How Does Nadal’s 10th French Open Title Affect the GOAT Debate?

Now that a big three member won a grand slam title again we can once again look at how it affected the GOAT debate. Just to be clear, I don’t believe a GOAT can be determined. There are too many variables and intricacies. But just because it can’t be determined it doesn’t mean there isn’t one, so it is worth discussing. And besides, it’s interesting and fun.

First of all, a 10th French Open title is an unbelievable achievement and will be the most difficult record to beat of all the records. That said, 10 is not very different from 9, and it didn’t tell us much about Nadal that we didn’t already know.

In fact, it made Nadal’s already unbalanced resume even more skewed toward clay. Nadal is not merely a clay court specialist. He is actually the only player in history that has won more than one slam on each surface, a fact that only very recently occurred to me.

But as far as a 10th French open title goes it only raises the ratio of clay court slams to other slams and clay court titles to other titles. With a 10th French Open title, Nadal has now won exactly two-thirds of his slams on clay(10/15). That is 67%.

Some other stats:

1- More than 72% of career titles won on clay.
2- More than 73% of Masters 1000 titles won on clay
3- Failure at retaining any title outside of clay

4- Unimpressive head-to-head records outside of clay :

– Djokovic: 9-19
– Davydenko: 1-6
– Federer: 10-12
– Hewitt: 2-4
– Brown: 0-2
– Coric: 1-2
– Ferrer: 5-5
– Ljubicic: 2-2
– Gonzalez: 3-3
– Monaco: 1-1
– Del Potro: 6-5
– Blake: 4-3
– Soderling: 2-1

Other than that Nadal spent 141 weeks at #1(7th all-time) and won 0 World Tour Finals titles because he invests so much energy into the clay court season that he is always a spent force post-US Open. He is also a lousy indoor player compared to other all-time greats with only one indoor title.

The reason he spent so many fewer weeks at number one than Federer(302) and Djokovic(223) is that he is only an all-time great on clay and therefore can’t dominate outside of clay which is needed to hold the number one position for extended periods of time.

Nadal is clearly one of the all-time greats but as I always insist, balance is of supreme importance when it comes to the resume of a GOAT candidate. Surely, a GOAT candidate must be able to master all conditions and surfaces. That is clearly not the case with Nadal.

Big three surface rankings

Surface/Conditions Federer Djokovic Nadal
Hardcourt(Australian Open + US Open) 10 (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Grass(Wimbledon) (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Clay(French Open) (2nd) (2nd) 10 (1st)
Indoor(World Tour Finals) (1st) (2nd) (3rd)
Overall  (1st)  (2nd)  (3rd)

You wouldn’t say he mastered indoor tennis or even grass or hard courts. Indoor tennis is not an actual surface but it doesn’t make it any less significant and it as historically been a very important part of tennis. There used to be a much longer indoor season.

As opposed to Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are the better hard court, grass court, and indoor players. Federer is a better grass court player than Djokovic but Djokovic is a better clay court player than Federer. Indoors and on hard courts they are quite even.

It should be obvious that Federer and Djokovic have far more balanced resumes than Nadal and that their games are also far more complete.

  • Nadal’s Personality

In many ways, Nadal has benefited from modern tennis. The homogenization of surfaces, racquet and string technology, and the lack of indoor events have all tremendously benefited Nadal.

And yet, he complains far more than Federer or Djokovic. If it’s not the fact that there are not enough clay court tournaments(even though there are far more clay court events than grass court events) then it’s the fact that the World Tour Finals are not played on clay(thereby confirming how dependent he is on clay) or the fact that umpires are too tough on him for taking endless times between point, or the fact that the tennis calendar is too crowded, or the fact that he has to play with different balls, or the scheduling.

The list is endless to the point that articles such as Is Rafael Nadal in Danger of Being Labeled a Whiner? has been written. At the French Open this year he threatened umpire Ramos and told him he won’t chair his matches again. He also demanded a ban on umpire Bernardes after getting into a dispute with him.

Nadal portrays a humble persona but his actions often reveal someone who is self-centered and selfish. Federer and Djokovic seem far more altruistic. This is another reason Nadal is not in my top tier of GOAT candidates. You would think he would be grateful for all the changes to tennis that has benefited him but instead, he selfishly whines about conditions.

This is not the characteristic of a GOAT candidate in my view. And neither is his one-dimensional playing style. It amazes me how Nadal can still win a slam at age 31 given that the basis of his game is endless defense and grinding. But I suppose all the time he has taken off due to injury hasn’t hurt.

