is the greatest as he's shown he's the best ever on hard courts and grass, and he's probably the second best ever on Clay (he'd have likely got 3 or 4 FOs if he hadn't overlapped with Nadal). At the moment I don't think Nadal can claim the same level on hard courts as RF can on clay YET. If Nadal wins another, say five GS on hard courts than he can begin to claim the title of greatest ever.

    Those who are counting davis Cup wins as pluses for Nadal then forget it. Davis Cup is a team event. Name another current Swiss tennis player..... not even Federeer can win a Davis Cup on his own...

  • Comment number 79. are essentially saying that if Federer plays at / near his best he wins, and when he loses it is because he has played poorly......the problem being Federer has played superbly and lost...Wimbledon 08, Aus 09, Aus 05 to Safin, US 09 to Del Potro, not to mention the Roland Garros 05, 06, and there is not always only one winner every time....did he really play poorly in losing to Djokovic last week? he was being lauded for playing unbelievably against Soderling two days earlier....

    Sure some other losses can be blamed on a poor day at the office (Berdych @ Wimbledon this year), French Open 08 which was uncharacteristically wild....but its a bit myopic suggesting his A game wins every time, it has been shown not to....most times yes, but not every time.....

    as for his early competition, yes he stomped all over them, but Safin was a flake, Roddick one dimensional, Hewitt lacked power, though i'll concede Agassi....the newer generation are more athletic and powerful, on occasion they will stand up and have a good day against Federer, match and beat him here and there....same for Nadal, he too can be beaten.....federer deserves great credit for many things, raising the bar being one, but the newer gen can occasionally match him....its just progress

  • Comment number 80.

    Re 31 etc
    "Rafa beat Roger on Grass and Hard court in GS Finals. Roger hasn't. So suggesting the 5-2 head to head holds no substance is ridiculous."

    Rafa had the opportunity to beat Roger in those finals because Roger reached those finals. Roger did not have the opoportunity to beat Rafa, as he pointed out himself, because Rafa was not there for 6 US finals, or the Aus finals, or several Wims. Reaching the final or semi is still a great achievement. Rafa has some distance to catch up with Roger on those statistics. When they both retire then maybe the stats will tell us something.

  • Comment number 81.

    The greatest ever is Rod Laver, 2 calendar grand slams, 8 years apart from each other, 1963 and 1969. If Nadal or Federer can win a Calendar grand slam, then I would consider them the greatest of all, especially with the 3 different playing surfaces.

  • Comment number 82.

    There has been so much nonsense written here - much of factually incorrect - about Nadal's edge being [only] on clay, e.g. "you take away any one surface from his records and still he has a great great career where as for rafa take away clay and its a good one and thats it".

    It's absurd. Nadal has won 4 his 14 wins against Federer on hardcourt and grass - and let's not forget that Federer only [just] squeaked past an eighteen-year old Nadal on second and third set tie-breakers [having lost the first set 2-6] to eventually Miami 2005 across five sets - when Federer was by and away the best player in the world and Nadal was just a rookie at that level. Their head-to-head record stands at 14-7, Nadal's favour and, yes, many of these matches were plated on clay. Federer, just like Nadal, was raised on clay courts - as just about any tennis player growing up in continental Europe [outside of some Balkan states and parts of eastern Europe] - and hardly anyone mentions this. It's as though Federer is at some great disadvantage playing Nadal on clay, which is grossly incorrect. Pat Cash used to remark [about *Federer*, circa 2003 - 2005] that no-one has played "a clay court of style of tennis" to such effect [and success] at Wimbledon. His basic strokes [topspin forehand, backhand] are what you would expect of players raised and trained on clay - and Fededer played with a lot more spin on all the basic strokes than the players that had recently dominated the game [Sampras, Agassi, Hewitt etc.].

    However, the 'best player in the world' [to my mind] should be a rival to anyone on *any* surface - that's part of what being a complete tennis player is about - and Federer has been markedly inferior to Nadal on clay, in their match-ups. That cannot be glossed over.

