How Can Rafael Nadal Be The GOAT Without Ever Having Won Miami?
by Sean Randall | March 30th, 2015, 3:37 pm

Ok, first let me address the inflammatory, clickbait headline. There’s truth to it. Rafael Nadal still hasn’t won Miami and we already know he’s never won the year-end ATP championships.

The ATP finals tournament is the biggest non-Slam event on the calendar. There’s no debate. Rafa’s never won it. Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, etc, have all won it, just not Nadal.

The Miami Masters has been considered the “Fifth Slam” for many years, especially before Larry Ellison got his hands all over Indian Wells. If you want to recognize the desert event as bigger than Miami, so be it, but Miami’s had the history and in my mind still has that stature.

Nadal, of course, won’t be winning Miami this year, not after a stunning loss yesterday evening to his countryman Fernando Verdasco in three sets. Rafa use to own Fernando winning their first 13, but that’s two straight losses to him since, and with just one title since the French – a smallish victory in Buenos Aires a month ago – you can sense the frustration setting in for Nadal.

Why? Because for Nadal right now it’s not about forehands and backhands, bum knees and blisters. The physical problems, he says, are behind. But now it’s worse. It’s between the ears.

“The thing is the question of being enough relaxed to play well on court,” Nadal said Sunday. “Today my game in general improved since a month and a half. But at the same time, still playing with too much nerves for a lot of moments, in important moments, still playing with a little bit of anxious on that moments.”

And he detailed.

“For example, in the 4‑3 in the first set, and then in the 5‑4, 30‑Love. Something that didn’t happen a lot during my career. I have been able to be under control, control my emotions during, let’s say, 90%, 95% of my matches of my career, something that today is being tougher to be under self‑control. But I gonna fix it. I don’t know if in one week, in six months, or in one year, but I gonna do it.”

Uh oh.

Fixing knees and shaky groundstrokes comes with time, practice and a plan. Fixing mental issues can take a lot longer, depending on how deep they run. There’s no pill, no proven method, other than winning again. Most players will go through mental spells, the good ones far fewer than the bad.

I’ve said many times, the pros these days can hit all the shots, the difference lies in their mental makeup. And often that’s the very fine line between winning and losing at this the highest of levels. And right now Rafa is losing.

Last week against Raonic, he played a poor game at 5-5 in the third. Now he plays a bad set against Verdasco, dropping balls short, playing out of position and spraying mishits.

There was also the poor performance against Tim Smyczek at the Australian before Tomas Berdych blasted him. And that strange loss at the start of the year to Michael Berrer.

All this from a guy who’s long been arguably the best mentally on the court in some years.

“Feeling that I don’t have this self‑confidence that when I hit the ball I gonna hit the ball where I want to hit the ball, to go for the ball running and knowing that my position will be the right one,” he said. “All these are small things that are difficult to explain. One of the tougher things have been fixed, that is the game, in my opinion. Now I need to fix again the nerves, the self‑control on court. That’s another issue.”

Fortunately for Rafa, the clay is right around the corner. Literally. Monte Carlo begins – would you believe? – two weeks from today. Winning cures just about everything. It can fix.

And these spells happen. Look at look at Novak Djokovic’s hand shaking.

“Happened for two points and then I was able to be back and to forget about that two mistakes,” Nadal said. “Now takes a little bit more time.”

So feeling the nerves is not uncommon, not even for GOATs. What is uncommon is for an athlete in his prime flat-out admitting he’s shrinking in the big moments.

Well, the clay season just got that much better.

