Why Rafa is the GOAT

As Rafael Nadal goes on increasing his tally of Grand Slams, he is leaving little doubt in anyone’s mind about his GOAT credentials. Assuming that his career is not cut short due to injury, here is why Nadal will in all probability end up as the greatest player to ever pick up a racket. In fact, many of his fans might say that if he doesn’t play another match, he has a legitimate shot at GOAThood.

Most of Nadal’s critics tend to look at the high percentage of French Opens in his Grand Slam tally as proof that he is very good on one surface and just good on the others. Looking at this in another light, the man has won an incredible eight French Opens. No other player has EVER won a Grand Slam eight times! Imagine him adding a couple more of French Opens to his credit before he retires and finishing with ten slams. Also consider the fact that he was won Monte Carlo eight times in a row. No one else has ever won a tournament eight times in a row. Consider these facts again, for they are staggering. On his favoured surface, he was won a Grand Slam more times than anyone else has won on any other surface and won a masters tournament more times in a row than anyone else has ever won any tournament in a row. Clearly, playing Nadal on clay is the toughest test there has ever been in tennis (as Federer has found time and again). On his favourite surface, a GOAT has to be the best there has ever been on any surface. Nadal is clearly the best ever player there has ever been on his chosen surface (better than the best hard court player on hard courts or the best grass player on grass or the best indoors player on indoors). This one fact gives him a very strong claim to being the GOAT.

But is that all there is to him? Well, not by a long way. It is interesting how throughout his career the Spaniard has risen to whatever challenge was thrown at him. Federer on grass? No problem! He lost to Federer in 4 sets in Wimbledon 2006, narrowly lost to him again in a thriller in 2007 and beat him in probably the greatest match of all time in 2008. That is visible improvement from one year to the other, unlike Federer who after years of trying just could not find a way to beat Nadal on clay at the French Open.

After the 2008 win at Wimbledon, the question was whether Nadal could win on hard courts. Once he won the Australian open in 2009, there was little doubt that he would add more to his hard court collection. Predictably, he went on to win the US Open in 2010. Still, his detractors were not satisfied, particularly when Djokovic had a dream year in 2011. Nadal kept plugging away at Djokovic eventually winning yet another US Open this year. Clearly, more than any other sports person there has ever been, this is a guy who you write off at your own peril. He will  overcome what looks insurmountable time and again.

Now that Nadal has proven his all surface ability beyond any doubt in addition to being the best single surface player of all time, what else does he need to achieve? It would be nice if he adds more weeks at #1, but this is really not a very important criterion. He overtook Federer as the best player in the world but was then unfortunate to run into Djokovic in prime form in 2011. Finishing as #1 is largely determined by the time you start playing. It is possible that if Federer had started playing in a more competitive era, he might not have been able to achieve so many weeks at #1.

Another thing in Nadal’s favour is the complete domination of all his contemporaries. There is no one who has played more than 10 matches with Nadal and has a winning head to head against him, a statistic which beggars belief. Compare this to Federer who has a losing head to head with both Murray and Nadal. This is an achievement of Nadal which often goes unnoticed.

Another reason why Nadal should be considered the GOAT is that he is a true trailblazer as far as his playing style is concerned. Be it the incredible topspin he imparts to the ball, his superlative court coverage and speed or his incredible fitness and stamina, he has inspired other players like Djokovic to join him in taking the sport to an entirely new level. This is in addition to his legendary fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude which is an inspiration to all tennis players.

In short, with his mounting grand slam tally, an unbelievable record on clay, a brilliant record on the other surfaces, complete domination of his rivals and the new standards he sets on the tennis court each day in terms of physical fitness and mental strength, the question should not be why Rafa is the GOAT, but why he isn’t. I can’t think of any reasons. I bet very few can.

58 thoughts on “Why Rafa is the GOAT

  1. There is a gap of 4 grandslams between him and Federer. I really don’t understand why Nadal can still be considered the GOAT!?!? What about Federer winning Wimbledon 7 times if Nadal has won French Open 8 times? And what about Federer’s US Open titles? And I seriously think Djokovic is the dark horse in this whole thing. Already on 6 grandslams half way through his career (if that). Give Djokovic a few more years and let us see what he does. Nadal fans really are running amok after Nadal won the US Open. I could see this coming,.

  2. Also, Djoker will almost certainly overtake Nadal in weeks at No. 1. Though, according to the author, this doesn’t matter??!!

    • I dont really understand that how can that factor does not matter when it clearly indicates the Domination of a particular player. How convenient of the author to ignore this factor, as another 200 weeks on top to achieve GOAT status looks impossible for the BULL.