    Also, Nadal has won more - far more - titles at an earlier age. You simply cannot compare their careers at the elite level, on the same timeline - i.e. when Federer was 24 years and three months old. I can see Nadal winning more titles and only becoming a *better* player - and Federer [to me] is better player than he was in 2005. Federer himself [in January this year, at the Australian Open] pointed out that depth men's tennis was far stronger than it was 6, 7, 8 years ago - that rallies were more intense, players more aggressive on more shots, from all parts of the court - and that he [yes, he] had less time to organise his game and construct points in the way that he used to. Less 'time on the ball'. As an aside, Federer mentioned that every time he played Hewitt, it reminded him of how tennis was played in the early 2000s - and how different this was to how the game is played now. Now, any any weaknesses in your game will get quickly exposed.

    I think that Federer has done well to compete in this era - and Nadal has been especially good at maintaining and improving his level of play. Contary to what has been written here, that ^is^ the opinion of many ATP Tour professionals.

  • Comment number 83.

    When Federer won his 3rd title at SW19 with his anihilation of Andy Roddick,the tennis pundits and ex-pros were saying that he could not be considered the greatest until he had broken the number of majors record held by Sampras at the time. Why should the criteria change now?

    Nadal is enjoying a truly stellar tennis career and while obviously his style of tennis is different to Federer's, there are many who underestimate the many atrributes of his game and tennis brain. Rafa has every right to be proud of what he has and will achieve on the tennis court, but regardless of numbers Nadal's achievements will be unique to himself, just as the personal achievements are to Federer, Sampras, Agassi and many other great champions.

    There are too many permutations to throw into the mix to make the GOAT debate something to be taken too seriously.

  • Comment number 84.

    The name I have choosen tells everyone my favorites. I have watched tennis for 35 years & Federer & Borg are the finest exponents of the game in my opinion. I would also remined people Fed beat Hewit when Hewit was at the top of his game, 2 love sets & a breaker in the U.S. open final. Also it took Nadal till 2008 after the F.O. in 2005, to win on a surface other than clay, while Fed won on grass then the next year he was winning on hardcourt.

  • Comment number 85.

    It is a fun debate, but I think there is one mistake that people are making quite frequently that can make some arguments unreliable. Whilst the head to head in GS events is in Rafa's favour, this doesn't take into account the slams won by Fed before Rafa had truly arrived. Would the head to head record be the same if Rafa had been playing Fed on all surfaces from the beginning of Fed's period of dominance? Personally, I don't think so.

    Rafa reaching what must surely be nearly the top of his game has coincided with Fed's very gradual decline from the peaks he was hitting a few years back. This makes comparisons very difficult (doesn't mean it isn't interesting though). For me, Fed's achievements and the way he went about winning titles makes him the greatest player ever. Once Rafa's career is over, I may have to re-think that judgement but I doubt that I will ever get as much pleasure from watching Rafa as I have done watching Fed.

    Have to agree with the sentiment of most people above - we are hugely priveliged to have been able to witness two all-time greats in the same era.

  • Comment number 86.

    All the perople saying head to head is what counts I will ask again does that mean Davydenko is a better player than Nadal because he has a better head to head record against him?

  • Comment number 87.

    @drivevolley9. Very well put, I couldn't agree more. Federer fans should stop blaming every loss on a poor day at the office, the game has changed, and the same game that beat Hewitt won't dominate today's big hitters.

  • Comment number 88.


    "All the perople saying head to head is what counts I will ask again does that mean Davydenko is a better player than Nadal because he has a better head to head record against him?"


    Of course not. The head to head record between Nadal and Federer is supplementary to the measurement of their other achievements.. kind of like a tie-breaker.

    Andy Murray has a better head to head record of 7-5 against Federer but has never won a slam, therefore it cannot be so.

  • Comment number 89.

    This debate really is silly - without doubt Nadal is better than Federer. Ever heard of the phrase quality not quantity.