You Might Like:
Fedal Wars: In The GOAT Debate, Are Nadal Fans Rooting Against Federer To Win His First Davis Cup?
Fedal Wars: Nadal Well Ahead Of Federer In Masters Titles, But Does It Matter In The GOAT Discussion?
Team GOAT? Bryans Set Doubles Record With 62nd Career Title
Rod Laver: Novak Djokovic And Roger Federer Are Equals In The GOAT Debate
Pete Sampras On GOAT Debate: Federer’s The Greatest, But Nadal’s Now In The Conversation

Don't miss any tennis action, stay connected with Tennis-X

Get the FREE TX daily newsletter

66 Comments for How Can Rafael Nadal Be The GOAT Without Ever Having Won Miami?

Giles Says:

I reckon it’s the colour of the court, purple, that has hindered Rafa in Miami!

brando Says:

LOL Sean, this has to be the most OTT article you have ever written, and you have given plenty! First of all: no one says Rafa is GOAT right now, so that’s a moot point. Miami? You are literally the first one to even raise that up as a point. Had rafa not won MI but reached the final I’m certain such write up would not be written by you. But I am glad you recognised Rafael’s honesty. He’s got the courage to recognize his issue as it is without being precious about himself. And it’s that courage and self honesty that will see him through this period. Not the fickle reaction of others, especially in the media who always jump to extremes about rafa since day dot!

DC Says:

well, Rafa can be the goat without winning Miami if he wins 4 -5 more Grand Slams. Or he wins 3 GS’s and retains no 1 ranking for 3 more years.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Rafa adds another 2-3 GS’s to his tally.

Perhaps due to Age, Rafa seems to have diminished energy levels and is not able to win by attrition like he could do earlier.
He is trying to finish points earlier. Consequently he has to pay the price for aggressive play, such as less margin for error, less time for shot selection etc, more errors due to the extra mental focus required to remain aggressive for a long duration.

We saw Fed also have lapses in concentration & energy post his prime. And the condition seems to deteriorate with every passing day

Nole, on the other hand may be able to extend his peak shelf life, as he is able to balance his aggressive & defensive play based on conditions. He is apt at both kinds of play, but not better than Fed or Nadal at either.

Daniel Says:

Maybe Nadal is just a bit mentally exhausted after all those years, plus the mental demands of returning back to form after injury breaks. Clay is just around the corner, so he can resume his defense play and when he is ready go for the killer FH.

Tennis players kind of need a balance environment, Djoko right now has everything right: adjusted with Boris, Got married, had baby, won Slams, all aspects that could trouble his game are gone and he is just playing injury free on top of his game.

Nadal is still battling some demons and with aging comes accepting his limitations and maybe that’s the period he is getting in. He will have to find a balance again.

Brando Says:


Excellent post.

Barara Ball Says:

He is painfully honest. I watch him all the time and I knew it was a mental problem. If you are asking the question about The Goat. Can Fed be the goat if he can’t beat Rafa? Maybe a better question. I also Djoko shake in his seat drinking his water. It happens to all of them, but my guy Rafa is admitting to nerves.

leo Says:

GOAT without Miami – no big deal.

GOAT without WTF – WTF!!? ;-)

But hey, still possible with 4-5 more slams. See Sampras, Pete who was hailed greatest without FO.

I wouldn’t get too concerned with his dip in form. He thrives on playing possum.

chris ford1 Says:

Yup, classic click bait.
IMO -No such thing as GOAT, only best of era. And best at what? Only 4 events? Not adjusted for change in level of competition? That is hardly the sum of the careers of the 3 vying for best in an era. Slam count is a purely contrived criteria. No rule in the ATP that only the 4 tournaments count for anything.

Longevity? Other sports adjust for that somewhat. In US football, some careers are injury shortened. So career yardage and touchdowns do not tell you, say, the best receivers, quarter and running backs.

Safe to say that Federer will have records when he is done that his supporters will tout as proof he is the best. . So will Rafa’s fans. So possibly may Nole’s fans.
Others don’t care even about best in era, let alone GOAT. In real football, so many great players have become celebrated that you can’t do GOAT. Just why you prefer Ronaldo over Beckham, say.
I’m happy to enjoy all three. Nole, Rafa, and Fed – in that order of preference. Don’t dislike any of them. Perhaps 3 of the top 7 players ever, all here and now. We are so lucky.

