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Nick Ogren
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To tennis express: I haven't read all of the posts submitted here, but nothing I have read or, at least that I have written, would suggest that "it is an absolute must that for a player to be considered the GOAT he has to have a positive H2H with every player in his generation." (Look at my post from 11:00am specificially). H2H itself is not an end-all-be-all. But in specifically Rafa & Fed's case it is a factor in determining their respective legacies. How unique for us as fans that two of the arguably greatest players ever (up there w/Laver, Sampras, Borg, P Gonzo - you name it)have played within the same era, albeit they may be techinically from different generations due to the 5 yr gap in age. Fed is arguably the most "accomplished player" of the Open Era, and he has received his recognition for that. There has always been and probably will always be this subjective "GOAT" debate amongst fans for years to come. Ten years from now, we may be talking about someone else entirely new to enter that conversation. People can believe what-ever they want, but "Rafa factor" is a valid argument against those who openly annoint Fed as the "best" or "greatest" player of all-time.
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*** excuse me, Nadal has won 6 of 8 (not 6 of 5) GS matches, excuse the typo
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Nadal is now 14-7. That's 2 out of 3 matches. We can both agree that Nadal is now a better player than when he was 17-19. During that time though, a "pre-prime" (for lack of a better word) Nadal was 6-3 against against Federer during (arguably) his 3 most dominant years on tour. (Keep in mind I said "dominant" which does not necessarily mean "best," but whatever) The ration is the same, that is, 2:1 or 2 out of every 3 matches. Thus, at there respective peaks, the H2H numbers are not really any different. I don't think Fed is a good matchup against Nadal at any stage of his career. If anything, it's a credit to Nadal that he has had so much success against Federer during Fed's peak years. The "generational" argument only works against Fed. As for the H2H, I cannot emphasize enough that it's not merely the 14-7 overall record itself that is so important, but rather it is the fact that Nadal has had so much success in the really important (ie grand slam) matches that is meaningful. 25 years from now... those are the matches that everyone will remember. And Nadal has won 6 of 5 overall, and 5 of 7 in GS finals. As such, I keep saying that it is the "product" of the rivalry that matters, and up to this point, Nadal has an overwhelming edge in the outcome of this rivalry, regardless of how competitive many of their matches have been. This is different from say Fed-Murray. Murray leads 8-5, and as such, it is a bad matchup for Fed. But this rivalry is not as clear cut as Fed-Nadal. Murray and Fed only played twice before the 2008 season. I believe that have contested all of their matches only on hardcourts. But more importantly, Fed is 2-0 in their grand slam finals matches. As such, I would argue that the product of their rivalry was no more significant to Fed's legacy, than say, Krajicek was to Sampras's. I understand your point about H2H in general, so this is a perfect example where the H2H carries a lot less weight. Regarding your comments about Rafa's 2005 season... Even though he racked up the titles, that was far from his best year. His title count was inflated with wins at Costa Do Sauipe, Acapulco, Barcelona, Bstaad, Stuggart. Even though he scored 2 important MS1000 titles on hardcourts that year, he performed very poorly at the majors outside of FO. He was labeled primarily a clay-court specialist then, and unfortunately for him, I don't think he completely shed that label by all of his critics until he won AO in 2009. Rafa was 18 going on 19 that year, and as of today, his game has evolved substantially. Fed was number 1 in the world for so long because he was dominant on all surfaces against other players not named Nadal. He was #1 starting in 2004 as a 22 year old. He was always a top talent and I remember his name being bounced around for years, but he did not have the success as a teenager like Rafa. He showed his promise when he took out Sampras at Wimbledon, but in some ways, he was a late bloomer (at least compared to guys like Borg, Becker, Sampras, and Nadal). The reason Nadal is number one now because he is proficient on all surfaces. Nadal has always been (almost) unbeatable on clay, but you can win all the clay court tournaments in the world, but that won't necessarily take you to the top.