  3. “Nadal fans really are running amok after Nadal won the US Open. I could see this coming,.”

    Really? I really thought they would concede Fed was GOAT and we would all sing “Kumbaya”!

  4. Seriously though, I heard this in 2010 and then Djokovic put a beat down so bad, Nadal fans were silent for 3 years. They are back at it again. To be the greatest, is it enough that you match on-court achievements? Even now, Roger is THE face of tennis. What have Rafa fans got to say about that?

  5. Jay K:

    Your posts are witty and informative at the same time! Thanks for posting and I am glad everyone can see the truth – Roger Federer is the GOAT and he shall remain so.

    Roger will have the last laugh in this whole thing. I am confident he will win 20 slams. [back in 2003 when he won his 1st slam at Wimbledon, I told friends of mine that Roger will win atleast 18 slams, since then I have upgraded it to 20 slams :)

  6. Pingback: Why Rafa is the GOAT | shaunabyrne648

  7. Here is a straightforward question. How many of you have played tennis? What level have you played at?
    I cannot imagine anyone who plays tennis and cannot appreciate the Genius of Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal is the greatest competitor in our sport. However Federer along with Laver and Borg are the Perfect tennis players. Yes they have deficiencies but it is hard to see them be as bad as Nadal is indoors or Sampras on clay.

    I have tremendous respect for both Nadal and Sampras but Federer, Laver and Borg [Andre you missed considering him] are the most perfect tennis players. When I advise my friends or their kids on their tennis, those are the 3 I refer to the most. Ofcourse I site Rafa’s mental strength too and how he never gives up and his training regime, but would I want them to play the knee-pounding game Nadal has embraced? I am sorry I know better.

    To be a fan you don’t have to live in denial and badmouth some of the greatest tennis players to have walked the earth. Try it, it IS possible to be fair to both Rafa and Roger.

  8. Weeks at no.1 and YEC are more important than masters titles or DC. This is a fairly established metric in the tennis world. Remember Lendl had 22 Masters abd 8 slams for a total off 30 big titles. Sampras with 11 masters and 14 slams still trumps him in the GOAT debate.

    What it tells us is that you can be a GOAT even if you have a bad record at French Open. If you do not win Wimbledon or you are inferior on Grass, you will pay a heavy price in the GOAT debate. Ask Lendl, Wilander.

    So Roger with 7 wimbledons to 2 from Rafa will be at an advantage even if Rafa wins 10 French Open to 1 French Open from Roger.

    The other Big Slam USO, even there Roger has a 5-2 lead.

    Do Rafa fans have anything substantial in this debate other than the H2H? Even there Lendl had a 24-14 H2H on Connors, but very few consider Lendl greater than Connors. If you are 5 years younger than another player you will most probably end up with a winning H2H unless the younger player is not really a good player. When all is said and done, Murray, Novak, will also join with a winning H2H over Federer. It is a credit to Roger that he beat two of those young guys back to back at the greatest tennis tournament in the world, even after he turned 30. Something Rafa, we can safely agree will not do. He cannot even beat Darcis/Rosol on grass, even when he is at his prime.

  9. Rafaisthebest and AD Tennis:

    Thank you for your wonderful comments. We look forward to more comments from tennis fans like you guys who want to share their views and knowledge with other posters.

    Please do comment and let us know any feedback you have for us.

    -Team of Sportz Cosmos

  10. Thank you for the welcome Sportz Cosmos.

    You guys are doing a great job with the site. I like your tennis articles and I am starting to get interested in your cricket articles too. I like Test Cricket more than 20-20, so I hope you guys can include some coverage of test cricket too.

  11. Thanks for the welcome!

    Rafaisthebest:

    “I have tremendous respect for both Nadal and Sampras but Federer, Laver and Borg [Andre you missed considering him] are the most perfect tennis players. When I advise my friends or their kids on their tennis, those are the 3 I refer to the most. ”

    Agreed. Sampras and Nadal have big loop holes – Sampras on clay and Nadal indoors!

    ID Fan:

    Who do you think is the GOAT?

  12. Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in our sport. How can anyone say winning Wimbledon is same as winning any other grand slam?

    Djokovic or Rafa fans may say that, but unfortunately, their favs say Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in Tennis.

    This is where Rafa’s journey goat hood hits rough waters. He has 2 slams at the Home of Tennis.