Ruby Says:

There is and never will be a GOAT. All you GOAT debaters are chasing chimeras. There are players who dominate for awhile … sometimes for a long time, sometimes for a short time, and that’s about it. Amazing that people don’t get bored with this. So many more interesting questions to ask about Rafa, or Roger for that matter, than is he the GOAT ….

Hippy Chick Says:

Ronaldo is deffinetly a better footballer than Beckham no contest….

Rich Says:

In my opinion, Nadal is having between-the-ears issues because he lacks confidence, (i) principally in his broken down body, and (ii) secondarily due to the fact that he hasn’t been able to train up to his standards (due to (i)).

His backhand, formerly his best, most consistent and court-penetrating weapon, now is falling short. His volleying, which for years has been better than Federer’s, and everybody else not named Michael Llodra, has fallen off. Both of the foregoing are indicative of a slight loss of balance, possibly due to weakened legs (from continuing knee injuries).

Agassi says Nadal is the GOAT, I say Nadal is the GOAT, although a steroid & HGH assisted one, and Miami has no bearing on any GOAT discussions. It’s mainly about the Slams to me, then about the H2H, and finally about what I see.

Article about Agassi’s opinion:

Hippy Chick Says:

But Theiry Henry was better than both of them IMO….

mat4 Says:

To say that Rafa had a better volley than Fed is simply delusional…

His backhand, “formerly his best, most consistent and court-penetrating weapon”… I don’t believe my eyes: he loses against Novak because his backhand is not good enough. This backhand “falls short” for years! and is penetrating only CC, when Rafa waits for the ball at shoulder height…


“I say Nadal is the GOAT, although a steroid & HGH assisted one”

I am revolted by such a sentence. How can somebody be a GOAT when he cheats! At least, have the decency to deny that he dopes!

skeezer Says:

Thay Agassi storyis old news. There are so many other stories and quotes from all time greats to counter that. Unless Rafa gets is head out if his arse he is no way going to challenge Fed for GOATness. C’mon Rafa, Vamos!
The rafafans continually cling on to the h2h, even while continually losing to WCs , qualifiers, etc….in …. his prime!! And finally, you don’t play against one man in tennis for glory, you win titles and beat the f i e l d of players. If you can’t do that, you can’t be the winner and be the complete player that Tennis demands. Hat is why there is different surfaces, speeds, and enviremental conditions.
Fed? Sure he is the GOAT. With all if his unmatchable records and achievements he, @33, is still able to be ranked #2 in the world.

SG1 Says:

Rafa was the best volleyer in the top 10 until Fed-Berg. I saw him hit some very impressive volleys against ‘Nando yesterday. Not exactly high sitters to be either.

There’s nothing wrong with being a fan of Federer. There’s a lot to respect about him and his game. But, it’s quite another thing to feel a compulsion to run over another great player like Rafa to prop up your fave. Even worse, is the revisionist stuff. Rafa has a weak backhand, Rafa can’t volley…blah blah blah. There are no double digit slam winners with weak backhands or volleys.

SG1 Says:

I don’t think that Rafa’s the GOAT (yet). I do believe he’ll get there though. It pains me to agree with Agassi because I generally can’t stand him. He’s such a blowhard. Sampras is on the other end of the spectrum. Doesn’t seem like there’s much happening in that area about a foot above his shoulders. Kind of makes me miss Roddick who didn’t have 25% of the game that Sampras or Agassi had but who’s intellect was better than both Agassi and Sampras put together.

SG1 Says:

As several folks have stated, I would be reticent about judging Rafa until well into the European clay court season.

Sampras could play erratically for months and then hit the grass, find his game and win the whole bowl of wax and make it look easy. Rafa’s the same on red clay. Once he hits the red dirt, I think he’ll play a lot better. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Rich Says:


Thanks for at least submitting some posts that respect the opinions of others (in this case, mine).

