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Federer’s legacy turns into Nadal’s

January 24, 2014

Rod Laver Arena at the Australian OpenIn 2011, I wrote the somewhat controversial blog post “Federer needs to solve Rafa puzzle to secure legacy“.

In it, I pointed out that Federer was undoubtedly the greatest player to have played the game of tennis.

I’m happy to say that my humble view was generally shared by a panel of former tennis greats such as Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Boris Becker, and tennis presenters and commentators, like Sue Barker and Andrew Castle.

The only other player considered as possibly the ‘Greatest’ was Rod Laver, an Australian who most tennis lovers, today, including myself, may have never seen play live.  But from reports, Laver was phenomenal and he twice won all four majors in a year.

Even more amazing was that for 5 years, he was barred from playing the majors because he had turned professional while the majors remained an amateur competition.  No doubt, this prevented him from adding to his eventual tally of 11 Gram Slam titles.

On the all-time list of most Grand Slam titles, he’s fifth behind Federer (17), Pete Sampras (14), Nadal (13) and Roy Emerson (12).

In the following YouTube video, you can just imagine how good he was, given that he was holding his own against a sprightly 20 year old Bjorg while he was already 38!

But back to my piece.  In it, I proposed that given Nadal’s dominance over Federer, not just on the clays of Roland Garros but on the grass of Wimbledon and the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, Roger’s time as “World’s Best Ever” was surely being rundown by the relentless, yet gracious, Manorcan.

Today, a rejuvenated Federer again lost to Nadal, in the eagerly awaited Australian Open semi-final, 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 6-3.  And that was with Nadal sporting a blister on his racquet hand!

The last time Federer beat Nadal in a Grand Slam was on his preferred surface of Wimbledon in 2007.  Since then, he has lost on every surface, including grass.  Amazing!

If Nadal wins on Sunday, that will be his 14 Grand Slam title.  Federer has 17 and his post match complaints of Nadal grunting during the match, speak of a worried man concerned that his hard fought legacy could be slipping away even before he retires from the game!  (Sorry, but I must point out that I never heard Nadal complain when he was losing to Federer and especially when he was losing badly to Federer on grass!)

Now back to the panel.  Among those polled for their views, how ironic it is that it was only Pete Sampras, the person dethroned by Federer at the top of the all-time Grand Slam winners list, who mentioned Nadal’s name, but not as the “Greatest Player Ever” – that was bestowed on Federer.

Nonetheless, it is hard to wear the mantle of “World’s Greatest Player” when you can’t beat your nemesis and even more so when your nemesis has the same or greater number of Grand Slam titles than you!  (In my post, I predicted that around 2015-16, Federer would have approx 19-20 titles whilst Nadal would have about 18-19.)

The point of my piece remains true, today, as it was then:

If Federer is to secure his legacy and remain the “World’s Greatest Player”, he’ll have to win a few more titles and at least 1 or 2 will need to be on the clays of Roland Garros against the enigma that is Rafael Nadal.

Otherwise that legacy that was once thought of as Federer’s, will most certainly pass on to become Nadal’s.

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