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By Scott Riley, Tennis Editor - Archive - Email
Nadal could be the GOAT
Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal is at 13 Grand Slam titles and counting.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's difficult to say who's the greatest tennis player of all-time, but a discussion that had to start with Roger Federer not too long ago has perhaps shifted in another direction.

It's hard to call Federer the greatest player of all-time (the GOAT) if he's not conclusively the greatest player of his time.

Sure, the former No. 1 Fed is the all-time men's leader with an incredible 17 Grand Slam singles titles -- a feat that would certainly suggest he's the best.

But ...

Sixties powerhouse "Rocket" Rod Laver tallied 11 major titles over a 19-major span and probably would have tallied many more had he been allowed to play in the amateur-only Grand Slam events from 1963-67. That's 20 major opportunities missed. Twenty!

Laver is the only man to capture all four Grand Slam events in a calendar year twice (1962, 1969). Twice! And again, no majors allowed for five years.

The Rocket also holds men's all-time records with 22 singles titles in a season (1962) and seven consecutive years (1964-70) of winning at least 10 singles titles in a campaign.

Pete Sampras, he of the 14 Grand Slam titles, would be in the convo had it not been for his inability to excel on clay courts, unlike Laver, Federer and Nadal - each a French Open champion.

I also always love to throw Bjorn Borg in the mix. The steely Swede was brilliant on all surfaces, but somehow never managed to prevail at the U.S. Open, where he succumbed in four finals in six years against the likes of American legends Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Borg did, however, pile up five straight Wimbledon titles at one point and six French Open titles over an eight-year period.

So back to Federer and Nadal.

Yes, Federer has been nothing short of amazing over the last decade ... but he's been anything but amazing against his chief rival, the 13-time Grand Slam winner and fellow former No. 1 Rafa.

Consider this.

- Nadal is a dominant 21-10 lifetime against Federer, with 15 of their meetings coming on clay (and the Spaniard going 13-2)

- Nadal has beaten Federer in six of their men's-record eight Grand Slam finals (6-2), including all four at the French Open

- Nadal is 8-2 against Federer at the Slams overall

- Nadal is 14-6 in his overall finals against Federer

- Nadal owns the career "Golden Slam," which is all four majors and Olympic gold, something Federer has yet to do

- Nadal has played on four Davis Cup championship teams, compared to zero for the Fed

- Nadal holds the records with 26 ATP World Tour Masters titles and 14 ATP 500 championships

- Nadal was the youngest-ever player to record a career Grand Slam (24)

- Nadal's lifetime winning percentage of 83.7 is the best in the sport today

And, in what many people consider to be the greatest tennis match of all-time, it was Rafa, not Roger, who won that classic 2008 Wimbledon final when Federer was considered to be "unbeatable" on the famed grass at the All England Club.

Nadal is currently having one of the greatest seasons ever, this after being sidelined for seven months because of a knee injury. His comeback this year has been one of the best-ever ones on the ATP Tour.

His 2013 season has seen the mighty Spaniard go 61-3 (yes, 61-3) with a tour- best 10 titles, including two Grand Slam wins in only three major events. His prize money, and we're not even through September yet, is just shy of $10.5 million

One thing we do know is that Nadal is the greatest clay-court player of all- time, going 59-1 for his career at the French Open, including eight titles in nine years. Sorry, Bjorn. No one has dominated one major like Nadal has in Paris.

Nadal and Mats Wilander are the only players in history to have won at least two Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces -- hardcourt, grass and clay. And by winning the French Open this year, Nadal became the first male player to win at least one Grand Slam event for nine consecutive years, breaking the record of eight previously shared by Borg, Sampras and Federer.

And Rafa is undefeated on his least-favorite surface, hardcourts, this year, going 22-0, including a second career U.S. Open title. The world No. 2 star beat current No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final in Flushing, improving to 22-15 lifetime against the super Serb.

Should I go on?

I'm not saying Nadal's the best-ever just yet (and I'm also not saying that he's not), but the foregone conclusion that Federer's a slam dunk at the top has to be withdrawn for now.

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