Really sad that the modern, young generation feels entitled to rip into others on the faceless, anonymous Internet.

I always felt that Nadal’s backhand was the better of his groundstrokes, especially on fast surfaces, since his forehands often fell short, and his extreme Western forehand grip made it very difficult for him to handle low bouncing pace (like from Nalbandian’s 2-hander).

Also, Nadal through much of his career clearly was a better volleyer than Federer, excepting Federer 2003 and before, and arguably post Edberg.

Regardless, I have little respect for the opinions of others when they are not grounded in fact, and are hostile.

mat4 Says:

Anyway, there was no doubt that when they were both at their prime — Novak was better than Rafa. He leads in every statistical category, and in the head to head. So, he’s the GOAT.

Or he will be the GOAT winning Roland Garros. He certainly has at least 10 GS in him, and I see him making that record of 18 slams, at least one more than Rafa. With a positive H2H since then. There can be no doubt, he will be, no, he already is the GOAT.

skeezer Says:

Just want to make it clear that Rafa could very well end up as the greatest ever. No denying that opportunity is still there, he still has some youth on his side. But he’d better get his act together soon. And I say this with sincerity, Vamos Rafa the game needs your Warrior mode!
Rafa was the last guy on tour I’d thought would go mental.
Lastly, sorry rafarats, Fed is GOAT till further notice, and no, another FO ain’t gonna do it.

chris ford1 Says:

mat4 goads the Fedal crowd, bait’s in the water..

skeezer Says:

Wow some butt hurt here. And lots of one and gone here with the rafa crowd; the swaggie, george o, dart1. Same ole same ole…probably the usual one and the same.
Rafa’s BH better than his signature FH? Rafa volley better than Fed? Delusional.

RogNadFan Says:

The mental thing, nervousness, it actually comes more as you grow up. This is because as you get mature. Because, you start thinking more about things.
Second, any saying Nadal’s volley was better than Federer’s in any universe is clearly not seeing how tennis is actually played.
Nadal’s volley doesn’t goes wrong because, he comes forward once in a century, and on a ball that anyone, anyone can volley.
Even then, his volley had to be worked on tremendously to get to this point now. Just watch his earlier videos on Youtube

Okiegal Says:

@Skeezer……Not everyone is gone, I’m still here with head to head held high!! :)

Thangs Says:

Sean & Team to celebrate this year…

Skeezer Says:

^uh? Why?

skeezer Says:

You go girl 👍

Your types act is old, like TT leftovers.

Okiegal Says:

@Skeezer…..Okey dokey! :)

sienna Says:

so if Nadal is goat before Federer and Djokovic before Nadal.

then it surely is safe to place Cilic before Murray.

Eric Says:

I can’t bear myself to read what I assume are the awful, Fedal-warring comments on this thread, but, equally, I can’t resist saying this (again):

The idea of a “fifth slam” is idiotic.

All of the same players play at all of the mandatory Masters events. If you want to argue that one of them is the most prestigious, fine, but that can’t then be used to evaluate a player’s greatness just because they didn’t win it. Almost everyone agrees that Wimbledon is the most prestigious slam, but is winning it five times in a row any more impressive (as opposed to “prestigious”) than winning the USO, AO, or FO five times in a row? No, it’s not, and if you think it is, you’re being dumb. And I say this as a Fed fan.

Hippy Chick Says:

Okie/Skeezer me too,although i will admit that GOATDOM is one area of tennis im begining to care less and less about the more it gets talked about….

