Is Nadal the Dirt GOAT yet?

Asking whether Nadal is the clay GOAT is wrong in my opinion, because his career is not finished. But you can always ask whether he is the clay GOAT yet. I don’t like it too much when people start these GOAT discussions before a player’s career is over, because they do the same with Roger. You can always say that Roger is the GOAT already, but you can never say he is not the GOAT, because he is still playing and setting up new records all the time. Above you will find an article talking about Nadal’s clay court dominance. It was a decent article, although I didn’t like that the author kept quoting Spanish players. As if they are not going top be biased! The Spanish players are known to lie down when playing against Nadal, so they should be the last to be asked for an opinion. According to this article the French sporting newspaper L’Equipe published a poll where players, officials, and pundits voted for the clay GOAT between Nadal and Borg, and Nadal just edged out Borg 163-159.

But the most interesting thing about the article is that uncle Toni voted for Borg.

“Because I remember Borg,” Toni Nadal explained in an interview with “Borg was the best. … It’s difficult to win a point against him.

“And maybe when I saw the matches of Rafael, I don’t think Rafael is so good.”

“If he wins two more, then maybe he’s better, but not at the moment,” Toni said.


How can you argue with that? You have the most influential person on Nadal’s tennis career saying these things, and someone who is old enough to have seen Borg play a lot as well. Borg was a little before my time, but I know that he was pretty much just a machine. Nadal and Borg have achieved similar levels of success on clay at similar stages in their careers. Therefore I don’t think it’s fair to call Nadal the clay GOAT yet. Grand slam titles are always the most important measuring stick when it comes to greatness, and Nadal is still two short of Borg’s six Roland Garros titles. So I must agree with uncle Toni. Nadal will only be the clay GOAT once he had won two more titles at the French Open. If he equals Borg I think it would be good enough to make him the clay GOAT, because his record has been slightly more impressive than Borg outside the slams so far.

For instance Nadal holds the record for most consecutive wins on clay at 81, while Borg is only third on that list with 53. Something else that the article mentions and that has to be considered is the rate at which these clay courters burn out. Guys like Borg himself, Kuerten, Courier, Coria, and Bruguera all seemed to hit a wall at some stage in their career, and there was already signs of that happening to Nadal in the last 12 months or so. I’ve said for a while now that this year’s French Open is going to be crucial for him. He needs to win it or he may fall short of all the clay GOAT expectations. I don’t think he will last too much longer with the taxing game style he plays. It is very possible that he will walk the same path as Borg and the others and just hit a wall in the next couple of years or so. In fact I think it is inevitable.

As the French Open goes on, we will see if Nadal shows any signs of weakness. He didn’t look as impressive as Roger in his first round match today against a French kid called Mina, but still won 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. It was a much closer match than the scoreline suggests though. Regardless of whether Nadal is beatable or not, I just keep dreaming of the possibility that Roger can beat him in the French Open final. After Roger won the French Open last year, a lot of people are now saying that Roger must beat Nadal at Roland Garros for his GOAT status to be legitimate. I’m sure you can guess what I think of that. Roger has done the hard yards over the years at the French Open and he totally deserved that title. Whether he beats Nadal in Paris is not important because if he beats him, then Nadal will probably not become the clay GOAT.

If he does not beat him, then Nadal becomes the clay GOAT, and no player can be the GOAT on all surfaces. So beating Nadal on clay is therefor not a requirement to be the GOAT anymore. I hope you are keeping up with me. Whatever happens, it would be amazing if Roger could beat Nadal in the French Open final. It would basically put Roger’s GOAT status beyond all doubt, although people will always find a reason for him not to be the GOAT. All I know is that it will be intensely satisfying for me as a fan if he beats Nadal in the final this year. I will keep hoping and praying that he does just that.

Ps. I made a mistake yesterday when i said Roger has never played against Fella before. They have played twice, once at Roland Garros and once at Wimbledon. Roger won easily on both occasions. Lets hope he can do the same tomorrow.

May the Fedforce be with you.

