Thursday, 14 October 2010

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: What Does The H2H Mean to Their Legacy?

Roger Federer has accumulated enough titles and honors to be the front-runner for the title of GOAT. But there is this pesky h2h with Nadal which stands as a question mark on his GOAT status.

The paradox is this: Roger's titles entitle him to be considered a favorite for the title of the greatest of all time. But his h2h prevents him being considered as the greatest player of his own era! As one tennis commentator put it, in years to come, history may regard Federer as the second best player of this generation.

But if Federer is to be second best, who would be the best? Nadal? But h2h can be used only against Federer to prove he is not the best. It cannot be used to prove Nadal is the best. For that, Nadal has to dominate for the next two or three years, or he has to accomplish the calendar slam or at least the non-calendar slam.

See the paradox of the h2h? Never in the history of tennis has there been such an anomalous situation. Of course, if Nadal does go on to accomplish the deeds required for his coronation, the h2h would cease to be a paradox in Federer's legacy and would add a shine to Nadal's crown.

Federer supporters have tried to argue that the h2h actually shows how good he is. If he had been like Pete Sampras, he would not have been good enough to meet Nadal on clay. But then, Federer would not have had the career slam and his claim to GOAT-hood would have weakened. You can't have it both ways.

But let's go back to the claim that the h2h actually shows how good Federer is compared to Nadal. The argument says that while Federer was good enough to meet Nadal on clay several times, Nadal was not good enough to meet Federer on other surfaces. Some people have even compiled a hypothetical statistic which bases itself on the number of tournaments which both had entered and Federer had won.

But wait a minute, what's that argument about Federer being good enough etc and Nadal not being good enough? Should it not be the other way around? That Nadal was good enough to meet the No. 1 player at least on one surface so often and actually be good enough to dominate him? Why should we expect a pre-prime Nadal to be good enough to meet the No. 1 player on all surfaces?

If we look at multiple slam winners among men in the open era , there are hardly any who have won even one and very few have won two, and except for Borg, none have won on two surfaces before they were 21. Clearly, a tennis prodigy can show precocity by shining on one surface in his tender years, but it is unrealistic to expect him to demonstrate that precocity on two or more surfaces.

Sampras has gone on record in the GOAT debate with this remark about Federer: "He’s going to play Nadal a number of times over the next number of years, and he has to beat him. He has to beat him in the finals of majors. To be considered the greatest ever, he certainly in my book is (already that). But he has to figure this kid out...It would have bothered me if I had a losing record against Andre in majors.”

But is it possible? Nadal is now in the midst of his peak period, and Federer is at the end or near the end of his prime. Nadal has already shown he has developed his game enough to meet Federer on all surfaces in the Grand Slams and beat him.

Federer can beat Nadal in Grand Slams but can he beat Nadal sufficient number of times to reverse the h2h? I doubt it. This pesky h2h is bound to continue, as much a part of the Federer GOAT story as any of his titles.

So what would be the most logical explanation of this h2h? It is an anomaly, yes, but it is an anomaly only because Nadal has not yet completed even half of his prime playing years, and we are using it in the context of Federer being the GOAT.

If Nadal plays true to his promise, it would be he who would be having a greater claim on the GOAT status, and then this h2h would cease to be dissonant. It would be a testament to his domination of one of the greatest players of all time.

Courtesy: Bleacher Report

No comments:

Post a Comment