Okiegal Says:

@Chick……I hear you……it’s the same old crap over and over again! It’s getting redundant and boring. You already know what each poster is going to say. Like me, I always lash back with the h2h, but I’m done with that too…….me thinks!! Lol

Sivaji Says:

Vamos Rafa!… you can be the king again. Sean mostly predicts wrong in his pick when Nadal involves. that is why he hates Nadal than Fed or Novak

mat4 Says:

@Okie, Alison:

Sometimes I have the impression that you two the only normal persons here. Since I don’t want you to believe that what I wrote above is indeed my opinion, here is what I think:

the big three, four, are slowly fading, and there is a shift of generation. When I see Darcis playing Djokovic the way he did in the second set (Klizan too), Fed and Rafa losing on a regular basis, I know that whatever they win from now on is pure bonus. A slam, perhaps two. Perhaps more, with some luck. But tennis is a very cruel sport, and time is changing fast.

We are lucky they still play well. And when I see such… crazy posts, I am shocked: a rafan flatly admitting Rafa is doping? When me, a djokofan, have only doubts? Writing that his best shot is his backhan, the man who’s FH is one of the best ever? It is simply unbelievable.

Let’s enjoy the rest of their careers and hope for more, but nothing is granted from now on.

mat4 Says:


No, I am not. I use the same arguments made to show how they don’t have any sense, just like this debate has no more sense. The use of present tense instead of future is a blink to Rabelais and his Gargantua.

mat4 Says:


It is not what you feel, and it is not a question of opinion, but of facts. You just didn’t watch.

Rafa’s BH is very dangerous when he leans into the ball. He can hit it very hard and flat CC. But Djokovic, Nishikori, Murray, all have a better BH than Rafa in those conditions, been able to hit very efficiently DTL too.

Just watch Rafa against Novak in BH rallies…

Rafa has changed his FH with the years to be able to hit it flatter. Rafa is perhaps in a bad phase, but in general, since 2010, his FH was a devastating shot on any surface.

Your opinion is simply biased, and shows that you don’t know much about tennis. It’s just like me writing about football. So I don’t write about football.

Your opinion about the use of steroids was shocking. If Novak is found to use them, I would be very disappointed and hoped he will be banned for the rest of his career. Steroids give not only the physical, but also the mental edge in matches. A player that is sometimes unbeatable then, suddenly, has problems “between the ears”… come on, it just isn’t serious.

And I am not young, quite the contrary. I am not the oldest here, but I watch tennis since the 70s. It is a long time.

mat4 Says:

I don’t understand also how you can assess that Rafa can win 5 slams more. He’s 28. If he manages to win two, it would be a great success. He’s not in crisis since last month, but a year already.

Novak has probably won one of his last slams. If he makes it to ten, if he wins RG, it would be a great success. 12? I don’t think so. In the past, few great champions won slams after 28. The decline started at 26, in fact. The edges are usually so small, that just a change in the mind of the younger generation and you’re done. You play well, you go deep in tournaments, from time to time you win one, but the generational shift is here, and you don’t win slams without a good quantity of luck.

Tennis Island Says:

Let’s admire his achievements and his contribution to the growth of tennis without giving this “GOAT” titles. There are much more important things…

Hippy Chick Says:

Mat4 lol i appreciate that post,but i think im one of the biggest headcases here,but i will agree about Okie though,and the rest of your post too,i really have no axe to grind anymore when it comes to GOAT debate,Roger,Rafa,Novak are all amazing players whomever you happen to be a fan of,i dont get why fans have to p*ss on one in favour of another,Roger and it looks like Rafa is now becoming less dominant its sad but its inevitableif i had the faintest idea on how to do links i would be putting one up by a group called Echo And The Bunnyman and a song called Nothing Ever Lasts Forever,birthdays in sport make me sad because its another reminder that your getting to the stage in your career where your better days are behind you….

Okiegal Says:

@mat4……Thanks for the nice compliment…….some on here would probably think otherwise! Lol

I’m not ready to push the top three or four aside yet. Of the four, Rafa and Andy seem to be on the decline a wee bit. I see Novak definitely winning another slam or two. The young guns are iffy. They bounce around like an errant tennis ball! We will see, not ready to give up on the top four yet….but wait my Rafa is going down in the rankings so it seems according to the statisticians on TX. Whatever!! I will enjoy watching him regardless if he’s number 4 or number eight!! I will also enjoy Novak, Roger and Andy…..just like always…..and if the young guys come along and give them a tussle, that will be good for the game too!! I just love me some tennis!!!

