French Open Loss Proves Again that Federer Is not the Best Ever

It’s 2011, another French Open final.  And yet again Rafael Nadal spanked Roger Federer to take home the title.

As the saying goes, “brand new day, same ‘ol (spit)”.

Sure it gave Nadal a record-tying sixth French Open title.  Sure it was Nadal’s 10th Grand Slam singles tournament title, leaving him only six behind Federer for most all time.  Hell, Nadal may one day have the most Grand Slam singles title.

The real story is Federer cannot beat his chief tormentor – again.  In fact, he is now 8-17 against Nadal.

Once again, this proves that Federer is NOT the best male tennis player ever.

The best tennis player of all time does not get owned by a rival.  Pete Sampras, who I consider the greatest male tennis player of all time, was never dominated by a rival.  In fact, Sampras dominated his biggest rival (Andre Aggasi) in head-to-head match-ups (20-14).

Martina Navratilova was not dominated by another contemporary in her prime.  In fact, she has a winning record against Chris Evert (43-37), and is even with Steffi Graf (9-9).

Speaking of Graf, no one has a winning record against her.

Look, I am not out to poo-poo on Federer’s achievements.  The dude did win 16 Grand Slam singles titles.  I’m just saying he is not as great as people make him out to be.

Categories: sports story, tennis

13 replies

  1. If the world ended today, Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player ever. He has not only won 16 slams (and counting), but he’s been to 23 slam finals (4 more than the nearest competitor, Lendl) and is the only man in history to have been in the final of each slam at least 5 times. This is in addition to his streak of slam semifinals (23 straight, 13 more than the nearest competitor) and quarterfinals (28 and counting). Basically, there hasn’t been a grand slam tournament in the past 8 years that Roger hasn’t been in contention to win, and he isn’t done yet.

    There is no doubt that Rafael Nadal is Federer’s only real rival, and the only man that can possibly supplant him as the GOAT (greatest of all time) in the modern era. However, their head-to-head record is skewed by the predominant surface that they’ve faced each other on. 14 of their matches have been contested on clay, where Rafael is 12-2. On other surfaces, Roger has a winning 6-5 record. The reason that Roger and Rafael have met on clay so much is because Roger makes it to the semi-finals or finals of those clay tournaments and runs into Rafael. On other surfaces, Nadal doesn’t always make it that deep into the tournament (so Roger ends up beating someone else for the title).

    Nadal is an impressive athlete. I’ve seen him play up close in person a couple times, and he’s a chiseled machine. I think he has the kind of physical ability and competitive attitude that would have made him great at almost any sport he tried. At only 25 years old, he has five more years to catch up with where Roger sits right now. I do believe that Federer will win at least two more slam titles before he retires, but Nadal seems to have a chance of catching him. On the other hand, Nadal has not enjoyed the health and consistancy that Federer has, and he is now being tested by Djokovic (who is just coming into his prime at age 24 and is a year younger than Nadal). I also believe that players like Del Potro, Monfils, Berdych, Gasquet, Tsonga, Baghdatis, and Dolgopolov (who are all 25 years or younger) are beginning to hit their peaks, are capable of beating Nadal on surfaces other than clay, and will likely stop him in slams over the upcoming years. Bottom line, this story isn’t over yet, and we won’t know who is the greatest until about 10 years from now, when Roger and Rafael are both done.

    As for Sampras… please… the guy only made one French semi-final in his entire career, and he lost to Federer at Wimbledon the only time they played head-to-head. He’s one of the top five of all time, but has been well passed by Federer at this point. By the way, if we’re just looking at head-to-head records, Sampras was 1-3 against Paul Haarhuis, 2-3 against Sergi Bruguera, 4-5 against both Lleyton Hewitt and Michael Stich, 3-4 against Marat Safin, and 4-6 against Richard Krajicek. Are all of those guys greater than Sampras? Of course not! That’s why head-to-head record against one particular rival is not as important as the titles won.

    • This is the best pro-Federer argument I have read. Of course it had to come from a tennis guy such as yourself :).

      I just can’t call a dude who has been dominated by another dude the greatest. Sure they played most of their matches on clay courts (Nadal’s faves).

      However, I will point out that Nadal is coming into his own on other surfaces. He won Wimbledon twice and is a strong favorite to win it this year. He also claim the Australian and US Open singles titles the last couple of years. Last I checked, Federer has been more of a beast on hard courts and grass than almost every player on tour.

      Again, you made valid (and sensible) points about Federer. I just can’t call someone the greatest when said player calls someone else his daddy…

  2. @Jack – you make some good points, but I have to agree with Klownchild on this one. I consider Federer to be the Larry Holmes of Tennis. A great talent, no doubt. But his prime was at a time when the competition was very thin. (Roddick? Blake?) Before Nadal came on the scene, he was collecting slam titles quarterly like they were bank statements.

    I would definitely put Federer in my top 10, maybe top 5. In his prime, no one had a more lethal or consistent forehand. But you can’t just count up the titles to determine who’s the greatest. It’s a bit more complicated than that.

  3. @JAG. You said: “But his prime was at a time when the competition was very thin. (Roddick? Blake?) Before Nadal came on the scene, he was collecting slam titles quarterly like they were bank statements.” To counterpoint, I think you are compressing history and forgetting some big names.

