Rafael Nadal: I Don’t Know If I Can Be Compared to Borg Right Now [Video]
by Tom Gainey | April 17th, 2011, 9:56 pm

Congrats to Rafael Nadal who captured an incredible seventh straight Rolex Monte Carlo Masters beating his friend David Ferrer 64, 75.

After his 37th straight Monte Carlo win, Nadal has now won 30 career clay titles which ties him with Bjorn Borg, someone Rafa thinks he can’t be compared to just yet. Well Rafa, this writer thinks you are far better than Bjorn.

And since his loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open in 2009, Nadal has won 26 straight matches on the red dirt.

Nadal now shifts focus to his home country event of Barcelona which he’s also won five straight times!

Some quotes from Rafael:
“It’s really emotional and unbelievable for me. [To] start the clay season like this is fantastic, but [it] is fantastic winning Monte Carlo another time. Probably is a tournament that in the category of [ATP World Tour Masters] 1000 tournaments is the one that I feel more emotional when I am playing for the history of the tournament because here in 2003 everything started.

“[To] win seven times in a row anywhere is almost impossible I think. But to win Monte Carlo, all the best players in the world are here, you always have tough matches, is impossible to imagine for me. So I am very lucky, I think.”

“I hope this victory will help me a lot for the confidence. Maybe I am a little bit more nervous than usual. I’m playing a little bit more defensive than what I have to do. So hopefully this victory is a lot of confidence for me after playing two finals in a row. So the positive results are coming. Hopefully I’m going to play much more aggressive.”

And from Ferrer:
Ferrer: ”Rafa is incredible on clay. I mean, he’s everywhere at the same time. He’s the best player on clay in history.”

“Generally speaking I’m very happy. I’m happy with my game also. I was a bit sad about certain moments. But generally speaking I’m happy. I’m satisfied with my game. Reaching the finals here is very difficult to achieve and I’m very happy.”

And here’s the ATP post-match Interview & highlights:

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65 Comments for Rafael Nadal: I Don’t Know If I Can Be Compared to Borg Right Now [Video]

Anna Says:

Rafa is incredibly good at recognizing his weaknesses, even after winning his 7th MC. He just doesn’t let the glory get to his head. MC seems to be a tipping point for him. It’s here that he begins to polish his game and build his confidence for the clay season, and no one does it better than Rafa.

andrea Says:

what a record for nadal! ferrer had his chances though…he played smart against nadal today and it definitely wasn’t a blow out.

should the ATP bother with the event next year and just give the trophy to nadal now?

just saying….

andrea Says:

but my mind is elsehwere…go canucks!!!!

jane Says:

^ ditto! go canucks!

billyboy512 Says:

what is a canuck?

jane Says:

Well, billyboy512, we digress, but – a “canuck” is a slang term for a Canadian. However, in this case, andrea and I are referring to the Vancouver Canucks – a NHL Hockey team, currently in the playoffs versus last year’s Stanley Cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks – best of 7 games, Canucks lead the series 3-0. So hence our cheers. :)

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Best ever on clay. His won-loss record is SO much more dominant than Borgs, with no one even close to having a decent record against him. I can’t say he faces all-time clay greats like Borg did but his dominance is unmatched.

MMT Says:

A truyly historic accomplishment – 7 in a row at any tournament has never been done in the open era, and to do it at a tournament with such a history as Monte Carlo is all the more impressive.

And I if he matches Borg and wins #6 at Roland Garros, I, for one, am prepared to call him the best clay court player in history. Aside from RG, nobody comes close.

jane Says:

^ agree re: Rafa’s achievements on clay – they are outrageous. Add to what MMT mentioned the fact that Rafa won 81 (!!!!!!) matches in a row on clay. That is the longest win streak on any surface I think.

Ben Pronin Says:

How the hell is this even a debate. Borg vs Nadal is a no brainer. Just because Borg has 1 more FO doesn’t mean he’s still the best ever on clay. There are other events on clay, other big events, all of which Nadal has absolutely dominated at one point or another. Nadal is above and beyond everyone on clay, including Borg.

grendel Says:

It is interesting that the strong objections to the concept of Goat are not raised when it comes to the idea of greatest claycourter. This suggests to me that the real objection (from most – not all – people) to the Goat idea was that it was Federer who was the generally proposed candidate. But rather than admitting this, which might have seemed a bit personal, it was the idea of Goat itself which was analysed and found wanting.

