Is Roger Federer truly the ‘Greatest of All Time’?

Published: September 21, 2013
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Federer is a great player in tennis history, but he is hardly the greatest of all times. PHOTO: REUTERS

It has been the year of comebacks so far; Justin Timberlake and our own prime minister would attest to that. There are fewer sights more exhilarating than a stirring rise of someone written off. Such a sight was found at Flushing Meadows in the last US Open final, as Rafael Nadal wrote another winning chapter in what is becoming a saga of the finest kind. 

Nadal, while battling weak knees and a congenital foot condition, added another US Open crown to his collection, bringing his tally to 13 grand slams. He now stands just one behind Pete ‘Pistol’ Sampras and well ahead of legends such as Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and Ivan Lendl. When I started watching tennis, players like Boris Becker and Stephan Edberg ruled the roost. A blonde American named Andre Agassi was bringing in his own style of glam tennis and soon became a favourite.

It boggles the mind that Nadal, at 27, is streets ahead of these players in terms of titles and career wins.

Two men stand before him. Sampras, at 14 grand slam titles, will soon be a speck in the rear view mirror. Nadal can play on for a few more years and Roland Garros (French Open) is his personal fiefdom. It can be safely assumed that he will pass Sampras swiftly. However, the bigger challenge still stands for Nadal — the 17 grand slams won by Roger Federer.

There was a time when such thoughts would not even be considered, let alone uttered. Federer’s fans, and a passionate bunch they are, have been lighting candles and sticks since he won a string of Wimbledon Championships. The Swiss has a voracious appetite, and hapless prey such as Leyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick were joyously chewed, gulped and digested by him.

However, one needs to examine the evidence. Federer is not the greatest player of all time; he is not even the greatest player of his generation. He happens to have a silken game, and watching him play is akin to watching a ballet, albeit a mechanically saccharine one. He has lorded over the grass courts as few have or ever will, and his career grand slam proves that he can compete, though not dominate, on all surfaces. His clay court game is good enough to win him a French Open, something Sampras, for all his prodigious skill, could never come close to, but the caveat is that Federer did not beat Nadal to win his solitary French Open crown.

Federer dominated the first half of the past decade. He barely broke a sweat against the likes of Marat Safin and Mark Philippoussis. Federer won twelve titles from the years 2003 to 2007. The next five came in 6 years, 2008-2013, what many call the “golden era” of tennis. We can narrow the numbers even more. Federer won 15 Grand Slams in the past decade. However, he has won only two since 2010.

A big cause of this slowdown is Rafael Nadal. Federer has faced Nadal across the net 31 times, with Nadal winning more than twice the times Federer won. Of these 31 match ups, eight have been in Grand Slam finals, and Nadal vanquished him on six occasions, one of them being that Wimbledon final in 2008.

Then there is the small matter of the Davis Cup, a tournament that has its own prestige. Rafa has won the Davis Cup 4 times, Federer none. Rafa has a record breaking 26 Masters Titles, Federer 21. Nadal has also taken gold for the singles tournament at the Olympics, Federer’s best is silver. Rafa is five years younger and seems indestructible, bad knees or not, while Federer slips into wretched decline. Nadal’s winning percentage at 88.14% is superior to anyone of his era and went on to a whopping 98.33% at the French Open.

For those who discount Nadal wins as being clay heavy, they should remember that almost half of Federer’s wins are from grass. The argument is facetious in any case; tennis is tennis, whether played on clay or grass. Those who clamour to call Federer the “Great of All Time” seem to forget that the doubles game is also part of the sport, in which Federer has little significance.

Comparing players from different eras is always tricky. Borg played against legends like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and retired at 26 with 11 Grand Slam Titles. He won 41% of the Grand Slam tournaments he entered, when playing single. His excellence was not limited to any surface and out of the 735 matches Borg played, he won 608 of them — a winning percentage of 82.72%. Tennis fans should realise that there is more to the game than Grand Slam Tennis.

Meanwhile, Nadal pounds on. His winning record is superior against every player in the top 25, including the members of the Big Four and the evidence is quickly accumulating. Federer  is a great tennis player and has his own place in tennis history, but is he the Greatest of All Time?

Hardly.

Sibtain Naqvi

Sibtain Naqvi

A writer and social commentator who has written extensively for various Pakistani English dailies. An art critic accredited by the AICA and the Royal College of Art, London, he dabbles in music and sports writing and tweets @Sibtain_N (twitter.com/Sibtain_N)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • bjorn6

    Federer is the most successful of all time. The Goat is who ever you want it to be. Recommend

  • Yana

    You didn’t mention the master cup/the end of year tournament, which only the best 8 can compete. How many time Rafa win ? How did Rafa stay in no 1spot ? Roger definitely is not the best on clay, but he came up second. This is not apply for Rafa on grass. Not a good analysis at all …..Recommend

  • Rita

    May I just point out that Nadal has never won the Davis Cup. Spain has won the Davis Cup 4 times – Switzerland never. It is a team event and you need more than one decent player in your team to stand a chance. Hence Spain’s success with it’s stable of efficient players.Recommend

  • Just my Opinion

    Federer at the moment id say maybe he is BUT Nadal is seriously chasing them Slam records down and if I’m not wrong has most Masters ATP 1000 titles. Federer also hasn’t beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam since 2007 when Federer was only 25 years old and why he struggled vs Rafa in all tournaments after that when he was entering his prime is anyone’s guess . Another thing that favours Rafa is people regard this era as probably the best in men’s tennis with the top 4 guys being so dominant but Rafa has a positive record vs all of them which emphasises how great he has been. Recommend

  • Pammy

    Roger Federer is the greatest with more shots the others including Nadal just pound it back and forth and are relentless. It makes a difference being younger too.Recommend

  • Zoya

    Welcome back Sibtain after a long time. Delighted to see your cute photo!! You look so handsome with your black curly hair. Love it!!Recommend

  • Bratty

    302 weeks at the top to 102!!! plz….Nadal has a recorded of being on second spot for consecutive 164 weeks ….and that was when Federer had record of being on top for consecutive 230 odd weeks!!! so …Federer is of previous generation…and hez still battling against Nadal, Djoker and so on!!Recommend

  • Harsh Srivastava

    There is only one thorn in Fedex’s flesh..Nadal Rafael.
    Rod Laver, arguably the greatest ever said about Fedex..” I’m honoured to be even compared with Roger Federer”. I’m sure Rod Laver knows his marbles.

