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Rafael Nadal is not only the King of Clay, he’s the GOAT

Earlier this 12 months, ESPN put collectively their record of The Dominant 20 athletes of the previous 20 years to rejoice the 20th anniversary of ESPN The Magazine. Roger Federer ranked fifth and Novak Djokovic 15th, however Rafael Nadal wasn’t even on the record.

Meanwhile, final month, Maria Sharapova ignited a bit of controversy along with her “hot take” that Rafael Nadal is the tennis GOAT.

The query for in the present day is: Who was proper? Was Nadal the third greatest participant of his era, or the Greatest of All Time?

Nadal received his unprecedented 11th French Open, and 17th main championship total this weekend.

On Twitter in the present day, SportsCenter tweeted out congratulations to the “King of Clay”:

Meanwhile, Wimbledon posted a congratulatory tweet for Nadal’s victory that calls him merely, “The King”:

Again, which is proper?

By the numbers, Nadal has as robust of a case to be the GOAT as any male tennis participant who ever lived, together with Federer. Nadal’s 17 main championship victories rank second on the all-time record, and he’s first all-time with 32 profession Master’s 1000 victories. Nadal additionally has an Olympic gold medal. His credentials are sterling.

However, there are those that really feel that Nadal is an excessive amount of of a specialist to be the total GOAT. He is lavished with nicknames similar to “the King of Clay”, however to many this moniker limits him to at least one floor whereas the “real” GOATs vie for supremacy throughout each floor.

Let’s study this. Is Rafa simply the King of Clay? Or does he have an argument as merely the King?

Too depending on one match?

Someone lately requested me this query: “If you take away the 11 wins at the French Open, then what is Nadal?” The reply to that query is not what you’ll anticipate from somebody who is “only” the King of Clay.

Nadal, exterior of clay

• Six main titles (three US Open, two Wimbledon, one Australian Open)

• Completed profession Grand Slam

• Seven different main remaining appearances (three Wimbledon, three Australian Open, one US Open)

• One Olympic particular person Gold medal (exhausting court docket)

• Eight Masters 1000 titles (exhausting court docket)

Let’s try how Nadal’s non-French Open majors credentials examine with the relaxation of the top-10 main winners of the Open period with their greatest match excluded:

Roger Federer: 12 wins, 7 extra finals, profession Slam
Rafael Nadal: 6 wins, 7 extra finals, profession Slam
Pete Sampras: 7 wins, Four extra finals, no profession Slam
Novak Djokovic: 6 wins, 9 extra finals, profession Slam
Bjorn Borg: 5 wins, 5 extra finals, no profession Slam
Jimmy Connors: Three wins, 5 extra finals, no profession Slam
Ivan Lendl: 5 wins, 6 extra finals, no profession Slam
Andre Agassi: Four wins, 7 extra finals, profession Slam
John McEnroe: Three wins, Three extra finals, no profession Slam
Mats Wilander: Four wins, 2 extra finals, no profession Slam

Federer clearly has the most spectacular totals exterior of his dominant match, Wimbledon, on this sort of evaluation. However, it must be famous that his main wins are virtually universally on two surfaces, as he’s received 11 hard-court majors (six Australian Opens, 5 US Opens) along with his eight Wimbledon champions on grass. On clay, he only has one main title, the 2009 French Open by which Nadal was upset by Robin Soderling earlier than the Spaniard sat the subsequent three months with knee tendonitis.

2 Related

Outside of Federer, who we’ll talk about extra beneath, Nadal compares extremely favorably with the relaxation of the greatest gamers of the Open period on this scenario, each by the numbers and in total versatility as one of only 4 on this record with the profession Slam. Unlike the different three, Nadal has received at the very least two majors on each floor (4 on exhausting courts, two on grass). In truth, Nadal has been the defending champ at three totally different majors on three totally different surfaces, concurrently, on two totally different events.

All instructed, the “King of Clay” truly measures out as having maybe the most sturdy and versatile recreation from amongst his friends, with Federer as the one notable exception. So let’s take a better take a look at how Nadal measures up with Federer total.

Case in opposition to Federer?

Federer owns a file 20 main singles championships and has 10 different main finals appearances beneath his belt. However, it must be famous that Federer (age 36) is virtually 5 years older than Nadal (simply turned 32), and has thus simply been enjoying longer. Longevity is to be revered, clearly, however contemplate that Nadal has 17 main wins at age 32, at which level Federer had the very same quantity. In addition, over their complete careers thus far:

• Nadal has 903 wins and 187 losses total (82.eight win proportion) whereas Federer is 1,149-252 (82.zero win proportion)

• Nadal has 32 Masters 1000 wins (24 clay, eight exhausting) whereas Federer has 27 (21 exhausting, 6 clay)

• Nadal has 1 Olympic gold medal in singles (2008), Federer has zero (greatest outcome silver, 2012)

And then there’s this:

When thought-about in the context of longevity, Nadal truly has a really robust quantitative argument in opposition to Federer. It’s a really shut matchup, however typically Nadal’s profession numbers are simply nearly as good or barely higher than Federer’s at each flip in phrases of total outcomes. But as a result of their careers have overlapped so considerably, there is one other means that we will examine Nadal and Federer: face to face.

Federer and Nadal have confronted one another 38 instances, together with 12 instances in Grand Slams. Nadal has received 23 of these conferences, in opposition to Federer’s 15. Nadal has received 13 of their 15 matchups on clay, whereas Federer has received 13 of the 23 matchups on grass and exhausting courts. However, in majors, Nadal has received all 5 of their matchups on clay and three of their 4 hard-court matchups, with Federer’s two wins in three Wimbledons as his only floor benefit.

When you place collectively Nadal’s comparable profession resume and head-to-head benefit, it makes a powerful argument that Nadal ought to already be forward of Federer on any GOAT record.

Bottom Line

No GOAT candidate has ever been as dominant on any floor as Nadal is on clay. However, Nadal additionally has been profitable sufficient on the different surfaces that he has a powerful case as the greatest tennis participant of all time. His success at majors exterior of the French Open compares very favorably with anybody in the Open period — together with Federer. Nadal is the unquestioned King of Clay, however taken as a complete, he is very doubtless the King of tennis as a complete. Long dwell the King.

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