  13. Wimbledon is seen as the most prestigious of the 4 Majors. But does that mean it significantly out weighs the other 3 in terms of importance? I dont think it does. If it were so much more important or so much more grand than the others, then why isn’t that reflected in the points awarded, or prize money offered? The fact is, the 4 Majors, more or less, offer the same amount of prize money (with slight variations in the different currencies) and award the same points. So, while Wimbledon might be the favourite Grand Slam for sentimental reasons, simply because it was the first major Tennis Tournament, that doesn’t mean it is by far and away the most important.

  14. Teeg:

    Thank you for your comments. I am with AD Tennis. Wimbledon may not award more points, but everyone in the sporting world, not crazy tennis fans like you and me, give it more credibility than the other slams.

    By your logic, an Olympic gold is not as valuable as a Halle or 250 title because, ATP awards 750 points for a once in 4 year event, which equates to 187.5 points.

  15. To me, this is the GOAT list as of today:

    1. Laver 2. Federer 3. Sampras 4. Rosewall 5. Borg 6. Nadal

    I would also say Connors/Lendl are ahead of Nadal because they actually won their majors in a tougher era than this generation where a clay-courter like Rafa can run the loops around more talented fast court players like Djokovic because the ATP has slowed down their courts. They play 4 slams but 2 of them are on blue clay, 1 on green clay and 1 on red clay. $%^& you very much ITF/ATP!

    • So by this nonsensical logic, Roger is a clay court specialist as well, seeing as all the courts are clay. Thanks for pointing that out that there is no real fast courts today, and therefore Roger is every much a beneficiary of the courts slowing down as Rafa is.

  16. Teeg – I am answering your Tennis-X post here too:

    “”I was just on that sportzcosmos site and I couldn’t catch myself laughing. It seems like that is where Rafa haters gather for commiserations and for the sole purpose of bashing Rafa. AD Tennis was there, also the so called Rafan “Rafaisthebest”, and a few others.”

    Ok Teeg. Now I am Rafa hater? Why because I am not blinded by Rafa kool-aid like you? I am sure Tennis X Hippy Chic is also a Nadal hater. Look at James’ last post- I think he is a Rafa hater too.

    I know you are getting scared there being a Rafa fan ad seeing actual facts and tennis history being discussed. I personally think they did a great job with their GOAT analysis.

    • Scared of what? What facts and tennis history? Please do tell. And I’m glad that Tennis X Hippy Chic also backed me up. We true Rafa fans stick together.

  17. Teeg:

    Everyone here has been polite to you and treated with you courtesy. We welcome fans of everyone with open arms. We might be a fledgling compared to Tennis-X, a site I admire a lot personally, but we are slowly growing and I am sure we are as fair to every group of fan as any other site.

    Our team has fans of everyone. Please explore our site and you will find a lot of pro-rafa articles too!

    • Thank you for the hospitality. I just pointed that the comments from this particular article are very negative towards Rafa. And that was the truth. Wasnt trying to incite anything, just pointing out a fact. I am a very objective Rafa fan. I have never once claimed him to be the greatest because I dont believe he is there yet. I believe if anyone deserves that title its either Laver or Roger. And I would give it to Roger over Laver. But when Rafa’s accomplishments are being diminished I will defend him. That’s just how it is.

      • Fair enough Teeg! Our policy is to allow posts as long as they do not abuse players or other posters. Beyond that, these are opinions and we can all agree to disagree.

        Thanks for clearing up things. These are exciting times in tennis with so many good things happening.

        I appreciate fans who defend their favorite – that is the essence of any sport.

  18. I personally like this site. The discussions here are very civilised. The way I see it, we have fans of both Roger and Rafa here. And well, you have me to represent all fans of Nole! :)

    • That match was awesome! Also, did you watch Almagro vs DelPo last night? My God! What an incredible level of tennis.The way they played, I think they would have both beat the winner of Beijing (either Rafa or Nole). Hope your guy can soon rise to the top! He is great and deserves some time up there.

  19. Teeg:

    “So by this nonsensical logic, Roger is a clay court specialist as well, seeing as all the courts are clay. Thanks for pointing that out that there is no real fast courts today, and therefore Roger is every much a beneficiary of the courts slowing down as Rafa is.”

    Roger is a beneficiary, so are Djokovic and Murray. The really fast courts on tour are the indoor courts and Roger, Novak have done quite well on these courts than Rafa. It makes me think that Rafa would not have done so well in the 90s, when the courts or conditions were quite fast.

    I am sure Roger/Novak would win Wimbledon/US Open titles in the 90s. Rafa, not so sure. The WTF? Rafa has a bad record even in this slower era. It will be a miracle if he wins one of those. In the 90s with big servers, he would be lucky to even get out of the round-robin, His record indoors is really bad.

