Now this is interesting! Rafael Nadal’s coach, Uncle Toni, famous for his humility, canny coaching and insistence that Rafa play left-handed as a kid, went on Spanish radio on Monday to talk GOAT. Here’s his analysis of where Rafa currently stands in the conversation:
“I think Rafael is at the second or third level if we talk about tennis players in history. In the first level would be three players, Roger Federer, Björn Borg and Rod Laver and then the group in front of Rafa would be Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl …”
He went on to say that Rafa still has a lot of room for improvement and a lot of unfinished business to complete on court before he will be considered a player at the highest level.
There’s nothing wrong with Uncle Toni’s analysis if we’re looking only at the present moment (except that I’m wondering why Sampras is in the second tier while Fed’s in the first – can someone explain?) But there’s no doubt in my mind that his nephew will be at the pinnacle of Uncle Toni’s ranking system by the end of his career. Nadal’s not stopping without at least 10-12 titles on a variety of surfaces. 15+ is not unreasonable, and the Grand Slam is still in his sights for this year!
What I also find fascinating about this article is Uncle Toni’s obvious desire to keep his nephew grounded. I don’t think any other coach on the circuit could say these kinds of things about his protege without getting kicked to the curb. Maybe Richard Williams could get away with it, but the words “humble” and “second best” are most definitely NOT in his vocabulary!
What do you think of Uncle T’s ranking system? How do you place Rafa and Roger in history?
I like to think of Roger as the Rod Laver, and Rafael Nadal as the Bjorn Borg of this generation. It would be an ideal situation to me if Nadal won the Grand Slam, while Roger beat Sampras and maintained the greatest amount of Major titles. Both are great in their own ways, and I’d like it if history recognized them for their unique talents and achievements. It’s also fun to think about the sport’s not-yet-upcoming players who will inevitably shatter Rafa and Roger’s records in the future. . .scary, but fun.
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