    Fedex’s miserable record against Rafa is the only thing which could deny him title of GOAT.Recommend

  • blah

    LoL. federer has more records than any of these other big 4. he has the most achievements… the fact that he remained the best for all those years AND stayed healthy proves that hes better off than nadal. federer won all those slams because nadal mostly lost to ppl lower than him… saying nadal beat federer more times, i can say federer beat all those ppl nadal lost to in slams… has nadal stayed number 1 for 4 straight years? has he won 2 different grand slams 5 straight years in a row? has nadal been in 23 straight semi final for grand slams? the answer is no.nadal has his own achievements and he is awesome for that but the fact remains even if he surpasses federer in slams and beats him more times than federer beat him, federer’s accomplishments altogether will outweigh anything nadal could ever do.Recommend

  • Harsh Srivastava

    In cricket analogy.. Fedex is Tendulkar..Rafa is Jacque Kallis.Recommend

  • danny

    Mr. Sibtain you ara analysing Fed at the age of 32, please analyse rafa when hes 32 then we will have a good comparison. its not easy to play at this level at 32.Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Actually its more like Fedex is Tendulkar and Rafa is Ponting :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Nadal has won one at least one grand slam for 9 years in a row, something even Fed cudn do for all his dominance over chuhahas like Roddick n Hewitt !!Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    That way even Roger also hasnt won Monte Carlo, Rome and many other top tournaments ever and Rafa has beaten Roger on all surfaces in Grand Slams, Roger has beaten Rafa only on grass !! That says it allRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    2001-2005 Roger won 6 Grand Slams, since 2005, he has won 11 and Rafa 13 (excluding the head to head) just individual records in Grand Slams in same period of time Rafa is ahead plus 2001-2013 Roger 21 Masters series, Rafa 26 and counting and this DESPITE the injuries and missing so many tournaments !!Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Laver also said comparing eras is not possibleRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    What new shot has Roger brought into tennis ? Rafa has brought in the top spin forehand, the dead-run down the line banana shot :)Recommend

  • Luke

    Because he didn’t beat Rafa that means he isn’t the greatest of his generation?…. Right.
    Anyone who knows their tennis would know that is rubbish. Tennis is about matchups. Federer has a one handed backhand, Rafa has insane pop which jumps over fed’s shoulder and makes it impossible to compete on clay with a one handed backhand. It’s just how it is. Rafa has a huge advantage head to head. Says nothing.

    Besides the whole argument, when Fed was reaching finals and in his prime, Rafa was nowhere to be seen. I can think of more arguments to totally destroy this article but I’m fed up of repeating them.

    Rafa’s name should be among the greatest. But when thinking of the top of that list, that’s a different ballpark.Recommend

  • Harsh Srivastava

    But then it means you admit Fedex better than Rafa?Recommend

  • Harsh Srivastava

    That’ld be blasphemy..I say. :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    May I also point out that Roger has rarely even bothered to represent his country with any conviction prior to people pointing out that Rafa has won Olympic Gold and 4 Davis Cups. Thats y he at least participated in 2012 London games + it was on his fav surface grass – still didn put in enough effort to win a gold – That says something :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    As Wilander, McEnroe, Emerson, Sampras and many other all-time greats have said, if Rafa can win 2 more Grand Slams and overtake Sampras, he’ll have the mantle of greatest of all time even with 2 lesser grand slams than Federer considering his general dominance over the field (83.7% win record by far the best) + Olympic Gold + 4 Davis Cups + Better H2H over all seeded 127 players + consistency in Grand Slams over 9 years (never done before in tennis history)Recommend

  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

    What about Federer’s 6 ATP World Tour Final titles? ATP World Tour Final is contested amongst the top 8 players – so to win that, you need to beat the best. And Federer won that 6 times. Nadal, never.

    Federer is called greatest of all time because of his consistency. 4 consecutive years as World No. 1, 40 consecutive Grand Slam quarter finals, 10 consecutive finals, reaching finals of all Slams 5 times each, reaching finals of all 1000 Masters, 6 ATP World Tour Finals, tying Sampras for most Wimbledon titles, Djokovic for most Australian titles, Sampras and Conners for most US Open titles, and the list goes on.Recommend

  • Michael

    The day you win 1 Grand Slam is the day you will deserve to write a piece on Federer’s greatness. Period.Recommend

  • SJ

    Nadal is the best of all timesRecommend

  • sackthiswriter

    another stupid article -,-Recommend

  • Guest

    It’s obvious everyone will agree that without a doubt, Federer and Nadal are the two greatest tennis players of all time. But for Nadal to unequivocally claim the GOAT, he has to win more GS on HARD court. Like 3 more at the US Open, 3 more at the Australian Open and 2 more at Wimbledon. Then and only then will I say he is the GOAT. But to keep racking up GS on clay in my opinion is not going to cut it. A tennis ball was meant to BOUNCE and to me HARD court is what real tennis is all about. Nadal has to also start winning the year end tournament where the best 8 tennis players IN THE WORLD compete. Nadal has never won this, while Federer has won it 6 times.Recommend

  • Muddassir Kasumbi

    No disrespects to your opinion; but you don’t seem like much of a tennis fan or apparently started watching the sport quite recently. What RF has given to this game is compared to the likes of Rod Laver & Bjorn Borg; this says volumes. He elevated the game to new levels & Nadal, Djokovic, Murray & others have all benefited from it. The reason he’s considered GOAT is how he’s been one of the best ambassadors of the game ever.Recommend