    Federer at 27, 28, 29 should have been in the prime of his tennis life, if it wasn't for a Nadal injury then Federer would have been number 2 for the whole of this time and probably had 3 less grand slams and certainly no French Open.

    Even if Nadal does not win another GS and retires tomorrow, he will always be seen as better than Federer!

    To those folks that say blah blah Nadal beat roger most of the time on clay, blah blah blah - It only took Nadal until he was 22 to master playing on grass, a surface that is far more alien to him than clay is to Roger Federer. Today Nadal would beat Fed on Grass, destroy Fed on clay and for that he truly is the GOAT!

  • Comment number 90.

    The Roger V Rafa debate will rage on and on. The thing is these 2 players are the greatest of all time. Each representing different styles, each massively successfully. Because they are peers, we are able to see just how they match up to one another. Rafa is on top now but no doubt Roger will come back

  • Comment number 91.

    Federer the greatest

  • Comment number 92.


    That is exactly the point I was making, head to head stats are not the most important stats, they need qualification and closer inspection, also some players styles just match up better to others.

    @Tennis Brain

    A tennis players prime is not 27 28 29. It is more like 23 24 25 26. That is just an average though, some players peak early and other players peak later. In terms of qualirt not quantity that you mentioned Federer has had the most successful season in Open history in 2006, 3 grand slams, 1 other final, one masters cup, 4 masters titles, and a win percentage of 95%. That is hands down better than any year that Nadal has has to date and so therefore Federer has better quality as well as quantity.

  • Comment number 93.

    Come on Rafa...Lets complete a calender year next year;a feat that a CORKY Federer will never be able to do.Show him who is the boss !!! You are down to earth,humble so unlike Federer.You are already the Greatest but lets put a stop to this argument and it's time to put the last nail to the Federer's coffin.Vamos RAFA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 94.

    Nadal may be coming into a period of dominance but who is to say what new talent will come through, if athleticism and power is seen to be the key it will not be long until other players adapt their game.

    Players can read Federer's game now before long someone will come along who can outrun and outhit Rafa - it's the nature of the sport.

    I enjoyed the Borg/McEnroe era but would still put this pairing above them - they bring out the best in each others game.

  • Comment number 95.

    I think it's naive simply to judge the greatest player of all time on the number of grand slams they have won. In truth there are a variety of things on which this should be judged. One of the main reasons Federer is adjudged to be the best that has ever played the game is the effortlessness of his tennis style.

    If both he and Nadal were the same age Federer would have more consistency in his play and so would be much harder to beat and because Federer's game takes much less effort, he would more easily last into much longer much. The variety of Federer's game is also much better, he has the 1-2 punch, he has net play, he has the slices and he has the forehand and backhand winners. Nadal is reduced predominately to forehand and backhand strokes with the occasion backhand slice, a narrow spectrum of play.

    Nadal is a great champion and a great player, but his game is very much based on the power-facet of tennis and the ability to spin it like no-one else.

    We also see the occasional mind-bending brilliance which is actually worthy of the exaggerated response most tennis commentators give to run-of-the-mill rallies. Two examples are his shot against Djokovic in last year's US open and his back court smash against Roddick 3-4 years ago when he astounded everyone. These are flashes of genius which are irreproducable.

    This is why I don't think Nadal will be classed as greater than Federer even if he wins more grand slams.

  • Comment number 96.

    This is a bit of a skewed analysis. Masters Series titles are obviously far less important than the Masters Cup/Tour Finals; something Federer has won four times, and Nadal not once. Davis Cup is also a bit of an unfair comparison given the strength of the Spanish team; after all, they were able to win the final away to Argentina without Nadal.

  • Comment number 97.

    Rafa has a better head to head simply because for a long time he only made the finals in the French where he beat Roger and not in the Australian and the US Open which were better surfaces for Roger.

    You can ignore Davis cup since the Swiss team won't match the Spanish.