    I’ve heard the “he had no competition in his peak” argument before, and it doesn’t hold up. Federer won his first slam at the 2003 Wimbledon, and didn’t finish #1 that year. It was 2004 that he began his domination. His main obstacles at the time were Agassi, Safin, Kuerten, Hewitt, Roddick, Moya, and Ferrero (all of whom had won slams and were formerly ranked #1, and are either in the Hall of Fame or have a good case for inductment). You could also throw guys like Nalbandian (who should have won the 2003 US Open) and Coria (who’s career was shortened by injury and could have pushed Nadal on clay if he stayed healthy) in there during 2004 and early 2005. Those guys weren’t slouches.

    As for the gap when Roger was “collecting slam titles quarterly” before Nadal arrived, it only lasted for a year. Nadal came on the scene in late 2004, helping Spain win the Davis Cup that year. That was Federer’s first year finishing at #1. Nadal then won the French Open in the spring of 2005, just 6 months later, and he was the #2 player behind Federer for most of the time while Roger won the last 12 of his 16 slam titles (so far). In fact, Federer’s best years were 2006 and 2007 when he made the finals of all 8 slams those two years, winning 6 of them. He faced Nadal in the finals of 4 of those slams, and it was only Nadal that kept Federer from winning the true annual Grand Slam (all four events in the same year) twice. Almost all of the records that Federer has set in his career have come with Nadal nipping at his heels, not to mention up-and-comer rivals like Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro, etc.

  4. @Jack – Good points. He faced some quality competition in Moya, Ferrero et al but it’s not quite the golden age, now, is it? I still believe that if he had played in the Borg, Mac, Connors, Lendl or the Agassi, Sampras, Courier, Becker eras, he would not have 16 slams. He would have his share, no doubt, but those heavyweights would have garnered more than Nalbandain and Coria.

    Of course, neither of us can prove this, but it’s an interesting debate.



  5. This is a really stupid article. Sampras only reached the *semifinal* of a French Open once. If Federer lost in the first round of FO every time, he would not have a losing record against Nadal; the only reason he does is because he consistently gets deep in clay court tournaments but Nadal is the greatest clay player of all time. Nadal has a massive lead in clay court tournaments but Federer leads the head to head in grass and hard court. He only has the chance to get beaten by Nadal on clay because unlike Sampras, Federer is a good clay court player though obviously nothing on Nadal. Also, I believe Federer would have a leading h2h against Sampras even if they were both in their primes at the same time. Finally, Leander Paes leads Sampras in the head to head. Is he a better singles player than sampras?

    • Look at the era in which Federer dominated in his prime. You’re telling me that the likes of Andy Roddick was more challenging than facing Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Patrick Rafter, Boris Becker and Jim Courier during their primes? Quick, name me another challenger besides Roddick during Fed’s prime. I didn’t think so…

  6. To really be the GOAT you have to beat the best consistently, and be mentally tougher than them consistently. Federer didn’t do either against Nadal. We can’t just sit there and ignore this fact in our quest for who is GOAT. No doubt, 17 Grand Slams is incredible. But it’s still not about the sheer numbers – they don’t tell the whole story. There are very few long-time number 1s I can remember, if any, that had this much of a losing record against their rival. Not only that, it’s not like Federer never played Nadal close. He sure did. But he blew leads numerous times against him. Either he was up a break, had set point, or even match point.

    You may see “aww gee, cut this guy some slack, etc. etc. etc” But we already do – Federer’s record against Nadal does not in any way prevent him from being superior to Nadal. Federer is absolutely the superior player to Nadal – he has more Slams, a LOT more weeks at number 1, made it to a LOT more major finals and semis. But is his record against Nadal enough to push him over the edge and make him GOAT? Sorry, that’s a bit of a stretch for me too.

  7. Furthermore, if you do ignore Fed’s record against Nadal, you’re not being fair to Nadal. Nadal is the greatest claycourt player of all time, bar none. To blanket Federer as the overall Greatest of All Time overshadows Nadal’s achievements. Both of them, in their own way, are among the very best of all time.

  8. Just judge a player on being dominated by his main rival shows the immaturity of the judge itself. The judge who is the writer here should have seen the overall performance of Roger and just his loses to Rafa. No doubt Rafa is one of the greatest to play the game , but he is a phyical machine who is playing the game. That’s the reason why he has taken two long breaks in his tennis career for injuries. In the other hand Roger is a naturally gifted player. He does not have that mush of muscular power as Nadal’s but he is such a gifted player that he hits his both backhand and forehand shots with high precision and quality that it becomes an elegance to watch. He does not use both of his hands to hit the ball unlike Djoko & Rafa do. But still he has won 17 grand slams that too in such a competitive era. He started winning after 2003 when the big hitters of Tennis such as Rafter, Roddick, Nadal, Del Potro & Djokovic arrived into the Tennis era. The phenomenal drop shot which was actually started by Roger now being adopted by other players like Tsonga & Djokovic. Roiger is Greatest of all time. 5 consecutive US Open & 5 Consecutive Wimbledon tells the story for Roger.


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