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  1. I dont mean to be touchy but the last part makes no sense. You said they have played at rolland garros and the french ope, they are both the same veneus are they not


    Ru-an Reply:

    Just checking if you people are still reading my posts ;-)


  2. Your point of view about Nadal´s ability always make me puzzle as I believe you are actually a Fed´s fan.
    I can´t watch Nadal but is not so consistent as he used to be.He played against a player 655…2hs. and 24m.
    Mini had 9 BPS. but couldn´t convert,it was his 2° match in the ATP. He isn´t the GOAT of anything, he´s lucky,and players fear him, and Roger too, it´s imposible for Roger to lose 10 times, only fear…
    As you I hope RN.will be beaten bad in the final…


    jason Reply:

    that’s the nadal style. he has to beat each and every opponent the hard way: working out running around like a rabbit. unfortunately, his strengths play into roger’s “weakness”. it’s not weak per se, but it’s maybe the weakest part of his game on a relative basis.

    what i suspect is roger’s not yet completely shed his nadal fear. so i would much prefer nadal get taken out somehow before RG final. this kind of fear goes beyond what is apparent, it goes to the subconscious mind. while in madrid last year he showed how to play against nadal, in madrid recently he showed again the failed game plan that has been used 13 times before.

    when we keep repeating the same thing that fails and expect a different result, it is called insanity. as insane as it sounds, he played the same game for 4 FOs against nadal. and yet again in other clay games other than madrid 2009. is roger insane? no. but i think he still has that nadal problem, especially on clay. i know roger is one of the best, if not THE best, mental player of all time. but fixing subconscious mind problem is also a monumental task to undergo. based on what i saw in madrid recently, i surely have my doubts. i hope i’m proven wrong, really.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Hey Jason, good to see you back with your usual pessimism lol. I guess i need someone to keep me grounded. You are right, it could be a sub conscious thing cos Roger himself has said that he is not scared of Nadal. If that is the case it will prove harder to fix. I will keep hoping that he can once and for all get the monkey off his back with a win over Nadal in the FO final.


  3. I don’t take Uncle Toni’s words at face value. Nadal and his camp always like to pretend he’s the underdog and dampen expectations. They’ll never say he’s better than Borg because it means more pressure on him. Even riding a 31-1 record at RG and winning all three clay Masters titles he has to pretend he’s not the favorite.

    It’s how he deals with the pressure, by denying it. I think that’s how he can win so many Grand Slam finals against Roger, he just pretends it’s another match. He has to live in this bubble of denial in order to play his best tennis. Otherwise he couldn’t take the pressure.

    It’s a little childish to always have to pretend you’re the underdog, but he’s trained the media to infantilize him. Whenever he loses they always start fretting about whether he was hurt or tired, like they were his mom. They never give his opponent any credit. And psychologically I think he needs that, to be soothed every time he loses and told that it was a fluke, in order to keep living in that bubble of denial. He’s probably not even aware of how much he needs it.

    One thing Nadal has done that Borg never did was to win a hard-court major, so he does have that going for him. On the other hand, he will probably never be as successful at Wimbledon as Borg was. Borg had virtually no competition at Wimbledon until McEnroe came along, while Nadal had to beat the greatest grass-court player ever to win his lone Wimbledon title, and will probably have to beat him again if he wants another one.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Well i obviously thought about that, but whichever way you look at it i dont think you can call Nadal the clay GOAT yet. But you make a good point nonetheless. Nadal likes to play the underdog and take pressure off himself, just as Roger likes to make himself the favorite. As we know this has annoyed many people as well.


  4. The comment about Rafa ‘pretending’ to be the underdog is interesting. Personally I don’t think it is his childish or defensive mechanism kicking into overdrive, but instead his sense of reality and that everything could end right now- he’s keeping himself humble and playing in the moment. What the King of Clay does BETTER than any other play is to value every point. He rarely plays reckless and when things get tight, Rafa comes up with the goods. Great players always do. His success against Roger is no fluke- the Swiss maestro has met his match in terms of consistency and mental toughness. Roger may ‘look’ better hitting the ball, but Rafa has the edge in H2H results. History tends to repeat itself: Rafa is this generation’s Bjorn. Sure, Rafa hasn’t captured as many Wimbledon titles but that is because Roger (arguably the greatest grass court player) was on the other side. Had he not faced Roger in the final, Rafa would have a record almost identical to Borg.


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