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To Ivo (11:24pm): Regarding the age difference, statistically we can agree that Fed's 3 most dominant years was btw 2004-06. In that span, I believe his overall record was something like 247-15 (~94.3%). He was roughly 22-25 yrs during that time span. This was easily the most dominant 3 year span in the Open Era. Only Borg comes closes to such numbers. But to analyze these numbers another way: Fed was 244-9 (96.4%) in that time against the rest of the field and 3-6 against Nadal. Nadal was roughly 17-19 during those 3 years. Of those 9 matches, Rafa won all 4 on clay, was 2-2 on hardcourts, and lost their lone grass court encounter in his first Wimbledon final as a 20 yr old in 4 sets. Now, granted... different players peak at different times. But Rafa turned 22 around the FO finals in 2008. So if we extrapolate this time frame to Rafa... we're talking FO 2008-FO 2011. How many times have they played since the 2008 FO final? 4 times. In that span, Rafa is 3-1. My point is: After both of their careers have concluded, the age difference will be a factor when we analyze this historical rivalry. As it stands today, the argument can be made that Federer has benefited from playing the majority of his matches during his prime years against a "pre-prime = teenage) Nadal who, in retrospect, was just learning to play on surfaces other than clay. And just because Fed's most dominant years were 2004-06, that does not mean he was "washed up" at say ages 27-28 (2008 - 2009). After all, he made 7 grand slam finals in those two years, winning 3 of them. If anything, I think it is more telling that a "pre-prime" had Fed's number (6-3) during a span when Fed was averaging only 5 losses a season. These two guys aren't done yet, but IF there careers ended today.... clearly, the trend is that the ceiling for Federer has always been Nadal, whereas the ceiling for Nadal has always been his health, his body (the knees), as evidence by 2009. For those Rafa fanatics out there, it is impossible to argue that Nadal is the best ever now b/c it's simply a hypothetical at this point. Rog has five years on him (and a lot of winning in those 5 years). But they can argue for those who blindly claim that Federer is "the best ever" that there is an asterisk by this subjective "GOAT" title. Certainly, Fed is the most accomplished player of the Open Era, but how can you say he is "the best" when you take into account the product (not necessarily the H2H record itself) of their rivalry into account. At all stages (teenager, pre-prime, prime) of his career, Nadal has routinely bested Federer, not just overall but on the biggest stages as his 6-2 GS edge indicates. To say, for instance, that a 26 yr old Federer would have beaten a 21 year old Nadal in the 2007 US Open is subjective, arbitrary and is merely a hypothetical. The numbers certainly did not indicate, as they were 2-2 on hard courts at that time. Another question (perhaps a better question) would be: operating under the assumption that Fed is the best ever, why couldn't he take a match off a "pre-prime" Rafa on clay at the French? He had 4 attempts after all. In far fewer chances, Rafa got the job done against Fed at Wimbledon and AO.
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Ivo: I understand what you are saying, and ultimately we will never know for sure because that is a hypothetical. How many slams would laver have won if he had not turned professional in 1963? But then again, how many of those 6 amateur slam wins would Laver have lost had guys P. Gonzalez, Ken Rosewall, and Lew Hoad (guys that owned him during his first couple of pro seasons) been able to compete against him on the amateur circuit??? How many slams would Borg have won if he played the Aussie Open... or didn't quit at age 26? The point is... we can only judge what has happened. Federer and Nadal are separated by 5 years. A "pre-prime" Nadal simply did not have the game to consistently meet a "prime" Federer at the end of hard court tournaments as a teenager. If their earliest matches are any indication, it would certainly not be as lop-sided as some might suggest. Currently, they are 3-3 on hard courts overall. Fed had 4 opportunities to take Nadal out at the French, but Rafa held his own. In turn, he made the most of his opportunities off of clay, scoring grand slam victories on 3 different surfaces against Fed. And that's the reality... that's all we can judge.
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Mike - read what I wrote: "Either way, it (the injury argument) is a red herring..." I was simply illustrating how it might go both ways. But either way, the argument is irrelevant. There is no way to objectively dispute the results of this rivalry. But to answer your question (9:56pm): 3 of their first 4 matches were contested on hard courts. Aged 17-19 yr old, Nadal was 3-1 overall overall during this stretch, winning 2 of the 3 hard court encounters. The one hard court match he did lose was a 5 set match in Miami. So... I guess the answer to your question is "1" They played one clay court match early on.
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To Antoinette (7:55pm): Wow... just wow. Clearly, you are one of those crazy Fed fanatics. I like the guy too, but those comments regarding his rivalry with Nadal are not only way off base but are also kind of pathetic and desperate... at least to anyone not in love with Federer. Fed discloses that he had a mild form of mono over the winter of '07/'08 that affected him during his AO run, and now this minor setback is supposed to explain his results for the entire 2008 year. Fed must have really been hurting during the clay-court season when he went 21-1 against players not named Nadal. Oh yeah, then he won Halle AND made it to the finals of Wimbledon without losing a set. Oh, but he suddenly pulled it together for the US Open right??? Another problem with this irrational logic is that it opens pandora's box. It's a slippery slope. Anyone hung up on Nadal could counter that he was physically shot at the end of 2007, suffering through tendinitis that killed his USO run. And his only loss to Fed after that 2007 match (Madrid '09) can be explained by fatigue from the 4+ hr SF marathon contested against Djokovic 18 hrs earlier. Oh, and in 2007 Wimbledon final, I do remember Nadal tweaking his knee up 4-0 in the 4th set, leading to an injury timeout & loss of momentum in that match. Bottom line: the injury argument goes both ways, but EITHER way, it is a red herring and does not explain why Nadal has routinely bested Fed ever since he was a 17 yr old in 2004. Nadal is 14-7 overall, 6-2 in grand slams, and 5-2 in GS finals. Fed, in his best 3 years on tour (2004-06) - the most dominant 3 year statistical stretch in Open Era, was still 3-6 to a "pre-prime" Nadal. In the end, there is no excuse for the product of the rivalry. It's simply a bad matchup for Fed.
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Oct 21, 2010