  • dude

    its not rafa who brought. its the string technology!!
    I can say a backhand flickRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Everybody is using the same string technology, why cant others play those shots then ? :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    And that’d b factual I say :PRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Admit that Fedex has more GS than Rafa right now, but in head 2 heads and in big matches Rafa is way ahead, hence the Ponting Tendulkar analogy !!Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    That clearly means he couldnt find a way to beat a player in his time (whatever be the reasons), and if u havent beaten every player conclusively in big matches in ur era, the question of greatest of all time simply doesnt arise !!Recommend

  • AnOpinion

    No he is not. Federer is not even the greatest of his own time ( forget about all time ) with a worse head-to-head defeat record with Nadal and Djocovik.Recommend

  • andytheoracle

    just compare fed and rafa without their french open titles and you will see who’s the greatest. and where was rafa when he was winning at clay and roger on all other surfaces? he simply couldnt make it to that many gs finals when roger was almost always there? also fed could have had a few more wilbledon titles has they not made the grass court slower.. they made it a green clay, so atheletes like rafa could compete a bit with the most accurate and consistent players.Recommend

  • Shubham Chakraborty

    Totally agree with you, also Rafa has beaten Roger on his favourite surface, but Roger has never beaten Rafa at ParisRecommend

  • gdpr

    Hey, guys. Never compare two amazing, great tennis players as we all know, for the past two decades it was supposed to be none other than ROGER FEDERER and RAFAEL NADAL. Even people who had no idea of how tennis was played enjoying them watching, especially when they are up against each other.

    For me the comparison was just like asking a child to pick one favourite person from these two; Mom or Dad? [Indeed, I love both of them.] I do, did such comparison years ago.

    While I was becoming fond of Hewitt and more particularly the way he wears his cap, backwards! But exactly at that time he started to dominate tennis after the Greats of that time such as PETE retired and AGASSI (announced his retirement two years later), Federer arrived.

    He was just too good for anybody who played professional tennis starting from 2003 through to 2007. Nobody stopped him. Sometimes even the most skilled person cannot be able to apply their skills against someone who knew about them, very well. Had no idea how NADAL sorted out FEDERER yet, he became his ultimate competitor.

    Then NADAL started dominating the man who once dominated TENNIS. Maybe NADAL was the first to sort out that it was all in mind and heart. I didn’t meant to say that ROGER was not good at it either. You see that for yourself, that how good he was even at his thirties. Also I am not here to judge or assume that what NADAL can do at his thirties. But look at his comeback this season after the injury layoff. I am not even saying they are even. I also won’t worry about the fact who is greater of these two. For me, they are all but the my most FAVOURITE TENNIS PLAYERS EVER.Then forget the records, scorecards, blah-blah-blah.

    But that’s not the debate, I was here to discuss. I always wonder if I ask myself as well as yourself just this one question, for which you already knew my answers. What do you pick, ROGER FEDERER OR RAFAEL NADAL. I pick their rivalry much ahead before picking one o… sorry… both of them.

    People were so called GREAT only when they had someone as GREAT as themselves to match up with. It not came just from the achievements, individual skills and practice. It will only put them on the road to GREATNESS.

    P.S: Personally, I started like DJOKOVIC more these days than those days back when he was consistent but never dominant.Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Look at Serbia, they also dont have any great players apart from Djoker, but he is winning the major matches and carried them through to another Davis Cup final, fact is Wawrinka is still waiting for the day when Roger will at least bother 2 turn up :DRecommend

  • Mike

    Answer me this honestly, how on this earth, is it possible Nadal get’s more credit for winning a Davis Cup title (2009) where he never played until the Final and beat the mighty Jan Hajek there… in comparison to Federer winning a year end Championship where he went unbeaten and beat all of the other top6 that week (2010)

    the Nadal-Fed GOAT debate can be so cock eyed it’s truly staggers me.

    like Mcenroe going on about Davis Cup titles, why do ppl seem to forget Nadal never won a year end championship? or that Federer won 6 of them against 6 different opponents at 3 different venue’s and went unbeaten in winning 5 of them (when only 2 players in the previous 30 years won that tournament going unbeaten)

    Federer 10 GS finals in a row is an astonishing achievment – never really gets mentioned because somehow 36 straight QF and 23 straight SF seem to stick more in the mind for people

    he played through era’s with Sampras, Agassi, Kafelnikov, Safin, Roddick, Hewitt, Ferrero, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and the latter 3… Roger clearly passed his prime as he given up a disadvantage of being 5 years older

    tell me who are gonna make life so tough for Nadal in his latter years – Dimitrov, Nishikori, Tomic, Goffin, Raonic, Pospisil? give me a f’en break.Recommend

  • Rohit

    yeah Roger Federer loses against nadal but that in now way means that he isnt the greatest. Nadal has a singles gold, Federer has a singles silver and a doubles gold. Federer too had 13 grandslams at the age of 27 = Nadals age. And let me remind people Nadal started winning slams at a younger age. And having a winning record against the top four is correct BUT he has a very poor record of being no. 1 and at the end of the day Grand Slams and a Number one ATP ranking is how u count a players success.

    @Priyanka even if nadal wins 25 grandslams there will always be people who will love federer just cause his game at one point was surreal(sometimes still is).Recommend

  • Eric

    Specious, not facetious.Recommend

  • Rohith Guggilla

    if tennis is tennis(grass and clay issue) then results are results then fed has 17 and rafa 13 then rafa has to shut until it crosses 17.so stay calm and wait.Recommend

  • TennisSport

    YES, ROGER IS THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME.

    1. The golden era began with and by Roger. remember?

    2. Isn’t the greatest his generation? Roger’s generation was Rodick, Safin & co. and he was quite clear dominance in top form, the best player. Forget that Nadal & co. 5/6 Years are younger, so “the next generation”?