If Nadal becomes the first player in the open era to win the double career slam I will be forced to reconsider him for my top tier of GOAT candidates but for now, I simply can’t have him in my top tier due to shortcomings in his resume, playing style, and personality as outlined in this post.

What do you think?

Should Nadal be in the top tier of GOAT candidates?

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Federer Pulls Out of French Open

Some people were predicting this would happen and I wasn’t one of them. Given Federer’s form so far this year and how he fared against Nadal, and also how much he values grand slam events made me believe he would play the French Open.

I mean if he could come from a six-month break to win the Australian Open then surely he could win the French Open but in the end, I think he did the right thing. There was no way he was going to beat Nadal on clay in his current form without playing any warm-up events on clay.

Maybe he saw how dominant Nadal is on clay again and thought it would be better to rest some more and not risk any injury. Federer is easily the favorite to win Wimbledon this year and there is no reason to risk that.

It does mean that beating Nadal at the French Open or winning the double career slam is less likely now but it is astonishing enough what happened in Australia this year.

  • Rome Draw

Rome started today and I am currently watching Del Potro vs Dimitrov which is a terrific first round encounter. This is now the third clay Masters where Nadal and Djokovic are in one half and Murray and Wawrinka in the other.

Again, it seems like something is working against Djokovic. It’s a similar draw for him than Madrid because he has Nishikori in the quarters. But he also gets Kyrgios who has a tough draw himself with Agut and Busta.

Djokovic will play Bedene tomorrow in his first match which should provide a good match for him to acclimatize. I’d really like to see Djokovic get through his quarter again.

I’d rather Nadal lose before the semis but if he doesn’t Djokovic should be better prepared this time if he comes through his quarter(given Nishikori does not withdraw again).

Who will win Rome?

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Djokovic Splits Up With Longtime Coaching Team

“I want to continue raising the level of my game and stamina and this is a continuous process. I enjoy this journey, it feels like I am starting something new again and I love this challenge. I am a hunter and my biggest goal is to find the winning spark on the court again”, said Novak.

“I feel like this is a new chapter in my life. My career was always on the upward path and this time I’m experiencing how it is when the path takes you in a different direction. I want to find a way to come back to the top stronger and more resilient. I have so much faith in this process and that’s why I will take time to find the right person who I can connect with professionally. I have been on the tour long enough to know how to manage daily routines and I don’t want to rush my decision. I will be on the tour alone for a while with support of my family and management. I will inform the public when I find the right person, but for now I thank you for your support and understanding”, concluded Djokovic.

After splitting up with Becker at the end of last year Djokovic is now also ditching the team who seems to have been with him since the beginning. I think it makes sense given that he has struggled more recently since when he first rose to the top of men’s tennis.

There is plenty of surprise and dissatisfaction among tennis fans but I think Djokovic has deserved the right to make decisions without people questioning it since he won the personal slam and became one of the all-time greats.

Why should you be predictable and care what others think anyway? Successful people don’t do what others expect of them and they don’t play it safe. If they did what others do or what is expected they wouldn’t be any different from the rest, would they?

Djokovic is now one of the all-time greats and he can afford to take some more risks. When things are not working what do you have to lose anyway? He is making the change at quite an important time for him which is somewhat surprising but I’m sure he thought it over and did what he thought was best.

Mostly I like this decision because it shows he cares. He is not satisfied with the way things are going and he won’t rest until he has found his best tennis again. Tennis fans are always talking about how he ‘doesn’t care’ anymore and although I never bought into that kind of talk I do sometimes wonder how motivated he still is.

Djokovic is not easy to read which is part of why I’m a fan. I think he is still as motivated as ever but he is going through a slump like all tennis players do. He is only 29 and reached his peak only a couple of years ago.

No one knows the future but there is no reason he should not have plenty of years left at the top winning slams and breaking records. Federer’s peak was 2004-2007 and he is still winning slams in 2017. Djokovic obviously wants to make a new beginning and is thinking long term.

If he wasn’t still highly motivated and didn’t think he had much time left I don’t think he would have made this big a step. It’s like he is starting a whole new chapter and although I’m not expecting instant results I’m pretty excited!

  • Madrid Draw

As you can see Djokovic and Nadal are in the same half again as in Monte Carlo. Hopefully, this time they actually meet and I think there is a decent chance of that happening. Djokovic’s draw is not that hard while Nadal has Kyrgios in his section.

Who will win Madrid?

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