  20. Nice attempt of proving Rafa’s case. However, there are things that are left out of the equation (like best winning % in the history of the game, Masters 1000 titles, etc). I would add those to your argument. Also, even though Federer fans will disagree with me on this one, the top competition in this era is tougher than the top competition back then. Just look at Murray’s and Nole’s head to head vs Federer. Also, had Djokovic had that 2011 year in the years that Federer was on top, it is very likely that Federer would have at least 60 weeks less of his total number 1 and Nadal would have those 60 weeks to his credit (Nadal was in every final with Nole that year, so he would have been number 1 all that time). This is just to illustrate that although weeks at #1 are a important consideration, you have to understand that it really depends on other factors.

    However, having said that, I still give the edge to Roger, mainly because he was very consistent in all the big tournaments for so many years and has 17 GS, 34 QF of slams in a row, 24 semis in a row, 21 Masters 1000, won on every surface and has 6 YEC. His big deficiency is his H2H vs Rafa and Murray (specially Rafa), and that includes 7-2 in outdoor HCs as well (not just in clay). But as I discussed before, sometimes styles are just not suited for your game and Roger should have adjusted to what Rafa was doing to him. That is a deficiency Roger has as well, he was too stubborn to change, when he clearly had the ability to do so. Rafa and Nole are much better at adjusting and adapting. But to me, pure talent wise, Federer is unmatched in the history of the sport. And to be honest, I don’t even feel bad about it (being a Rafa fan), because I do admire that Rafa had to work very had to get where he is, while Federer talent just seems to come so natural to him. To be honest, Rafa would have to at least win 4 total GS in another surface (say at US)), 3 in another (say Wimby) and or 2 in the other (say AO), plus at least 2 YEC (and a better winning % indoors as a whole) for me to clearly place him as the GOAT. I do have him as the SGOAT (Second greatest of all time) because of everything I have already mentioned. But Federer was just too damn perfect everywhere to not put him at the top. He is truly the greatest all court player ever. Nadal can surpass him, but that will take some incredible years for him to do so. And I am happy with that. If Rafa ends up second to Roger, that will be an honor to him, no doubt.

  21. “If Rafa ends up second to Roger, that will be an honor to him, no doubt.”

    Spoken like a true fan of tennis Carlos. I will join you and say, as a Roger Fan, “If Rafa ends up getting the majority vote on the GOAT debate, it will be an honor for Roger to finish 2nd”.

    There really is so little to choose from these GOAT contenders….. Laver, Rosewall, Borg, Sampras, Federer, Nadal….

  22. I think GOAT should take talent, adaptability, other factors into account. We have to have Nadal, Federer Laver and Borg on all those parameters.

    Right now, the prevailing opinon seems to be Federer.

  23. “If Rafa ends up second to Roger, that will be an honor to him, no doubt.” Bravo!! Well put indeed! I tried hating roger just because he broken my idol sampras’s record.. But in the hindsight, who was sampras.. serve+volley, serve being his greatest strength.. where as roger.. a complete player.. In this age where 27 is considered old, imagine.. sorry why imagine.. the fact is roger being 5 years older to rafa, 6 years older to jOker/Murray we compare roger’s record to these youngsters.. try comparing to roger’s true peers.. or is there a peer? he destroyed careers.. sorry arod. Thats how demolishing he was..

  24. Well Said Chandra…. Carlos is a wonderful tennis analyst and this one has to be the best comments I have ever read.

    I can totally relate to you… why? because in 2001, I was heart-broken when Sampras lost…. was miserable, I didn’t even know who Roger was at the time. Then in 2003, when I was absolutely devoid of inspiration in life, I happened to take a look at Roger’s game and his game [ to put up a cricket analogy - he is like lara, tendulkar and laxman = all in one package, creative genius + shotmaking genius + aesthetic/elegant genius]

    Demolishing of A-rod, that is such a tough story! I have immense for A-rod for not giving up and keep trying and trying! I really wish he could have won Wimbledon once. In my book, he is right 3rd best player on grass, this millenium – possibly even 2nd. Ofcourse Djokovic/Murray can change that, maybe even Rafa, but at this point A-rod has a strong case for 2nd best Grass Court player since 2000!

  25. I can think of a reason why he is not GOAT in Tennis, and a pretty important reason too. I don’t think that the game he plays is called Tennis. It’s looks like some kind of ‘Breakout’ video game where you are supposed to return every ball that comes down!!!

  26. That’s a valid point too Sekhar! Aesthetics of the game should factor into GOAT discussion too. That is one reason why Boris Becker scores better than Wilander. Sampras over Lendl, Laver over Rosewall!

  27. Pingback: El Mago vs El Toro | SportzCosmos

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