    3. No longer dominates: You have ever experienced that a player from 30 and more absolutely dominated?

    4. Rafas dominance over Roger, the head to head, is absolutely incorrect. Rafa won the most on clay and only really well on other courts from 2010 (when RF were 29/30 and RN 24/25). In 2008 you must not forget that Roger had glandular fever.

    5. “For those who discount Nadal wins as a sound hard, they should bear in mind that almost half of Federer wins are from grass”:

    To do this, it exactly 13 are (unfortunately there are no masters 1000 on grass), Rafa on clay 42

    The numbers:

    WINS 77 Roger / WINS Rafa 60

    Rafa
    18 other courses (3 GS hardcourt, 2 grass)
    42 Clay (8 GS)

    Roger
    65 other courts (9 GS hardcourt, 7 grass)
    10 clay 1 GS)

    2 carbet

    5 You can’t win Davis Cup and double allone (Spain thanks Ferrer & co.)

    7 Odds: Federer can boast two historical maximum quotas for such a period OF 3 YEARS with a victory ratio of 94.3% and a rate of 69.4% tournament.

    8 Those who seem to forget to call Rafa shouting “Great of all time” that 302 weeks No. 1, and 6 x win the ATP Masters also part of sport is final and other records of Roger, where Rafael has little meaning. Should I go on?

    Most recently, again there is no Tenisspieler which so dominated the game in his entire art like Roger Federer.Recommend

  • Adam Marcham

    Didn’t put in enough effort? Now I don’t know about you but I think he put in just about as much effort as a 31 year old can. He had to put in a monumental effort just to get past delpo in the semis and after all that effort we all know what happened against murray in the final. The fact you are saying he didn’t even put in any effort tells me you just want to do some fed-bashing and you probably didn’t even watch the Olympics and were too busy crying that Nadal wasn’t playing. Recommend

  • TennisSport

    I really have never heard such a stupid analysis. By the way, hey tennis consists not only of two players. Did you already get with this?

    Simple fact: Roger is the second best clay.-player, Rafa, but not the second best grass players. Who, who and where has beaten or does not alter this fact.Recommend

  • TennisSport

    And now also, how big is Roger, because he won a Grand Slam with 5/6 years difference still in 2012 (31) and once again the No. 1 was.Recommend

  • Stephane

    This is a joke.
    Federer has made the tennis more popular, he is known from almost everyone on earth, almost as good as Michael Jordan. This makes him a great ambassador for tennis. That’s what makes him the GOAT.
    In my opinion the GOAT can not be anonymous even if he won 26 Masters and counting…Recommend

  • Worstarticleever

    What a terrible article, anyone can use the stats in his advantage. Comparing 27 year-old Nadal against 32 y.o. WTF?? Obviously this was written by a Nadal fan… Davydenko leads Nadal in head-to-head, is he the GOAT then?Recommend

  • Tai

    Stupid articleRecommend

  • Jesus Serene

    What is funny about this article is that even Nadal’s name doesn’t sell much. You put the headline is Federer really the Greatest? Rather than putting like Nadal is the greatest. Which you unsuccessfully tried to prove. You know why you couldn’t write that way because that is what it is. Nadal is not the GOAT Federer is. That is why you earned money by putting the title in the name of Federer rather than using Nadal is the Greatest player of time.Recommend

  • Addy

    Ummm what? Nadal brought top spin into the game? What’re you high on? Borg was the first to bring heavy topspin into the game, off of both the forehand and backhand sides. If it hadn’t been for the major difference in racquet technologies between the mid 1970’s (when Borg dominated) and now (Nadal’s prime), Borg and Rafa would probably produce the same number of RPM’s as one another.Recommend

  • Fred

    DUH?? Of course Fed has won less GS lately. Fed is FIVE years older!!! He’s 32 and has no business competing with guys 5-6 younger let alone being NUMBER 1 in the world this time last year.Recommend

  • sanch

    why its just the numbers?? its the extra ordinary shot making that made him the greatestRecommend

  • John

    Nadal has atleast 2 wins on each surface grass, hard and clay.

    Only Wilander has done this before..and not FedererRecommend

  • river

    if your life depended on a tennis match, which player will you pick in all of history to play on your behalf??? and i would choose nadal over any other player in history… and it tells something about who might be the greatest player ever in the history of its game… at the end, tennis is about winning matches …. and who wins against the toughest of opponents.. periodRecommend

  • ted

    Fed has more records partly due to the fact that he has played more matches than anyone else and thus had more chances to “win”. According to Wik, he has played 1123 matches vs 769 to Nadal. That is 46% more matches- a really big difference. So to compare the two at this stage of the game will bias in favor of Roger of course. Fed’s consistency is second to none – no doubt – but to say he is far superior due to certain records is unfair. That’s cherry picking stats to favor one player over another. To many critics Rafa has done enough to fuel the GOAT debate. Tennis IS a one vs one game (singles) so H2H does matter. This is not basketball, or even golf. Your game is directly affected by the person across the net and the GOAT designation implies that you can defeat the person more times than he beat yous ( ie- have a + record against him). Roger has not done this. He has losing record against Nadal and Murray. The Slam Count is the measuring stick because they are so hard to win. But how about Masters Series? You are facing the best players there too and Rafa has achieved more there. If you really want to compare, look at %. Rafa has a greater winning %, GS conversion rate. He has also dominated the Slams at his very best – twice Rafa has not dropped a set at the French and dropped only one set at the US Open in the final in 2010 (broken 5 times) and conceded two sets (broken 4 times) – which are Open records. The only other player to come surpass this is Borg (won 3 slams with dropping a set). So, when Nadal is at his best, I believe he is better than Roger at his prime. And that should be an important measure of GOAT.Recommend