And yet exactly the same arguments can be made against proposing Nadal (or anybody else) as the greatest claycourter. e.g. you are not comparing like with like – there is the evolution of technology, of medical care and the rapidly developing science of sports fitness, the different levels of competition, of the fact that a player plays as well as he needs to and who knows what he might be able to do if faced with sterner tests, and so on and so forth.

Somehow, none of this matters any more. The anti-Goat people are silent. The fact is, Nadal is a much more plausible candidate as the greatest claycourter than Federer is as the greatest player – to put it mildly. But – logically – this shouldn’t matter. Either you are against the idea of Goat in principle, regardless of who is under consideration, or you are not. Wavering on the issue tells a certain story.

jane Says:

For me, it is not a GOAT issue – i was just commenting on his outrageous / historic achievements on the specific surface. GOAT is still an odd concept, imo; I mean it is not like someone is going to hand Rafa a plaque if/when he wins his next RG and say “you are now the GOAT of clay” – all the other issues apply. Time isn’t done, technology has changed,blah blah blah, Borg did this, but in the Open Era that, oh but what about….

All that blather out of the way, what he has achieved on clay is remarkable, as was Fed’s domination of the tour from 04-07, his consistency still to this day, Connors amassing of titles, Laver’s calendar slams, etc. Jmac’s streak of 39 wins to begin a season, and what? 4 or so losses one year – insane! These are all awesome achievements, great players.

dari Says:

My partial resistance to goat debate, besides that I firmly believe it is RF, hehe, is just that it is too large of a question and it gets really difficult to discuss because of all those time, equipment, etc., factors that you named, grendel. Add the H2H within an era, and all the talks about “style”, the whole thing becomes a mess. But if you can place such a parameter on the debate as surface, it brings the debate down to a very manageable level. And when the surface is as… discriminating as clay its quite easy to talk about its goat.( hardcourt goat- no thanks, though I could supply an answer to that, too ;) )
Not to mention nadal’s domination on that surface is unmatched- it is hard to object to clay goat talk when there is not so close a second, third, fourth.
I don’t want to take anything away from.Rafa but I have a question: when Borg was playing, was clay as polarizing a surface then as it is now? because today there seems to be a pretty clear line about who can play on it and who can’t. Where there more people on the “could”side in Borg’s day? In any case, Rafa still is the guy.

Kimberly Says:

Dari-I think it was even more polarizing than it is now. You see many people now having success on multiple surfaces where is before it was not as common.

Take for advantage the top ten players:
Nadal-Can play all 3 with a pref for clay(GS wins on all 3)
Djokovic–Can play all three with a pref for hard (Wimby/RG semi, Hardcourt GSs and Finals)
Federer-Grand SLam, clearly all three, pref for grass and hard
Murray-Less so on clay but coming along. Clearly a contender on grass and hard.
Soderling–all three (RG finalist, masters win indoor hard, deep runs on hard, not so much success on grass)
Berdych-all three
Ferrer-no grass, clay and hard
Mletzer-clearly clay and hard, no grass.
Monfils-Clearly clay and hard, no grass
Fish, Grass and Hard, no clay.

Then of course, you have a few players that are particularly strong on clay and useless on others ie. Nicolas Almagro>

jane Says:

Kimberly, just a note re: Melzer – he won the Wimbledon doubles championship title just last year; thus I wouldn’t say “no grass” for him.

dari Says:

Yes, that is what makes them top tenners.
But I kinda thought about it, and the line might not be so clear now- just through my American eyes it is!
If a determining factor of clay success is generally exceptional athleticism, that trait is mandatory right now across the board, so maybe more are playing well on the surface.
I don’t have knowledge of that era, though, so was genuinely wondering.

dari Says:

Did fish make the top ten this week?! And Melzer won dubs at Wimbledon. Weird to think of berdych as all three, but yes did well last year on all.

dari Says:

Woops- redundant with Jane.
AND Congrats to mardy fish- top ten dreams come true!!

Kimberly Says:

Would love to see Fish stay in the top ten. Doesn’t it seem he made the top ten by Verdasco losing rather than him winning. Maybe just cause of the timing.

Thats right, I forgot about Meltzer winning dubs at Wimby.

I think its not a coincidence that two players completed a career grand slam within a year of each other, its a sign that today most top players are multi-surface. I think within the next ten years we will see more and more players have career grand slams.

Agassi was sort of the beginning of that type of player. Sampras was more the previous type.

Kimberly Says:

a taunt to Ben Pronin—the 76ers really are not very good. Miami Heat just totally obliterated them. I hope your not a basketball fan because this playoff game tonight was just one way traffic.