Dan the Man Says:

Forget Miami, the 1000 level tournaments are irrelevant in determining GOAT. After the Grand Slams, the #5 most important tournament has always been the Masters/ World Tour Finals tournament, with the top 8 players. Not only is it the premier tournament for the indoor season, but it is the only tournament where you have to beat the best players EVERY MATCH. The winner has to play 5 matches against top 8 players. Nadal only made the final here 2 time over his whole career and was not close to winning either time. Federer has been in 9 finals and won 6, Djokovic has won 4 times. Past huge champions Sampras, Lendl, Edberg, Becker, McEnroe, Borg, etc have all won at least once here. You can’t be in the discussion for GOAT without having competed here against the best of the best. No discussion.

Okiegal Says:

@Chick…..don’t sell yourself short, girl! We all have our days…..

SG1 Says:

I think it’s clear that Rafa’s forehand is superior to his backhand…even on a faster surface. But his backhand is not a weakness by any stretch.

This volleying thing definitely amuses me. Rafa is an excellent volleyer. Can he serve and volley? Maybe for a short stretch. Is 2004-2013 Federer a better volleyer than Rafa. I don’t think so. Someone mentioned that Rafa looks good at net because he’s there once a century. Before Edberg, Federer was at net about twice that much, which isn’t very much at all.

Federer, like Andy, Rafa and Novak use their groundstrokes to set up more makeable volleys. With Edberg in Fed’s corner right now, you can see how much Fed’s volleying has improved. He’s clearly has the best volleys right now. But before Edberg, it’s a toss up and I think Rafa’s volley skills are absolutely beyond reproach. He doesn’t use his western grip to volley. He generally makes the adjustment to continental and does it right. It’s the sign of someone who’s worked at it.

Hippy Chick Says:

I get what Dan The Man is saying granted hasnt won the WTFs and i know its important,but then again Roger is the only one on that list like Rafa who has the career GS,which is something the other all time greats dont have,he might not be the GOAT but hes an all time great with a hole in his resume just like the rest have,all except Roger that is….

Ben Pronin Says:

SG1, I do think you overhype Nadal’s volleys. Much like McEnroe did. I do not think he ever had the best volleys in the game. Maybe in the top 10 for a short stretch since I agree he was better than Federer and the other guys for a brief time. But overall, he never has to hit uncomfortable volleys. Obviously anyone would prefer to hit easy volleys but I do think that because he has some of the best approach shots in the business, it makes his volleys look better. He’s competent up there. Better than Djokovic, for example. But still nothing incredible compared to a lot of the doubles specialists.

That said, I don’t agree that he’s only up there once a century. When he committed to being more aggressive, particularly on the faster surfaces, he’s at the net quite often. He’s never dragged to the net but moves in whenever he sees a good opportunity. I haven’t checked the stats but I’d bet he spends more than the average amount of time up there.

Hippy Chick Says:

Also not belittling the WTFs but its contradictory to say you have to beat the best players every match as you dont,you can still lose a game,still make the final,and still win the title….

chris ford1 Says:

Dan the Man – “Forget Miami, the 1000 level tournaments are irrelevant in determining GOAT”

No such thing as GOAT, but the degree of success in a pro career at any level has to include Mssters events. To be good enough to be invited to them (like Slams and WTC) in the first place. To do well at them, even win, is not only about stats, but money and sponsors and endorsements. With more points at stake in a year than the Slams, they bear even more on rnnkings. If “Slam Count” is close, performance in other events will be factored in to any assessment of a career. Olympics, leading a team in Davis or Fed Cup, year end championships, how well someone did at Masters and below of the ATP 1000-500-250 tournaments.