  • Nimit

    When Federer was in his prime , Nadal was an evolving player and mainly a clay court player and still he was #2. That shows there was not much competition back then and Federer was the one who benefitted most of it. He is a great player but certainly not the greatest.
    The fact that you say that Nadal was nowehere to be seen, same can be said for Federer since 2010, when Nadal was in his prime. Nadal has to face Djokovic and Murray of similar age in his prime but all Federer had to face was a teenager Nadal who was evolving on hard and grass courts.There is not even a single name who is a worthy contender in Federer’s years ( 2004-2007) which is considerer even close to legendary status. Roddick and Hewitt are no Rafa/Djokovic/ Murray by any means. Just 1/2 slam wonders and any member of the Big Four would have dismantled them.
    consider the quality if GS finals in that time , all one-sided with the likes of Baghdatis making to the finals. Is it possible in today’s scenario ?? Absoulutely not. And Nadal is still winning GS fighting off against the likes of Djokovics and Murrays and Federers.
    I would like to repeat that Federer’s game is most eye-catching , but that doesn’t make him the GOAT. Nadal defeated Federer in WImbledon Final (Grass) and AO Final ( hard court) . That makes 2 courts . Federer could not defeat Nadal on one ( clay).
    I can also think of more arguements to detroyyour point , but I am also fed up of repeating them.Recommend

  • Nimit

    Why is it that Rafa has to be proved guilty of winning the FO consistently ? Why remove French Open ?? There are 3 GS outside of FO and still Rafa is the third highest on the list says that he has done something remarkably well.
    You want to say Rafa a clay -courter, go on , it only magnifies his acheivements being a clay court speciaist.
    1. YOUNGEST to complete career slam.
    2. ONLY PLAYER to win GS on 3 different surfaces in a year , something even Federer could not do in his prime with all the weak players.
    Since 2010, Rafa has been making most of the finals but can we see Federer ? No.
    In your words, Federer simply couldn’t make to that many GS finals when Rafa was there in 2010/11/12. If Federer is aging and you say that Nadal is younger, understand that When Federer was 25, Nadal was 20 and a teenager and an evolving player. So , it is the same as saying that Tomics and Jancowicz and Dimitov are nowhere to be seen these days when Nadal and Djokovic are making to the GS finals.

    Federer also won his Wimbledons on green clay only, so no point in bringing that up. Federer is a great player but NOT the greatest.Recommend

  • ted

    Yes, tennis is about matchups but part of it is figuring how to solve your opponent, regardless of tremendous topspin. Stating that Rafa’s h2h against Roger is disrespecting Rafa and putting Roger on a pedestal. Also your comment about when Fed was reaching finals in his prime – you are missing one key element here and that is the age difference. Fed in his prime, 24-27, would make Rafa 20 -22. So realistically Rafa who was not in his prime wouldn’t make major finals as consistently. Compare Roger at 22 – he did not win his first major until he was 22 (Wimbledon), and that was his first GS final. Rafa had won 4 majors by the same age and have been in 7 GS Finals. Just something to think about…Recommend

  • ted

    The majority of Masters Cup has been played on Indoor Hard, Rafa’s least successful surface. If it was played on clay or even Outdoor Hard, the stats would probably not be so heavily favored for Roger.Recommend

  • ted

    Roger takes the ball earlier (or on the rise), Rafa hits the ball later (bigger swing with extreme grip to generate topspin). That is the main difference in their play. They both can play all the shots.Recommend

  • Pappu

    Roger Federer is the best.Recommend

  • wia

    What about at the end of year championships, indoors, against the top 8 in the world,no easy matches, when everyone is tired & has a niggly injury, when you know as a player its your skill set that’s got to get you through, not just your fitness & grit. would you really bet your life? if you are going to do that then you have to trust the player your betting your life on to be at least one of the best of all time in all facets of the game of tennis.period. So to sum it up, we are all entitled to our opinion but please lets talk some sense, & if you don’t believe me ask Nadal, Djokovic, Samprass, Borg, Laver, McEnroe ..etc, whos the best all round tennis player everRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    So what was Rafa doing competing with Fed in his prime (being more experienced) and beating him again and again and again and again on his own turf ? Age doesnt matter in sports, if he is so bothered abt age he can retire, no one is forcing him 2 play u c :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Seems u forgot who was crying in AO 2009 final and also in the pic above ? :P Lol Btw talking about effort just go n watch, what Djokovic Nadal Murray has done for their respective countries in Davis Cups and Olympics, Rafa played consecutive 5 setters in AO 2009 and beat Roger in the final, there are many more instances, fact is Roger was not mentally prepared to put everything on the line to win a gold for his country cz for him it doesnt matter, all he cares about is wearing shallow jackets with 15 on the back :)Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    No one bothers who is the second best player, what matters is what u win. And the FACT remains he hasnt won more than 1 GS on 3 different surfaces which Rafa has already done, so much for his dominance on grass and hard courts : PRecommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Lol y compare without French Opens ? Since when did that become a criteria ? Btw, Rafa has won at least 2 Grand Slams on 3 different surfaces – grass, hard and clay. Roger has not even done that, Rafa is also the youngest player ever to win the career grand slam. Also he is the only player in history to have won Grand Slams on 3 different surfaces in a single year !! So much for Federer’s completeness : P LolRecommend

  • thor007

    feds the best or else nadal would have been ranked number one for all those years. The Fed probably lets nadal beat him so that he appears somewhat human.Recommend

  • Rita

    Roger has represented his county at the Davis Cup 22 times, has been participating since 1999 and has recently been given the Davis Cup award for his commitment to the tournament. I don’t quite know how you judge whether or not he represents his country with conviction though. In terms of individual matches within the tournament (which is the only way you can compare two players) he has won 32 matches compared to Nadal’s 24, and 11 doubles compared to Nadal’s 3. Of course he has played more Davis Cup tournaments than Nadal – 22 as opposed to 16, but even if you take away 6 tournaments he would still be 2 matches ahead in singles.Recommend

  • Rita

    Of course it’s ridiculous to talk about a GOAT because however you chew up and spit out the statistics you cannot make a comparison. For me, given a Roger and Rafa of the same age, with the same training, using the same racquet technology and whatever else you can throw into the equation – I’d put my money on Roger, because of his athleticism and endurance, and the intelligence with which he plays. I’d also choose to watch Roger play any day over Rafa. But maybe the final word should go to Uncle Toni who recently said best teach your children to play like Rafa – because no one can play like Roger :)Recommend

  • river

    in any surface i am talking about.. grass, hard and clay( he has won titles everwhere)… anyway everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.. but for me it will be nadal..Recommend

  • Michael

    Crap!Recommend

  • Michael

    Utter crap again!Recommend

  • Putoney

    Really another pointless article – when Federer started winning, some courts were slow, others extremely fast, you had to serve volley, you had to change your style of play to compete on all surfaces. Since 2005-6, the courts are changed so that clay court players could compete on grass and hard surfaces…. enter Nadal.. as Becker said ‘ the only player who would stand a chance of winning in my era is Federer’.. says it all really.
    For the record, Borg never played in Australia, Connors played twice in Australia and did not play in Paris for the 5 years he was no1. McEnroe did not play in Australia and did not play in Paris during his peak… the parameter have changed so the number of grand slam is not an accurate measure.Recommend

  • Michael

    Rodge, if you have 1 year to 18 months left at the top of tennis then your main objective has to be to address the Nadal HtH. We all know that you have the greater range of shots. What I do admire about Nadal though is his ability to learn from his defeats, and let’s face it, some of them a couple of years back were heavy and humiliating, particularly against Djok. I honestly thought Djok had so dismantled Nadal’s game that it would be hard for him to come back. Let’s face it Djok did the same in the French semi and the USA final this year, particularly when breaking the Nadal service 4 times in a row. But Djok’s not the same as he was 2 years ago and doesn’t have the mental or physical edge at the moment to finish a job off. Djok looked completely knackered against Del Potro in Wimbledon semi. No surprise Murray won the final. What you have to do Rodge is to stop pounding baseline shot for baseline shot with Nadal, thinking you’re going to come out on top simply because you’re ‘Rodge the great’. You have to be more cunning. You must know what Nadal’s weaknesses are, and really go for them. Recommend

  • omer purdue

    Is Sibtain Naqvi the greatest sports commentators of our time?…..the answer is a resounding YESSS!!Recommend

  • Kiran

    This is a very biased unbalanced article. Nadal is the greatest of all time on clay no question but on hard/grass, there’s no argument that Federer is vastly superior (16 slams vs 5). Despite having a poor head to head record, for the majority of Federer’s 237 week run at the top, Nadal was a grand slam champion unable to match his rival’s consistency. I’d also argue the validity of some of your other points. Nadal won Olympic singles gold but Federer has a silver plus a gold from Beijing in the doubles. The Olympics don’t have the same prestige as the slams anyway. Similarly, you have failed to mention the record 6 world tour final titles on Federer’s CV which Nadal is yet to have won. The depth of the Spanish Davis Cup team is primarily the reason for their success. Switzerland have never been more than a 2 man team and over his career, Federer has shown little interest in the competition. I don’t blame him either for prioritizing GS success given the strain Davis Cup adds to player’s schedules.Recommend

  • Master

    The doubles comment doesn’t make sense, but the conclusion is correct, regardless.

    The single biggest mistake Fed fans make is what accountants call double counting: the man won 11 slams in a very weak 4-year window (Hewitt, Roddick & Agassi way over 30), clearly this affects most other ‘records’: weeks @ no1, consistency, win %, etc. Adding these records is double/triple/etc counting the same achievement: 11 slams in a (weak) 4 year window. Still, corrected for age Nadal is ahead, while playing the toughest competitors (in a historic context!). Fed is an all-time great, but nowhere near the GOAT. Incidentally, name me one GOAT in any sport who has a losing record IN HIS PRIME against his main rival? Impossible.
    Nadal beat Fed in his prime on all three surfaces in slam finals…Recommend

  • Master

    Most of Fed’s records are ground in a very weak 4-year window. Before 2002 he could not even get past the QF of any GS with Pete & Andre already past 30. And since end 2007, in the golden era with Nadal, Djoker & Murray coming of age (still only 20-22) he could not dominate and was owned by Nadal on all surfaces. Yes, even grass: Nadal beat him in 08, could not defend in 09 (injury, Fed won), yet won again in 10 and reached the final in 11 (with Fed in the draw). And reg. ‘lower people’, look at his H2H against the whole top 100, his records are far stronger than Fed’s, as is his winning %, plus he won the same amount of slams (13) at the same age, yet played a far stonger field, played less slams (hence higher winning avg) and had another few he had to pull out of injuredRecommend

  • Nicholas Amuyedo

    Between 2005 – 2008, Federer was by far the second best player on clay, while Nadal was far better than anyone else has ever been on clay. Nadal is likely to win more slams than Federer, and more Masters. But only those who understand the game and look beyond the number will see a different story. Like we’ve said Federer 1 FO crown to Nadal’s 8 FO crowns (+ more to come) supports my story. Nadal beat Federer on 5 of those 8 FO finals. Secondly, the majority of those Master’s won by Rafa would be on clay, the majority of those finals he would have beaten Federer. The picture is quite clear on clay, we all know whose boss!! We move to grass. We all know that grass was Roger’s best surface, he won 7 Wimbledons, beating Rafa on two occasions and losing on one occasion. There are no Master’s played on grass, but given the number of times Roger did the Halle-Wimbledon double, we can be sure he’ll have lots of grass Master’s if they did exist. But in summary, Roger is the better grass court player with 7 Wimbledons v Rafa’s 2 crowns. Then we get to hard courts, we bring in a third person. Roger has 4 AO crowns, 5 USO crowns, Novak has 4 AO crowns, 1 USO crowns, Rafa has 1 AO crown, 2 USO crowns. So Rafa is the third best of the current crop.

    Give credit where its due, if you think critically and put things into perspective Roger has been the greatest player of all time. Rafa, is more than a clay court bully, he’s diverse. But outside of the clay court, he doesn’t come close to Roger. In fact, outside of clay, Novak has the next best record of the current crop. Rafa’s has been great at using a good clay court season as an effective springboard onto bigger and better things. Playing on clay gives him enormous confidence, but it’s even hard to say Rafa has been the dominant player of his era. Roger has been pretty much the number ranked player until he didn’t care any more.

    I won’t even talk about his style of play because everyone has their tastes. But when you look at the numbers qualitatively Roger is the greatest of all time. Apart from on clay, he has better record on all surfaces, and he was by a country mile the second best on clay. Has been at the longest at the no. 1 spot.Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Haha go and check McEnroe and Borg’s statements on Nadal being the best problem solver and innovator coz of bringing in the new SHOTs, everybody uses topspin but nobody cud make it into a WEAPON !!Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Won 32 and lost 7 means lost all critical matches, even Pete went to Russia and won on clay, Rafa has lost just one Davis Cup singles match ever !! Thats what I mean by CONVICTION, I mean he has lost to players in Davis Cups he had beaten the same year in GS and ATP Tournaments, it shud b the reverse if he had represented his country with any CONVICTIONRecommend

  • Jesus Serene

    What is funny about this article is that even Nadal’s name doesn’t sell
    much. You put the headline is Federer really the Greatest? Rather than
    putting like Nadal is the greatest. Which you unsuccessfully tried to
    prove. You know why you couldn’t write that way because that is what it
    is. Nadal is not the GOAT Federer is. Lol @ Priyanka just ignoring everything and going gaga about Rafa…I guess that you are in love….:)Recommend

  • Jagoop

    Little significance in doubles he won a gold medal with compatriot wawrinka in the 2008 olympicsRecommend

  • shabbie

    Most successful in some areas. Other tennis players are more successful in other areas. How many CYGSs does Federer have? Has Federer ever won slams on three different surfaces in one year? Does Federer have the most tournament wins of anyone? Has Federer won a slam for nine consecutive years? Who has the most year end #1’s? Who has the most Masters 1000 wins?

    Absolutely no doubt that Federer has been insanely successful. Most successful? No.Recommend

  • shabbie

    And how many of those tournaments did he play after 2005?Recommend

  • shabbie

    Fed fans, please analyze Roger when he was 18-23, the age when you seem to think Rafa should have been competing for all the slams that Roger won.Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    @Rohit Obvioiusly there ll be many ppl who ll still love Roger (including myself) but loving a sportsman and being the greatest of all time in a sport are totally different … when judging a player as the greatest of all time, only his tournament results and ability to conclusively beat every other player on every surface should count, I can concede till now Roger is slightly ahead cz of his 17 slams, but as an allround record on all surfaces and record against peers Rafa is ahead, lets wait for another 4 years when both these guys careers r gonna b over, the final judgement can be passed then, but Rafa with his victories for the country + GS on different surfaces + beating Roger on all 3 surfaces is mighty close, 2 years ago no one would have even had this thought that Rafa CAN be the greatest, but now the opinion of majority of NEUTRALS has tilted towards Rafa, that says a great deal about his accomplishments, but 2b brutally honest, Roger’s abysmal record against Rafa on ALL SURFACES won’t ever let him have the greatest of all time title unanimously whereas if Rafa wins 2/3 more slams, then even statistically there won’t be any way to deny Rafa’s supremacy !!Recommend

  • Ben

    You know everybody has their own opinions on GOAT debate. Nadal has some stuff on Federer but Federer has some stuff on Nadal. One of the things that annoy the shit out of me is when people talk about Rafa having Davis Cup on Rog. First of all, great for Rafa, seriously that is an awesome accomplishment to be a part of. BUT, it was not Rafa winning Davis Cup, it was Spain winning it! If Federer just happened to be representing Spain instead of Switzerland, are you telling me he wouldn’t have just as many???? And that’s not being biased. Fed won a gold medal in doubles, which is pretty cool, BUT it was a TEAM effort with Wawrinka, so I never use that against Rafa.

    And another thing, nobody ever talks about the WTF, the biggest tournament outside of the four slams. Fed has won it a record six times and Rafa has never. But when it is all said and done, I think they can actually share the GOAT title if possible.

    Roger has 17 slams, most consecutive weeks at number 1, most overall weeks at number 1, most slam finals, most consecutive slam finals, semis, and quarters, 21 masters, six WTF, Olympic silver and overall 77 career titles. Rafa has 13 slams, 26 masters, 102 weeks at number 1, Olympic Gold, 0 WTF and overall 60 titles.

    In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, Federer is still the GOAT. I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years though with Rafa.Recommend

  • Azmaira

    great piece, a really astute observation on the King of Tennis of the early 2000s. Loved your article!Recommend

  • Amarfederer

    Yes!!!!Federer is the Greatest of All time :)Nadal plays only baseline with having little skills But Federer plays all types of shots including DROP,SLICE,SINGLE HANDED BIGGEST FOREHAND,CORNERS AND BASELINE too!!!!!!Nadal winning secret against Federer is only because Federer cant handle his High spinning single handed backhand suppose if Federer handles it the 2:1 theory will definately reverse!!!!!!I have one simple question DID NADAL ever played a SUCCESSFULL LEGSHOT LIKE FEDERER as he did in 2009 US OPEN semifinal against Djokovic??????????Recommend

  • Amarfederer

    Yes that’s true :)Recommend

  • Aditya

    Priyanka tell me one thing can u see medal winning ….Wimbledon 7 tym; us open 5 tyms and a us open 4 tyms….Recommend

  • Anik

    rafa pest here !!..beware!!… ;)Recommend

  • oona

    Rafa never beated Fed on his own turf (grass) until 2008 when Fed was on his way down.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/altaf.afroze Altaf Afroze

    Why Nadal Is The Greatest Tennis Player Ever.

    Head to head record: Fed fans often claim that head-to-head record is NOT important. But this can’t be true — especially when the head-to-head record involves over 30 matches, including 10 Grand Slams and numerous Master 1000 events. Unlike team sports, tennis is a one-on-one game. So if you are suppose to be the “Greatest of All Time” then you need win more than 50% of your matches against your greatest rival — you need to win when it matters most. To date, Nadal has won aprox. 70% of his matches against Federer. Furthermore, Nadal has won 80% of his matches against Fed. during the all important grand slam events — it includes winning 2 of 2 matches on the grand slam hard courts. Isn’t hard court suppose to be Federer’s preferred court ? So why was the “Greatest Player of All Time” NOT able to beat Nadal during the 2009 Australian Open even though Fed had one extra day’s rest and Nadal having just completed a semi final on a record 5 hour match against Verdasco ? Going into that 2009 GS, Federer was heavily favored to win the match — but it wasn’t to be because it was against the true Greatest Player of All Time :-)

    Possible Explanation of Nadal’s H2H Domination: One of the often sited explanation of Nadal’s domination over Federer is that the majority of Nadal’s wins were on clay and that Nadal didn’t make it deep into hard court tournaments to play against Federer and had he done so, majority of the matches would have been won by Federer. If we look at this hypothetical argument closely, Nadal will still be ahead of Federer on H2H record and Federer would have had fewer Grand Slams and Nadal more. Here is how: lets say that Nadal and Fed. would have met 6 more times during Grand Slam Finals at US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon. Since Nadal has a 100% winning record in Grand Slam hard courts against Federer and since Nadal has beaten Federer during the 2008 Wimbledon final, Nadal would have likely won at least 2 Grand Slam finals out of 6 against Federer — therefore, if we play out this hypothetical scenario, you would have Nadal with 15 Grand Slams and Federer also with 15 and Nadal would still have a very good head to head record against Federer since Nadal’s current real H2H record against Fed. is 21-10 (hard court record against Fed. is 7-6).

    Level Playing Field: another more interesting and more valid hypothetical scenario is as follows: imagine if you will, there were 6 clay court Master 1000 events and only 3 hard court events. You can for sure bet that all the Federer fans would dismiss Nadal’s advantage of record 26 Master 1000 titles to Federer’s 21 titles since there would be twice as many clay courts than hard courts. But the fact is the opposite: there are 6 hard court Master 1000 events and 3 clay court events. Since hard court is Federer preferred court, why does he NOT have twice as many Master 1000 titles when compared to Nadal ? Now lets take this thinking to Grand Slams. There are three times more grand slams on Fed’s preferred fast courts of grass and hard court. Historically, players good in hard court are also good in grass but not good in clay in part because both hard courts and grass courts are fast courts. Imagine if we have a level playing field for grand slams: two grass and two clay Grand Slams. You would see Fed with around 16 Grand Slams and Nadal with around 20 Grand Slams. The clear confirming factors are Nadal’s head-to-head domination over Federer and Nadal’s mastery on the Master 1000 tournaments with a record 26 titles even though only 33% of these events are on Nadal’s preferred surface of clay !

    Finally, the 2008 Wimbledon Grass Court Grand Slam is considered by most to be the Great Tennis Match Ever — and who won this greatest tennis match ever ? Of course, none other than the Greatest Tennis Player Ever — Rafa Nadal !! :-)Recommend

  • Imran

    Can u tell when Fed make Rafa cry? Stupid comment..Recommend

  • Maxwell Pinto

    Nadal has a winning H2H against Fed for a few reasons:

    1. He peaked earlier, but was not consistent enough to get to more finals and face Fed at Fed’s peak

    2. He is the GOAT on clay, which is slower than grass and hard courts, and where his top spin shots cause the ball to rise very high, thus making it difficult for players who are less than 6ft. 4 inches in height, because they have to keep on jumping to hit the ball hard, especially in sunny weather. The top spin is also very effective during the second week of Wimbledon, when the grass is somewhat worn out.

    3. He took advantage of Fed’s mononucleosis year, i.e., 2008, and Fed returned the favour in 2009. To say that Fed has not beaten Nadal at the French Open is irrelevant, because Fed beat the man who beat Nadal in 2009.

    Rosewall had a winning H2H against Laver until Rosewall grew much older. Does that undermine Laver’s greatness?

    Fed has reached at least 5 slam finals on each slam surface and dominated for almost 6 years (302 weeks, 237 of them being consecutive, i.e., consistency). Nadal has dominated for 2 years and may dominate for several more months, if the Djoker slips up. Let’s forget about Murray, Delpo, etc., and other younger players. Let’s also forget about year-end ATP titles, Masters titles, etc. As for gold medals, Agassi has one, but Lendl does not, so let’s forget about gold medals. Let’s even forget about Nadal’s performance at Wimbledon in 2012 and 2013. Since when were Davis Cup victories as important as McEnroe mentioned a few months ago, given that Davis cup victories depend upon TEAM performance?

    Nadal is great, but not quite as great as his (biased) H2H against Fed shows. His record at the French Open and Wimby is great, but let’s not forget that the French Open is the 3rd ranked grand slam, in terms of prestige, i.e., an MBA from a good university in (say) a third world country, may be a good MBA, but it is not as highly respected as an MBA from Harvard University, USA.

    In conclusion, if Nadal wins 17 slams, including 3 US Opens and 2 Aussie Opens, and dominates for at least 200 weeks, he may be considered the GOAT.

    So who is the GOAT? Laver? Borg? Federer? Nadal? (Sampras was relatively unsuccessful on clay.)

    Who knows?Recommend

  • BigBord

    Dear Sibtain, He is the GOAT, others can be goats, for now for sure and highly likely forever…Recommend

  • Priyanka Roy

    Doesnt matter really, he has already displayed his supremacy over Roger on all surfaces, so doesnt matter how many Roger won on those surfaces beating insignificant players, all of Rafa’s majority titles have come against players with 5+ GS whereas Roger’s majority is against 1/2 Slam wonders !!Recommend