Sorry for the immaturity. I live in a house of male/toddlers.

Kimmi Says:

dimitrov lost so badly to monaco in Barcelona. looks like this transition is very difficult for him..

so far he is won only two tour matches this year..

Tennis Vagabond Says:

A large part if the surface-sharing is not the athleticism of the athletes but the parity of the surfaces which do not have near the variation from event to event that they used to. I think Borg had a number of more accomplished contemporaries on clay than Rafa. Aside from Federer, and Ferrer and Verdasco the last couple years only, there has been no one who has consistently done well at clay events (neither has made an FO finals, Ferrer has made 2 Masters finals and lost both, Verdasco has made 1 masters finals). Borg had Nastase, Villas, Panatta, Connors, Gerulitis and young Lendl.
You can argue that Rafa is so good that he hasn’t made room for rivals- but there is always room for a 2nd finalist. So, actually, you CANT argue that. Fed has been there on clay in multiple Slams and Masters, but who else has? So I think Borg did have tougher competition on the surface.
Can someone tell me who have been consistent clay achievers during Rafa’s reign other than Fed?

jane Says:

TV Nole’s been pretty consistent on clay. One Masters title, a couple of semis at RG, stopped by Rafa. And a few (?) clay masters finals and/or semis stopped by Rafa. Nole’s H2H is impacted largely by how many times they’ve met on clay either in Masters/slam semis or finals…

Ben Pronin Says:

Coria, Federer, Djokovic, Almagro, Ferrer, maybe Verdasco would all be even more accomplished clay courters than they are/were. Federer is easily one of the top 10 best clay courters of all time and he only has 9! titles on the surface. How many finals did he lose to Nadal? If not for Nadal, Federer would probably have Nadal-esque clay court numbers. Coria and Ferrer would have a few more big titles. Same for Djokovic. And Almagro has lost at the FO to Nadal a few times in the second week.

Similarly, how many slams would Roddick, Hewitt, Murray, Djokovic, and even Nadal have had Federer not been around? The competition isn’t weak, not by a long shot.

margot Says:

V. interesting this “does clay polarise” debate because I was gonna ask how can a clay surface suit both Meltzer and Ferrer? However, Tennis V has kind of explained that. Clay surfaces also seem to vary in speed but is that due to ball speed/altitude rather than court speed? And how different?
If clay is your preference is it easier to adapt to hard/grass or vice versa?
Watching Andy on clay, more than anyone else, seems to me he’s taken quite a while getting his movement on clay quite right, but now seems to be getting there, wasn’t getting to the ball at quite the right time.
So is your movement on clay the most crucial factor?
Not into GOAT at all but as dari said is it not easier to set a parameter here, while on grass and hard there would be far more contenders anyway?

madmax Says:

By far and away Rafa is the best claycourter that the game has ever seen – he dominates it and no one can argue that. Facts are facts. He is the GOAT of the claycourts.

Regarding federer and his recent thoughts on clay and his expectations:

On being back on clay:
“I’m really just getting a feel again for playing on clay here on Monaco and then obviously the next two weeks when I’m not playing any tournaments it’s going to be really important for me to get a sense of how well I’m hitting the ball. I really want to get some good practice in to be in great shape for Madrid and Rome [in May].”

On his expectations for this year:

“They are always high. I always put pressure on myself even though I’ve reached 15 or 16 grand slams. The pressure remains to prove to myself what a great player I can be and how much more I can improve as time goes by. It’s really important to me.”

Nadal may have a huge winning margin over him on this surface, but Federer has been the second best clay-courter in the world by some distance.

Ben, you say in the top ten? can I put another angle on this please?

His record speaks for itself. He has won the French Open once and has been a losing finalist three times. He won Hamburg — where the clay is the heaviest and slowest in Europe — four times before the German Open was demoted from Masters Series status. He has won Madrid once and has been a finalist once in the two years that the Spanish event has been played on clay and has also won lower-ranked clay events at Gstaad and Estoril. Here in Monte Carlo, he has been a finalist three times. He also has been a finalist in Rome twice.

How Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Boris Becker must envy that record. Those great champions never won a European clay-court singles title.

No one can question rafa’s dominancy on clay, but federer (despite the result in monte carlo this month), is still second best in my opinion.

Memories fade very quickly.


Margot, I am very happy for Andy Murray’s progress in Monte carlo. I thought he played superbly, (and injured as well), he did himself proud. He could easily take over the no.2 player on clay over the next couple of years. I really don’t think it will take him that long, though I do feel he will need a coach to guide him in the right direction.

madmax Says:

federer’s comments on his expectations came BEFORE he entered monte carlo, not AFTER his loss.

grendel Says:

” Federer is easily one of the top 10 best clay courters of all time and he only has 9! titles on the surface”. I wonder. Kuerten demolished Federer – simply made him look ordinary. Easy to forget what a warrior Federer was. He was never able to dominate on clay the way he could on other surfaces, but he fought and he fought and he was quite often rewarded. This of course includes the year he won RG where he was on the brink of defeat again and again before the anti-climactic final against a nervous Sod. Kuerten was a great claycourter, poor Coria was, Djokovic is and Murray may become so. Federer was a great tennis player who was able to transfer his phenomenal skills to the clay (which he was brought up on)up to a certain point. He could not flourish on it, the surface did not flatter his particular genius. McEnroe was similar. Should have won RG against the great claycourter Lendl, 2 sets and a break up – but you still wouldn’t call Mac a great claycourter. I don’t think Federer was. He was a great tennis player and a great competitor on all surfaces, but he was not one of the great claycourters imo.

Ben Pronin Says:

Wasn’t Federer’s first Masters on clay? And his first GS quarterfinal? Federer could always play on clay, but like you said it wasn’t his most rewarding surface. The biggest difference between Federer on clay and him elsewhere during his peak years was that he was a little more prone to inexplicable losses (Gaquet, Volandri, Stepanek, Wawrinka). But I don’t see how you can say a guy who reached 4 straight FO finals isn’t a great clay courter. He has something like 5 Masters on clay (4 Hamburg, 1 Madrid) plus 6 other finals losing only to Nadal. I’m trying really hard not to use what-if scenarios but the guy who is a clear-cut second best to (if you will) one of the 2 greatest clay courters of all time surely must be a great clay courter himself. Just because he fought tooth and nail doesn’t mean he would’ve necessarily been as successful if he didn’t have the required skills to play on the surface.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Agree that Fed is a clay great that Rafa has dominated. But the facts don’t back up Almagro, Verdasco or Ferrer. Those three have never won a Masters, and have only, I believe 3 Masters finals between them. Never been close at FO either. So that leaves Coria- I believe he won 2 Masters and 1 FO Finals loss to Gaudio,a Johanssen-esque Slam winner.
Just compare their pedigrees to what Borg was facing. Its not simply that they all lose to Rafa- they are just not consistently better than the field.
Comparing this to Fed’s overall competition doesn’t hold up either: Roddick has been in multiple Slam and MAsters finals, as has Murray and Ferrero. Nole, Hewitt and Safin were multi-Slam winners. 4 of those have been World #1s. And then Rafa on top! I would place Roddick and Hewitt far higher in the “overall” tennis pantheon than I would Almagro in the list of best mudders ever.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Almagro: 0 Masters finals, 2 FO quartefinals appearances. This is a serious clay great? Come on.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Some quick highlights of Borg’s competition:

Adrian Panatto: 1 FO, 1 Rome, runner up: Hamburg, Rome (3x), Madrid (3x)

Nastase: 1 FO, 1 FO runner-up. 4 Madrid, 3 Monte Carlo, 2 Rome

Connors: 1 Clay USO, 2 USO Clay Runner-ups,

Villas: 1 FO, 3 FO runner-ups, 1 Clay USO

Lendl: 3 FO

Gerulitis: 1 FO finals, 2 Rome titles

Does Almagro’s CV really stand near these? Or Ferrer’s or Verdasco’s or Nole’s?

Fed would be middle of this pack as a clay great. No one else from this era comes close to ANY of these 5!

margot Says:

Andy has withdrawn. Do hope this is just a precautionary :(
Berdych too.

nitro Says:

Another great clay courter was Mats Wilander who won three of his five FO finals.
Also, Guillermo Vilas captured a total of 46 clay court titles…

jane Says:

It’s for best. Andy M can rest and heal, and then come back stronger for the bigger events at Rome, Madrid, and RG.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Wilander definitely an all time clay great. I think Guga was, and was on his way to being in the same tier as Borg and Rafa before his hip problems. He was magnificent when he was on.
Agassi and COurier obviously very good too, and Muster had that one year where he was almost at a Rafa-dominance level.

dari Says:

Rest for Andy

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Takes out the Worm.
One round away from a Soderling clash.

dari Says:

Dolgo and davydenko are playing right now. That result interests me, don’t want Davy to keep going down…

Ardell Young Says:

This is not a knock on Nadal but Borg played during a time when Grand Slams were not as valued as today and he sat out out French Open over a stupid argument with team tennis. Borg continues to hold the highest winning percentage which cannot be discounted and he played when the depth of tennis was much deeper than today.

