An interesting answer to an interesting question. Roger Federer was asked on Saturday about Rafael Nadal’s potential to be the Greatest of All Time.
Q. Last night Rafa said that in his mind you’re the best player in history. If he is able to complete the career slam, given his head to head with you, how young he is, what are your thoughts on his chances to eventually be the best player in history?
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, clearly has a chance because he’s young enough. He has already so many, let’s say, French Open titles to his name just alone at his age is an amazing accomplishment. Plus he’s had some incredible clay court records that are going to be very hard to beat. Then again, obviously I guess he would need to win the US Open, put himself there. He’s won the Olympics, done some amazing things. So he’ll have a shot at it, I’m sure.
Well, Roger’s acting skills have improved, lately.
I jest! We all know that these two really do share a profound mutual respect and affection. And I’m sure Roger wouldn’t mind at all if Rafa some day beats his all-time record of 20 Major titles, or whatever the total comes to when Roger retires. I can picture it now: Rog in the royal box at the 2016 Wimbledon doing his best Pete Sampras imitation.
Or would it be more like this?
Of course, this scenario – minus the photo op – could happen whether Roger likes it or not. At 24 years old, Rafael Nadal is more than keeping pace with Roger’s Major title tally. Roger finished his 24th year with 8 Major titles – the same number Nadal has today. Rafa could have a total of 10 before his next birthday, if he happens to win next Sunday and next season Down Under. Assuming Rafa is a virtual lock for the French Open title and a top contender at Wimbledon for the next few years, the Spaniard could be within sniffing distance of the GOAT before Charlene and Riva finish Kindergarten.
Rafa, being Rafa, is distancing himself from talk of the Career Slam, and scoffs at the GOAT talk, at least as it applies to him. Here’s what he said after beating Istomin on Friday:
Q. You saw how hard it was for Roger to complete the career Grand Slam, how long it took him to win the French Open. What thoughts did that give you about your quest to win the career Grand Slam?
RAFAEL NADAL: You are focus on this. Maybe for Roger was a big goal because he is the best of the history and he needed Roland Garros. He deserved Roland Garros because he did three finals, another semifinals. Seriously, for me, complete the Grand Slam at this moment is not a goal. For me the goal is try to improve my level, to play well the next match, and we will see what happen next Sunday, no? If I have the chance to be there, gonna be a chance for me to complete. But if not, remains a lot to be there. If not, I gonna come back home, try to keep improving to come back a lot of years here to try. For me is not an obsession and is not a real goal.
Q. What do you think your chances are to be the best in history, the way you’ve described Roger?
RAFAEL NADAL: For me? I never thought about that. I think I am not ready to be the best of the history. I think is not the right moment to talk about that, seriously. Because I have 24 and a half, a little bit less 24 and a few months years old so talk about the history when one player is playing is difficult, no? I am very happy, eight Grand Slams, Olympics, 18 Masters 1000. I am probably in one part of the history of tennis, no, so I am very happy with that. Now everything is to win. I don’t know if I gonna have the chance to keep winning Grand Slams. I gonna try for sure. But be the best of the history is almost impossible.
Well, we all know how Rafa handles the impossible. And for all you Federer fans who are freaking out about this – I know you’re out there – let’s think of it this way: MOTIVATION.
Maybe instead of this in 2016 (look, they left a space for Rafa!):
We’ll have this: