In a pivotal moment in his career, world number 2 Rafael Nadal’s triumph at the French Open proves he has the goods to potentially rival Roger Federer for the title of the world’s greatest tennis player.
Defeating Djokovic last weekend at Roland Garros didn’t just give Nadal another Grand Slam win; it also gave him his record-setting seventh French Open title, confirming his position as the greatest clay court player in the world. With a total of 11 Grand Slam titles to his name, Nadal has been elevated to joining the ranks of Pete Sampras, Rod Laver and Federer himself as the open era players with the greatest number of Grand Slam wins.
As always with Nadal, however, it’s not necessarily the matches and titles that he wins that are indicative of his potential greatness, but the players that he is beating in order to win them. For the first half of his career Nadal was defined by the intense matches and showdowns against long-term rival Roger Federer, but as Federer begins to slow down Nadal’s long-term success is likely to be measured against his ability to take down current world number 1 Djokovic.
Still aged just 26 Nadal has the athleticism and stamina to outlast Federer on the tennis courts, as well as enough of a difficult game to give Djokovic the toughest matches of his career even if they don’t necessarily equate to wins against the Serb. Although the Swiss tennis ace and the world number 1 have won more finals than Nadal, when comparing career matches Nadal tops both Federer (18 against Federer’s ten) and Djokovic (19 against Djokovic’s 14) for the total amount of wins.
Nadal may not have the beautiful footwork and agility that Federer constantly displays on court, but he is a tough and hardy tennis player whose main focus is to win. As unstoppable as Djokovic has been over the past 12 months, and as difficult as Federer is to stop even at the closing years of his career, Rafael Nadal has been the man to stop them both. His recent clay court triumphs shows that he has the drive and determination to keep stopping them and potentially change records in the tennis history books.