It is impossible to compare their playing styles because of the difference in equipment. Borg still holds the title as best ever.

jane Says:

Dari, you probably saw that Davy beat Dolgo. Good win I think, although Dolgo is erratic.

grendel Says:

Ben – Fed’s loss to Gasquet was NOT inexplicable. The defeat occured when Gasquet was looking to be on verge of a breakthrough, which never happened, of course. In the same tournamnet, Gasquet very nearly beat Nadal, and looked even better imo – just ran out of gas.

The word “great” is overused. We can all agree that Federer’s record on clay is imposingly good. But if Keuerten was a great claycourter, then Federer wasn’t, Kuerten was so much better than him on the clay. Put it another way: if Federer was a great claycourter, then Kuerten was a very great claycourter. Either way, Federer was not in Kuerten’s class on the clay. This is really what I meant.

Then take Djokovic. Obviously his record is nowhere near as good (yet) as Federer’s on the clay. But he is a better player than Federer on the clay, all the same. Ask Nadal – he knows who has given him the tougher battles on clay when he is in prime form.

Federer has been so matchlessly good on grass (though not quite as good as Sampras imo) and on hard (no equal). Don’t let’s be greedy….

grendel Says:

small postscript on my Sampras comment. I believe that Sampras, with that insane serve, would probably have got the better of Federer on grass more often than the other way round – but, after all, who knows. I infinitely prefer Federer’s game, however, to Sampras’ – but that’s another matter.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Grendel- Fed has broken two of Rafa’s major clay streaks. Nole has never beaten Rafa on clay. Fed had made 4 FO finals and won one. Nole has never made an FO final. I don’t know the comparisons on Masters but I feel pretty safe in saying Fed’s towers over Nole’s. Kuerten was indeed an all time great on clay. That he beat Fed handily in one incredible match in no way diminishes Fed’s accomplishments any more than Fed’s beating of Sampras at Wimbledon by itself makes Sampras a weak grass court player.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

OK, looked it uo:
Nole has 1 clay masters shield and 1 runner up.
Never beat Rafa on clay.

Fed has 5 clay Masters shields and 6 runner ups, and has ended Rafa’s biggest winning streaks twice.

So how Nole can vault Fed as a clay courter is not in my understanding.

jane Says:

Fed is 153 wins to 47 losses for .765 on clay, including 9 titles. His is 2-10 versus Nadal on clay and 2-1 versus Nole.

Nole is 82 wins to 30 losses for .732 on clay, includng 4 titles. He is 0-9 versus Rafa on clay, most losses coming to Rafa since he often landed on Rafa’s side of the draw but got that deep. His last match versus Fed on clay was in 09, which Nole won. Fed won one in 06, but Nole won a set. And then there was another Fed win in 07. The rest of their matches were on hard.

jane Says:

Meant to say many of Nole’s clay losses to Rafa were in the semis, since he was often on Nadal’s side of the draw. He did have two bad losses at the FO, to Kohls and to Melzer, though to me the Melzer one, even though he was up 2 sets and a break wasn’t quite as bad as Melzer played so well and even pushed Rafa to a tiebreak in the semis. But in the Kohls loss Nole looked flat and bad.

Fed’s clay credentials clearly outmatch Nole’s though so I don’t understand who is saying otherwise. Nole has had some awesome clay matches with Rafa but he hasn’t won one yet. He needs to try to change that.

Ben Pronin Says:

Djokovic maybe has a more classic clay-court game than Federer (as in he’ll grind and counter punch similar to Nadal whereas Federer has basically never counter punched ever). And yeah saying Kuerten is so much better on clay than Federer is maybe assuming too much. Federer beat Kuerten 6-0 1-6 6-2 on clay back in 2002. I don’t know what the hell to make of that score since I never saw the match but to get a 6-0 set on clay over Kuerten HAS to mean something.

How many player breakthroughs has Federer crushed on hard courts? On clay he wasn’t able to calm the Gasquet storm and barely lost (got him back a few weeks later in Hamburg). Like I said, Federer was always, always more vulnerable on clay. But he only lost to 4 different players excluding Nadal between 2005 and 2010. How can you say that isn’t great? He was obviously head and shoulders above the field on clay, and Nadal was head and shoulders above him. Maybe it’s because the competition was weak?

