All sports are full of personalities; that make them all the more alluring, even when raking-up some controversies! To make honest comparisons, we have to confront our own prejudices! Facts are useful but could be used selectively to suit our favorites! Old-timers will always have a different opinion; the golden era past, when their heroes played for the enjoyment, passion & pure entertainment of spectators. Now, it has more to do with marketing wizardry, television ratings, sponsors etc!
The recent great exploits of Nadal has meant Federer’s unquestioned reign as the greatest could be short-lived! None can take away Federer’s top number at grand slams but Nadal holds the head-to-head advantage in victories and has won more slams when age is factored-in! Federer is a class by himself, fluid & stylish to boot; Nadal is fiercely combative, with never-say-die attitude. From the depths after injuries, he has risen like a phoenix to greater heights; swatting those who took advantage when he was struggling!
Forget this debate, but let us enjoy the competition between the best two ever, at least so far! They are so different not only in their playing styles but also in the approach to their rivalry, but still have great warmth towards each other. Federer is the consummate communicator and forthright. He felt true greatness hinges on Nadal winning the slams on all surfaces; now the latter has done so! One hurdle is over, but in numbers Nadal has to catch-up a lot – he has won 9 Grand slam titles against 16 by Federer; that should make the sport captivating for some more time, with Federer raising the bar still!
Nadal holds Federer as the role-model, not yet time for comparisons; he has still to prove a lot! Federer knows the mantle rests with him now & he has the ability to ward-off the challenge, a true champion believing in himself. But Nadal can pull the rug from under his feet; the motivation for that could make him a better player still!
The present era is exciting for the simple reason the two best ever are competing almost when in their prime. Earlier times, Laver was considered the best but he did not have to face such competition, day-in & day-out. Even later, when Borg was ruling the roost, his victories were mostly one-sided. Recently, we had Sampras-Agassi face-off, though it did not raise this much excitement.
We have the quietly confident Federer on the one side with Nadal setting his sights at the numbers game to prove his case beyond reproach! For the spectators, let us hope that the rivalry continues unabated with more entering the stage to make the competitions keener! Despite the numbers, the jury will still be out as who is the greatest of all time as we are comparing apples with oranges when different eras are included to decide the best! Let is be fair; lack of competition is not the fault of the players as also the superior weapons to show their mettle! The greatest might not give the most entertainment value but the spirit at which the game is played leaves a more lasting impression. Hats off to Federer and Nadal for showing exemplary behavior on & off-courts; also we have a true lady sportsperson at the helm of women’s tennis, Kim Clijsters, carrying off the many roles of a winner, a mother & a wife – a true champion to inspire the legion of her followers.
Tennis has managed keep the game above scandals that bedevil others sports. The old saying always holds – champions come & go but the game is above all individuals! But a true champion can truly lift-up any sports, but few can also leave a lasting bad taste in the mouth! Let the rivalries be at its zenith on courts but let the top players work as one outside them, as Federer & Nadal have done! Both are true champions worthy of the mantle of the best ever, real role-models, both as players & gentlemen!