It is only fitting with the craziness that 2020 has brought, the tennis year is leaving us with some more craziness: 20-20 vision.When Rafael Nadal
D’Addona: Tennis legends in 2020 give us 20-20 vision as GOAT debate rages
It is only fitting with the craziness that 2020 has brought, the tennis year is leaving us with some more craziness: 20-20 vision.
When Rafael Nadal dispatched Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in the French Open final on Sunday, it was Nadal’s 13th career title at Roland Garros, but more importantly, his 20th career grand slam title, tying Roger Federer for the all-time record.
The debate between who is better, or more accurately, who is the best tennis player in history, has been highly debated for nearly a decade.
For years, it looked like Federer was so far ahead in history that no one might ever unseat him as the best player ever. Now, with Nadal having equaled his record (and Djokovic just three behind), the debate is as great as it ever has been.
Federer broke Pete Sampras’ all-time record — which for years seamed unbreakable — with his 15th in 2009 and at that point, Nadal had six. Nearly a decade later and it is all tied up with Nadal becoming the first player in history to win five grand slams after the age of 30 (he now has six).
So who is better?
Nadal, nearly five years younger than Federer, leads the head-to-head matchups 24-16, more importantly 10-4 in grand slam events.
Nadal leads head-to-head 14-2 on clay, but Federer leads 11-9 on hardcourt and 3-1 on grass.
So to break that down, lets throw out the overall head-to-head because grand slams are what matters most in tennis, and so in this rivalry.
Nadal, who is a mind-boggling 100-2 at the French Open during his career overall, leads 10-4 head-to-head with a 6-0 mark in the French Open and 3-1 in the Australian Open. Federer leads 3-1 at Wimbledon.
If we throw out Nadal’s greatest surface — clay — and Federer’s — grass — than Nadal leads 3-1 on grand slam hardcourts, which stunningly is just the Australian open because in all of the years of their epic rivalry THEY HAVE NEVER FACED EACH OTHER AT THE U.S. OPEN.
That gives Nadal the slight edge. I will add that Nadal winning on Federer’s top surface, also gives a slight edge.
But then you have to factor in all of Federer’s records for weeks at No. 1 and years at No. 1 and total victories.
That makes this impossible to decide. Of course they aren’t done, either.
Nadal said this after the match: “I would love to finish my career being the player with more Grand Slams. No doubt about that, no? But on the other hand, I say, ’OK, I have to do (it) my way. ... I’m not going to be thinking all the time, ‘Novak (has) this one, Roger is winning the other one.’ You can’t be always unhappy because your neighbors have a bigger house than you or a bigger boat or have a better phone,” Nadal said.
“In terms of these records, of course I care. I am a big fan of the history of sport, in general. I respect, a lot, that,” he continued. “For me, (it) means a lot to share this number with Roger, no?”
Federer thought them being tied was fitting, considering their rivalry and friendship.
Here is what Federer posted on Instagram, following Nadal’s win: “I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion. As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory. It is especially amazing that he has now won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport. I also congratulate his team, because nobody can do this alone. I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”
Of course, Federer has been counted out several times before, only to surge back and add to his record.
And lets not forget that Djokovic is younger than both of them and has 17 grand slams.
Who knows, before it is all said and done, Djokovic might be the best player in history.
The three greatest players in history that have combined for a stunning 57 grand slam titles. Since the 2005 French Open, players other than the big three have won nine times, with three to Andy Murray and three to Stan Wawrinka.
But for now, Djokovic is still third behind Nadal and Federer.
The biggest victor in this entire era, however is tennis fans, seeing the three greatest players in history going head-to-head year after year with everything on the line, including their places in history.
The big three have won 57 of the past 66 grand slams, and 2020 fittingly ends with Nadal and Federer tied 20-20 — and the greatest of all-time debate still unsettled.