It’s just that Federer never had a classic clay court game. Although he definitely won the 09 FO with some classic clay court tennis (not great overall play but lots of grinding and drop shots and really being patient against a number of opponents). Like he said after he won, he never had a clay court problem, he had (has) a Nadal problem.

Sampras was the greatest fast court (grass, indoor) player, Nadal (or Borg) the greatest on clay, and Federer the greatest on hard. Yet people want to claim Federer is the GOAT. My main argument against that is the Nadal thing (also his questionable play over the last few years). But the reason people believe he’s the GOAT is because he’s GREAT on all surfaces, one of the greatest on grass, hard, AND clay.

Same reason why Nadal is being thrown into the GOAT debate, because he’s showing he can be great on all surfaces. But is Nadal better on hard than Nadal is on clay? Almost ironically, Nadal is 5-6 in hard court Masters finals (Federer’s record on clay). Nadal has 2 HC slams, Federer has 3 finals and 1 win at the FO (keep in mind there are 2 hc slams a year). I’m gonna stop here because I’m going a little off topic.

Skeezerweezer Says:

Anyone can argue “if” scenarios. How can one make sense of this topic? Fed has the stats, overall, on all surfaces. It’s unmatched. Historical. To say he is not GOAT as of today is ridiculous. One just needs to visit his records, facts, and already accomplished to compare. What “if” Sampras was younger, etc. Fed had to play on the old stuff and new, Sampras didn’t. And the h2h argument is worthless. Tennis greats have never been judged how great or not great they are because they have a tough h2h against one guy. The game is not played that way. You play against a field. You never have a choice like boxing where you can choose your opponent. The facts are Slams are the biggest event in tennis. Not masters, not Clay, not HC nor Grass by themselves. If you can consistently win on all surfaces and win Slams then the past greats will and have honored the ones who have done so after . How quickly we bring others into the mix when they are all so far away from Feds accomplishments….ugh

Ben Pronin Says:

Woops that should say “Is Nadal better on hard than Federer is on clay?”


grendel Says:

TV – Sampras was getting towards the end when beaten by Federer; an ailing Kuerten was getting towards the end when he beat Federer, in fact his ailments did for him later on in the tournament. Federer’s victories against Nadal on clay were perfectly legitimate, of course. But they do not indicate how Federer can deal with Nadal in his prime. Djokovic’s near loss in Madrid, against the master in top form, was, taken as a display of claycourt tennis, much more impressive than Federer’s victories, imo. And again, the year Nadal simply swept Federer aside in the French final, Djokovic nearly took a set and was the only player who gave Nadal any competition at all.

My – subjective, of course – impression is that Djokovic is a better claycourt player than Federer. Of course I may be wrong – but my impressions are as they are, and I’m not going to lie about them just because of the record books (incomplete at this juncture, of course).

Miki Says:

So far, the records clearly say that Federer is a more successful clay courter then Djokovic, but Fed is not as good and explosive as he once was, and I don’t believe he can do much on clay until he retires (which I hope is not that soon), and he’s not gonna be on tour forever. Djokovic on the other hand has a lot more seasons to play and is not that long on the tour, so it’s not fair to compare their records just yet.

grendel Says:

There’s a misunderstanding here. Is one allowed to record an impression – which has nothing whatever to do with records – or is this considered too hopelessly personal?

I recall a sports journalist once saying that in his view, Safin at his very best was better than Federer at his best even though Federer was, of course, the greater player taking into account records, consistency over the years and so on.

Now this remark was a purely personal one, which carried no especial weight, but it was clearly a considered view and as such deserved airing – it seems to me, anyway. For whether his view was correct or not, I don’t know, but it was at least plausible enough to generate discussion.

People have always pondered, and why not. No harm in it. Was Lew Hoad the most talented man ever to hold a tennis racket? Some tennis experts think so, but they certainly can’t appeal to the records to back up their views. And there are other players who fall into this bracket.

Leon Says:

“My – subjective, of course – impression is that Djokovic is a better claycourt player than Federer. Of course I may be wrong – but my impressions are as they are, and I’m not going to lie about them JUST BECAUSE of the record books…”

With all due respect, it could be a perfect way to completely disarrange both the history and the state of art, despite all your precautions like “subjective”, etc. They don’t help, grendel – only your main statement matters. That is, ND is better, and statistics lies (“as usual”). I only wonder why don’t you make the next and even more “grounded” step – i.e. proclaime RIGHT NOW Rafael as an overall goat, basing just “on display of tennis” (not saying about mental stuff), and join the proper legion.
And why not? If “Djokovic’s near loss in Madrid…much more impressive than Federer’s victories”, then how should we treat some awesome displays shown e.g. by Gonzalez vs Federer (WTF 07 Shanghai) on Roger’s favorite indoor HC and “in his prime”, other examples abound. To proclaime Fernando (and a dozen of others, plus Novak for sure) better HC players, does not matter what those stupid books say? Oh, there are countless ways to discredit that arrogant, merely consistent Swiss.