    Number of Grand Slams and length of time at No 1 is a good measure of desire, longevity and dominance. Both Nadal and Federer only focus on these 2 things - so that's how we should measure them.

  • Comment number 98.

    78. At 09:43am on 15 Sep 2010, Rich_Owl wrote:
    One more point. I think RF is the greatest as he's shown he's the best ever on hard courts and grass, and he's probably the second best ever on Clay (he'd have likely got 3 or 4 FOs if he hadn't overlapped with Nadal). At the moment I don't think Nadal can claim the same level on hard courts as RF can on clay YET. If Nadal wins another, say five GS on hard courts than he can begin to claim the title of greatest ever.

    Those who are counting davis Cup wins as pluses for Nadal then forget it. Davis Cup is a team event. Name another current Swiss tennis player..... not even Federeer can win a Davis Cup on his own...


    What loads of nonsense. Roger the 2nd best ever player on clay, doy you even know what you are talking about. Do you even know his clay records against Kuerten to even make an argument with? How is he even better than Kuerten or even Rafter. Not to mention big guns like Borg, Courier,Bruguera, Lendl, Wilander? Not even close to the top 7 greatest clay court players ever. You cannot say but if not for Rafa he would have won more, that's me saying if not for Roger Nadal would have 4 Wimbledon and it goes on for ever.

  • Comment number 99.

    FEDERER vs NADAL,who is G.O.A.T?
    What Federer has achieved is still unparalled;
    16 Grand Slams (6 wimbledon, 5 us open, 4 Australian open, 1 french open)
    23 straight semi fnals at a slam
    4 masters cup-wining against the best
    17 masters title (5 on clay 12 on hardcourts)
    5 straight Wimbledon titles
    5 straight US open titles
    7 straight Wimbledon Finals
    6 straight US open finals
    4 straight French open Finals
    22 slam finals (won 16 and lost 6; 5 to Nadal[3 clay, 1 grass, 1 hard court] 1 to Del potro. all finals lost outside clay has been in 5 close sets that could have gone either way)
    most consecutive weeks at Number 1
    1 week short of Pete's record of most weeks at number 1
    played in Agassi's era, His own Era, in this Era
    Won grand slams without a coach
    His determination and willingness to improve his game is unparalleled.
    9 Grand Slams( 2 wimbledon, 1 us open, 1 Australian open, 5 french open)
    Has been very consistent on clay.
    4 straight french open titles
    4 straight french open finals.
    11 slam finals (won 9 and lost 2 to Federer)
    18 masters title (14 on clay and 4 on hardcourts)

    Both are gifted players (Federer-talented; Nadal-mental strength), however, Federer has been consistent on all surfaces. since winning his first major, federer has reached the quarter finals of all slams on all surfaces 26 times consecutively, semi finals 24 times and finals 22 times winning 16 times in 26 attempts
    Nadal on his part since winning his first major at roland garros in 2005 has reached the quarter finals 17 times, semi finals 14 times and finals 11 times winning 9 times and losing twice to Federer when FED-Express was at his best.

    For now, Federer is GOAT. will Nadal overtake him? Time will tell????
    If Del Potro was fit, would NADAL have completed the career Grand Slam? May be, may be not. Federer-regain your lost form, Nadal- please keep fit, Del Potro- Please come back, Djokovic- continue to improve, Murray- step it up. i can't wait for the year end best of the best World Tour.

  • Comment number 100.

    Simple argument to settle. At the moment, Federer is the Greatest of All Time, both in terms of his achievements and also the aesthetically pleasing tennis he plays. Whilst it is likely that Nadal will overtake him in the next few years, he hasn't done so yet and therefore is not the greatest tennis player of all time - yet. I think he probably will be by the end of his career, but he's definitely not there yet. At present, he is a very prominent member of the chasing pack, which includes Sampras, Agassi, Borg, McEnroe, Laver and Rosewall.

    I think Nadal will end his career renowned as the greatest of all time (except if a new wunderkid comes on the scene, as bit like he did to Federer!), but he's definitely not there yet.


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