Sunday, 24 April 2011

Rafael Nadal - To Surpass Borg?

Courtesy: 10sballs

Comparisons between Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg have launched countless debates ever since Nadal showed his first signs of clay-court genius. After Nadal’s latest victory in Barcelona, the two names appeared side by side once again as Nadal followed in Borg’s footsteps to become the second-youngest player to achieve 500 career wins. Taking into consideration Nadal’s recent victory in Monte Carlo, which tied him with Borg’s record of 30 career clay-court titles, we wonder how soon it will be until the tennis world reaches a firm consensus on whether he deserves the label of all-time greatest player on clay.

Nadal earned his 500th career win on Saturday with a victory over Croat Ivan Dodig in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open. At just over 24 years and 8 months old, the Spaniard falls close behind Borg’s mark of 23 years and 7 months. More notably, at such a young age, Nadal is extraordinarily close to surpassing Borg’s career record of 30 clay-court titles, as prevailing in Barcelona would give him the new record of 31 titles.

The breakneck speed at which Nadal approaches Borg’s records is hardly surprising anymore. Borg’s career clay-court record stands at an impressive 245-39, and Nadal already boasts a record of 212-16 on clay, an incredible 184-6 since 2005. In other words, as Nadal quickly advances towards Borg’s total wins, he possesses less than half the number of losses.

Both clay-court masters share the distinction of having won their first Grand Slams at Roland Garros as teenagers. Nadal has already met Borg’s record of four consecutive French Open titles, and he trails Borg’s record of six French Open singles titles by only one, having claimed five titles of his own within a six-year span. Similarly, Nadal falls one short of Borg’s “triple-double” wins at both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year. But with Nadal looking unbeatable on clay this season, he may be able to tie both records this year.

Apart from their successes at Roland Garros, Nadal’s tally in clay-court tournaments includes five Rome titles to Borg’s two, and now seven Monte Carlo titles to Borg’s three.

Some contend that the Swede still holds the label of greatest clay-court player of all time, while many in recent years have argued that Nadal’s feats merit the designation. It will certainly become harder to make a case against Nadal if he succeeds in Barcelona and manages another French Open victory this year. Another triple-double would be an emphatic bonus.

Is it still too early to call Nadal the best clay-court player of all time?

How soon until he surpasses more of Borg’s records?

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