Those impressions. So human, even if irrational. The best of what we have in this life. Me too, have lots of them. Quite impressionable am I, you know. I am also not going to lie about them, but not always in hurry to display them as near statements against plain facts (moreover, rather reliable). Now I understand it’s a false restraint! Why didn’t I write that I considered that “famous” Madrid match (like several others of RN and ND) ridiculous just because of its abusive duration (above 4 hrs for a 3-setter, a minute per point on average!)? Why didn’t I write that the very on-court behavior of Nadal, even “within the rules”, was so irritative to Federer (whose on-court code is exemplary) that he often simply couldn’t play normally and one even couldn’t consider their h2h seriously, so on so forth?
Yet, I try not doing so – first of all because I write “in a public domain” where I need to be careful enough, forget to contradict the record books.

So, was not it possible to say the same in words…well, like “I see Novak’s clay skills more promising/prospective (even more natural to the surface!)…” – at least it wouldn’t be the same to a somewhat premature remark about a BETTER player in spite of HUGE difference in records.

That said, I always respect your opinions. Just some – highly subjective, too! – thoughts at the twilight of someone’s career.

grendel Says:

statistics don’t lie – lying is what human beings do. Statistics can be very useful if treated with caution.

You seem to make 2 main points, Leon. 1):why don’t I just go ahead and proclaim Nadal the GOAT? Because I don’t believe in the concept of Goat – that’s the short answer. 2)I don’t deny the legitimacy of Federer’s victories over Nadal on clay. It is quite clear – and Federer himself alluded to this after one of the victories – that Nadal was not at his best in either of those matches. It is important to avoid confusion here; this is not an excuse for Nadal, if he was jaded and suffering from fatigue, that’s his problem. You have to deal with what you have to deal with. But it is quite legitimate to point out that he was not playing his best tennis. That just is a fact, I don’t know anyone who denies it.

On the other hand, I believe Nadal was at least close to his best when Djokovic stretched him to his very limits. And it is in this sense that I claim Djokovic played claycourt tennis superior to Federer’s. It seems to me that that is a reasonable point.

Can one extrapolate from that to the proposition that Djokovic is the superior claycourt player? No, of course not. Much too early for that. It’s my impression, that’s all. Time may very well prove me to be utterly wrong. We’ll see.

Polo Says:

At his peak, I think Federer is better than Djokovic. I don’t know when Djokovic will reach his peak. Maybe when he gets there, he may be better but right now, Federer has reached what Djokovic is just aiming for, on all surfaces.

Nadal is, without question, the best of the three on clay. While he may have peaked already on clay (at still there), he has not yet on the other surfaces. And by all appearances, he will get better in them.

Leon Says:

Looks like I have to blame my poor English, for you answer my rhetorical questions.
Sure, I don’t buy the goat concept, too. Pure nonsense. But even more I dislike the “at-his-best” concept – the road to very perverted conclusions.
Thus, I can’t comprehend how one match in which ND supposedly “stretched Nadal to his very limits” (smth Federer was never able to reach, sic?) can outweigh all RF’s achievements on clay. Ah, what an idiot I was. I forgot that the only measure could be the matches vs Nadal!
Same old. Federer must win not tournaments but Nadal, then h2h, and – voila! – “Nadal (and now plus Djokovic, even with negative h2h, clay-slamless, etc, nevermind) the best, Fed sore loser, nuff said”.
I give up.

grendel Says:

Don’t give up, Leon. Just me being provocative, I expect. It’s a sort of constitutional failing. I can see how my conclusions must seem perverse, especially the way you put it (which is not unfair). I can’t help my impressions – but perhaps I should keep them to myself. Incidentally, I do think Federer very clearly stretched Nadal right down to the wire in that famous Rome match. My feeling was that Nadal moved forward from that match whilst Federer at best stayed still. I found that very disappointing. We ask a lot of our heroes – things we wouldn’t dream of demanding of ourselves……

Daniel Says:

Perhaps Nadal wasn’t at his best, becasue Fed in a row won’t allow you to get back in the match.