The case on Rafa and London is the surface (fast and indoors) does not favor his game. It’s the opposite end of Roland Garros. No shame at all in struggling there, no more than Pete’s struggles on clay. Rafa fought valiantly and well in several years at O2. Last was in 2013 when Rafa played Djokovic close but Nole broke him on set point with impossible to believe defense. The hinge of the match.
One day perhaps. I’d like to see Rafa get that, just as I want Novak to get the French Open, and last year I was hoping Fed would finally get a Davis Cup. They are all worthy.

And someone said Rafa was not injured at RG when he lost to Soderling. He was. And he missed Wimbledon from that. A knee injury that started in Madrid when he and Novak had a match that went past both guys limits, messed Djokovic up more than Nadal. It was the match that set the fate of the big three that year. In Rafa’s case, he was hobbled and exhausted when he made the Madrid finals and Fed was able to beat Nadal in one of the only 4 times be won over Nadal after 2007. The knees got better for Rome, but worsened badly at the start of the FO. Pain, injections, draining..And add his parents marital woes. And then on a wet day when the balls were heavy and did not bounce in Rafa’s optimal strike zone, he played a power hitter in the best match he played.

It took all that to bring down Nadal in 2009. And it almost could have been a Delpo-Soderling Final. Juan Martin had Federer in dire peril in their semis. Fed was lucky to win, though coming so close gave Delpo all the confidence he needed at the USO.

DC Says:

when determining greatness or goatness or whatever in any sport, there are only 2 records that need to be considered.
1 – time spent at the top ( no 1 ranking) ;
2 – no of major tournaments won ( slams in tennis ) ;

All other so-called records collected in the process are just statistics.

Any person aspiring to be a top professional tennis player would dream of being a no 1 or win a major or both. All other so called records are statistics they collect on the way. I’m sure Nadal as young man wasn’t dreaming of winning X master tournaments or having a great h2h against Fed and Nole. These things just happened along the path.

In the modern era ( post Laver) if you look at these two records and give a 50% weightage to each of these criteria, you have to give the goat goal medal to Federer, Silver to Samparas & bronze to Nadal

Nadal still has a long way to go, the first record is out of his reach. Even is Nadal does collect 18 GS’s, will his short tenure at #1 go against him to be considred Goat?

Humble Rafa Says:

Without winning Miami, I am screwed. Without this 5th grandslam, I am not able to sleep. I keep turning over in my bed and hitting my RG trophies.

SG1 Says:


Perhaps I do overhype Nadal’s volleying skills. With this in mind, please specify who among the top 20 players from 2004 to 2013, was better at net than Nadal? I can’t think of anyone. He’s been to the Wimbledon final 5 times. Clearly, he has some net game. The only other player to get there more in that period is Federer. So, at worst, Nadal was the 2nd best vollyer over that period? Truth is, you just so rarely see Rafa miss a volley.

SG1 Says:

Lleyton Hewitt may have been better in that period but it’s a damn short list.

Ben Pronin Says:

SG1, ok I checked 2008-2013. I’m going to say maybe Mardy Fish, defintely Radek Stepanek, and maybe Nalbandian.

But you also rarely see Nadal hit a difficult volley. Usually he’s hitting them above his shoulder. Again, I think it’s due to great approach shots. He’s an incredibly smart player so he’s not going to rush into the net just because. He plays efficiently. Can’t fault him for that.

DC Says:

here are some numbers just from the FO finals between Fed n Nadal for you all regarding points won at the net

Nadal / Federer
2006 French:10 of 16 = 63% / 30 of 41…………73%
2007 French: 7 of 11 = 64% / 21 of 34…………62% 
2008 French: 2 of 6 = 33% / 18 of 42…………43%
2011 French: 10 of 18 = 56% / 30 of 41…………73% 

Ben Pronin Says:

What happened in 08? Federer having some trouble up at the net or something…

brando Says:

ONLY 55 comments! What’s up my TX family- such a low number for this clickbait thread! PS: props to skeez’s genuine post ‘re rafa. Respect.

