In the Federer vs Sampras thread, we've seen plenty of dissing of stats and selective cherry picking (more like distorting) facts to make a case for Sampras overall.
Nadal trails Pete by 3 slams, the same # that Pete trails Federer by. So let's apply the "lessons" learned from that thread to Nadal vs Sampras, as the symmetry b/n the two cases seems perfectl:
1. Handling of nearest rival
- Pete fans claimed Sampras would overall edge out Federer because he handled his nearest rival better. Nadal has handled his nearest rival much better than Sampras did his (Winner: Nadal by a country mile here)
2. Match ups don't matter; only overall level of play does
- Since match-ups don't really matter, you can remove the Sampras serve vs Nadal standing way back out of the equation. Now to assess level of play: Nadal has a winning h2h against the other members of the top 4. And given that he has a massive lead against the arguably the GOAT, you could safely say that his level of play tops Federer (ergo Sampras). (Big advantage Nadal).
3. Better to lose early than losing in the finals
- Nadal has shown remarkable consistency in losing early at his weakest slam (USO) to avoid meeting "da man" Federer on that surface. However, Sampras has beaten plenty of RG champions at his weakest slam, which should be virtual finals -- not really doing a good job. (Winner - Nadal)
4. Better to lose to journeymen
- one word: Rosol.
Many Pete fans endorse the opinion that if someone like Soderling can do it, so can Pete. Pete was journeyman-level on clay, so it's pretty obvious that they consider Soderling to be a journeyman as well. Feel free to add the "mug" Soderling to the list.
(Winner - Nadal by a country mile).
5. Strong competition prevented Pete from achieving more
- if you've beaten the GOAT on all surfaces, you can pretty safely claim that any other competition is easy to surmount. Sampras never faced another GOAT candidate in his wins; Nadal did in 7/11 slam wins. (Winner: Nadal, and it's not even close)
6. Health condition
- Pete fans always cite Pete's anemia as one of the reasons that kept him from winning more. But Nadal's condition is worse. He has missed a few slams on account of his knees; AFAIK, Pete never a missed a slam due to his blood condition.
(Winner - Nadal)
7. Shot-by shot comparison:
Pete has the serve, volley, FH and speed. Nadal has his FH, defense, BH and incredible retrieving ability. And Nadal is the best volleyer of the current era (per McEnroe).
(Winner - Tied)
8. Other important titles:
Sampras edge in YEC, Nadal edges in MS titles
Overall Winner: Nadal, and it'll be a blood bath.
If I've left out anything, please feel free to add