Agains’t Novak, Nadal always has a chance because Nole’s best clay play won’t blow Nadal off the court, as Fed did in Hamburg 2007.

Deep down Nadal doesn’t like to lose agaisnt Fed or Djoko, but during his lost to Federer, sometimes you get the feeling that he surrenders. As if he knows that when Fed is in the zone, as WTF 2010 there is no much he or anyone else can do. That was Fed’s moto during years, and even Nadal with superior HxH and mental edge knows it: Every body fears Fed one way or another. That’s why when they get one win over him, feels like jackpot, Melzer, Benneteau, Davy in his first and others…

With Djoko, I sense that Nadal see a version of himself, and knows that if he battles he will be on top, usually we saw this two batle like they have, and will still. Of course, ifDjoko keeps beating Nadal and Nadal start humiliating Fed as Miami 2011 (something we only saw in RG 2008), this may change.

But untill now, this is “just my impression”! :)

madmax Says:

i.e. proclaime RIGHT NOW Rafael as an overall goat, basing just “on display of tennis” (not saying about mental stuff), and join the proper legion.


seriously. Federer, (as everyone knows either explicitly or implicitly), IS the best tennis player the world has ever seen overall – on all surfaces. Skeezer referred to the stats and they don’t lie.

He is an incredibly gifted player ON ALL SURFACES. He has dominated on hard and grass like forever. Nadal has NOT. Nadal has dominated on ONE surface. Let’s see if he can dominate on hard and on grass in the same way that he has dominated on clay. It hasn’t happened yet. May be it will. May be it won’t.

More than this though, the essence of greatness derives from the fact that federer has been so consistent. It is the consistency that has promoted the greatness. The greatness has grown from fed’s consistency over hard courts and grass courts.

Quite phenomenal.

Dan Martin Says:

I would probably place Rafa barely above Borg in my #3 slot for the post-Laver champions. The US and Aussie Open titles plus an Olympic Gold on hard courts demonstrate a superiority to Borg on hard courts. I think if he wins a 6th French Open (this seems likely) he makes his case much stronger. Any 11th slam would also make his case much stronger. Borg was awesome. I do think if Borg were updated via equipment etc. in his prime he might have been able to beat Rafa due to making the match a long long affair. Injuries could have crept in and made Rafa lose conditioning vs. a player like Borg.

dari Says:

I get the feeling rafa’s packed schedule won’t hurt him this year. Haven’t heard a peep about his knees in some time, his other injuries are short lived and he is recovering well from.them.
Barca could just be some good clay practice and 500 cushion points.
Meanwhile tuna is doing pretty well for himself on clay, which is good considering all the points he picked up this time last year.
And Caroline woz was looking, dare I say,AGGRESSIVE in her clay mqtch against Petko. I sincerely wish for het to get the RG title

grendel Says:


keep the impressions going……

grendel Says:

“Borg was awesome. I do think if Borg were updated via equipment etc. in his prime he might have been able to beat Rafa….”

Fast forward 50 years…and there in your living room are 3d representations of Nadal and Borg hammering away at each other on a claycourt, with a little bit of wind, a blue sky, a cheering crowd, an impassive Ion Tiriac huddled in a cluster with himself in the front row. No matter how small is the space in which you are watching,could even be a kitchenette, the illusion of being in a massive centre court open to the sky and the views beyond is without a flaw.

Quantum computer technology has permitted not only images indistinguishable from physical bodies, but has collated every single piece of tennis information known about the two players concerned, supplemented by inferences and projections (not to mention impressions) which mid to late 21st century mathematical statistics has rendered feasible.

A special feature of the match is a creative feedback mechanism whereby as the points and games proceed, they themselves are added to the databank and thereby influence the course of the match. Philosophers and computer scientists, who have exhaustively examined the proceedure, are satisfied that the match as witnessed in your living room is not only unique and one off but is effectively a product of free will. Consciousness as such is not ascribed to the android figures of Borg and Nadal (although a minority group of scientists has expressed a position best characterised as agnostic on this question), and yet it is impossible to predict how the figures will behave. Furthermore, those customers who have access to this technology, are warned that when they are “watching” the match, they have no idea that this is a computer simulation. The illusion is so complete that it is tempting to speculate that illusion itself has been transcended. The question: what is reality? now carries a piquant flavour.

It is hoped that this “match” will settle once and for all a dispute which agitated certain minds in the early part of the century, and indeed has continued to intrigue people in the tennis community, even though clay courts themselves have long since been utterly abandonned.

o brave new world….

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