Daniel Says:


2004-2013 is a long stretch, but Safin while he played volley better than Nadal, Ljubicic, the one Ben mentioned, Hass, Phillipoussis, any left serve and volley form ealyr 2000 was a better volleyer. The last few years Murray has far better volleys than Nadal, Tsonga, Stepanek.

Ben is completely right in his assessments, Nadal goes for the net in a inevitable ball, when he already is in the middle of the court and to hit a sitter. Occasionally he gets a difficult volley, but is not like 1 per match, as we see with Fed.

And if he has to hit 2 volleys, most of the times he loses the point because he doesn’t instantly know how to prepare a volley to kill in the second one.

Nirmal Kumar Says:

Folks, pls watch Roger’s matches during 03-06 to know his volleying skills. He did compromise on his volley’s from 2008, that’s more to do with his back issues he had been facing.

SG1 Says:


I’ll give you Stepanek but he’s played so much doubles compared to Rafa that it’s inevitable that his volleying will be quite formidable.

As for Haas, Philipoussis and Nalbandian, I’m not buying it. Philipoussis’ game was a the equivalent of the train wreck most of the time. Haas is an ardent baseliner and Nalbandian? I think he likely spent as much time at the hotel buffet table as he did on the tennis court.

I also don’t buy the argument that Rafa looks like he volleys well only because he comes in on sitting duck shots. Pretty much every player on earth from 2004 to 2013 (Federer, Murray, Novak etc.) stayed on the baseline. Generally speaking, none of them would venture anywhere near the net unless the volley was an obvious winner for them. There are no Edbergs or McEnroes’ or Sampras’ out there these days because the game has evolved (…maybe devolved) away from this style of play.

Don’t mistake Roger’s 2004-2013 volley game as superior to Rafa because of the elegance and aesthetics of his game. Just because he looks smoother than Rafa doesn’t make him a better volleyer. I think that’s the misconception with Roger and his net game. He looks so natural on the court that people just want to believe his net talent is part and parcel with the rest. Until Edberg came along, Federer was not as consistent on the volley. It’s just my take (which a lot of folks here happen to not agree with).

SG1 Says:

Truth is, Federer may in fact have been a better volleyer than Rafa from 2004 to 2013. But, it’s not because he’s the super slick and stylish Roger Federer.

SG1 Says:

And Safin was not better at net than Rafa.

SG1 Says:

Give Rafa Philipoussis’ first serve and I’m almost certain he’d look like the next coming of Rod Laver at the net.

skeezer Says:

Which segways to ….. Roddick. Huge serve …player hits a high floater back, instead of coming in and putting away the volley, he steps back and hit a groundie!
If the guy ever had a transition game and volley game he would have won soooooo many more titles.

SG1 Says:

Skeezer…so true. The issue with Roddick was threefold. First, as you stated, he had absolutely no mid court game. 2nd was that atrocious backhand of his. Lastly, he could not hit a ball through the court. Too much junk on his shots. Lendl had a massive serve and marginal transition game but he could take short balls and drive them through the tennis court which enabled him to take advantage of his big serve.

SG1 Says:

Roddick also lacked the athleticism of Sampras or Federer. I’ll never forget that relatively easy high volley he missed in the 2nd set tie-break against Fed in the ’09 Wimbledon final. If he’s just a little more fluid out there, he makes that shot and more than likely, wins that match (…though nothing is for certain obviously).

Jaran Nirsi Says:

Let Nadal win another few slams outside RG, a few WTF titles, and notch up another 150 weeks or so as World No 1, before his claim to goat status comes into sections contention. Till then he will be what he is: the best on clay of his generation, and perhaps of any other. As fir Miami, the court is the wrong color, and perhaps they will change it to suit his requirements, like Madrid did. But it still required a bad back ( for once not his own) that enabled him to win, by default.

Top story: Happy 39th Birthday To Roger Federer