Federer Winning Majors Without Beating Nadal Raises Questions

Maybe it’s the nature of our society to be critical and look for the negative angle in stories, but on the day that Roger Federer became the first player to win 15 majors, the critics already began chirping. How can Roger be the greatest when he has a losing record to Rafael Nadal? Doesn’t his lone French Open title come with an asterisk because he didn’t have to go through Rafa to get it? And what about winning his 15th title that separated him from Pete Sampras — Nadal, the defending champ, didn’t even play in it because he was injured. How can Federer be the greatest when he lost his top spot in the world to Nadal and only regained it once Rafa was out of the picture?

I’m not a big guy on longevity and instead prefer absolute dominance. For instance, give me Pedro over Maddux any day even though Maddux has many more wins. But for this argument, I’m comfortable saying Roger Federer is the best of all-time. Here’s the reality: you can pick on anyone and find holes in their resume. Sampras wasn’t worth the hair on his ass on clay, Borg never won the U.S., and nobody else won enough to deserve a mention in this conversation. Yes, Nadal appeared to have overtaken Federer last year, but just when he was counted out, fast forward a year and you realize who the last man standing is — Federer. That counts. Roger can’t help that Nadal got knocked out of the French Open and that Nadal plays so hard that he hurts his knees. All Roger can do is beat everyone in front of him — no easy task — and he’s done that. 15 times at majors, more than anyone else.

Just when it looked like Federer’s days on top were ending, he’s now taken over 2009 and made it his year, and he still has one more major to go! Going back to a few more of the arguments, I never felt comfortable with all the majors Steffi Graf won after Monica Seles’ stabbing — Seles had been dominating the scene and had taken over but had her career derailed by a psycho fan. Nadal’s downfall this year is not the result of a crazy fan but of himself and his injuries. Federer, with every obstacle that faces all players in front of him, has managed to make it to the semis of 21 straight majors. Maybe his only problem is he makes it look so damn easy people lose site of realistic expectations.

Around The Web

  • Gene

    Good take. I would like to add that Roger played last year with mono and its aftereffects. Ask Mario Ancic about that. Ancic had it a year earlier and still isn’t completely healthy. He had to pull out of Wimbledon and the Croatia-USA Davis Cup match because his body wasn’t ready.

    To judge Federer and Nadal by last year’s results is no more fair than to judge Rafa by how he did against Roger in 2005 or 2006. Roger won three majors in 2004, 2006, and 2007 and 2 majors in 2005, when he had a record of 82-5, and 2009 thusfar. People point out that Roger is only number two on clay. Agreed. However, Rafa is one of the top two clay players of all time, up there with Borg. Nobody points out that Rafa hasn’t done much of anything at the US Open. His record there of one semifinal in his career is similar to Sampras’ record at the French. He only won two majors last year and didn’t even make the finals at the other two, yet everyone raves. Roger did better than that four times, and maybe will do it again this year if he makes the semis at the US Open.
    One of the reasons Roger’s record is so bad head to head with Nadal is that Rafa has not consistently reached finals on the faster surfaces, such as the US Open. Roger has won five straight US Opens, and not once was Rafa good enough to be his finals opponent.

    Finally, making 21 semifinals in a row at the four majors is the Federer record that is much more impressive than even the fifteen majors. That means that for over five years, the man has been in serious contention in every major, regardless of injuries, illnesses, or running into a super hot player. To show you how outrageous this is, the second most consecutive semis reached in majors is ten, by Ivan Lendl. Tiger Woods, the god of golf, hasn’t been anywhere near as consistent in the majors as Roger has. That is why Roger should be considered number one all time.

  • SpinMax

    I don’t like the Federer 15 discussion at all. Rod Laver is the best. He won 11 titles but was not allowed to compete for 5 years where he was the best hands-down in that time. He’d easily have 20+ majors.

    Laver titles:
    1960 x1
    1961 x1
    1962 won grand slam
    63-67 not allowed to compete in these events, yet was #1 by a mile
    1968 x1
    1969 won grand slam

    Think about that, in 5 years he won 11 major events. But in his 5 best
    years he wasn’t allowed in those events but easily would have won another
    11 if not more. How many singles wins does Federer have? 60? Laver has 3x that.

    Laver won a record 184 singles titles. He also holds the record for most titles won in a single year during the amateur era (22 in 1962),[16] during the touring pro era (19 in 1967),[17] and during the open era (18 in 1969).[18] After turning professional in 1963, Laver won the U.S. Pro Championships five times and the Wembley Pro Championship four times between 1964 and 1967 (plus two more times in 1969 and 1970 when the event was known as the “British Covered Court Championships”). In 1967, Laver won a “Professional Grand Slam” by winning all four of the major professional tournaments: the U.S. Pro Championships, the Wembley Pro Championships, the French Pro Championship, and the Wimbledon Pro.

  • HafDolla

    SpinMax – whose to say Federer won’t win 20+ majors? You cannot compare the 2 athletes because they played in 2 totally different era’s. All you can do is look at the bottom line and that is Federer has won more majors. He simply is the best.

    Plus the argument that Federer has done this recently with Nadal out… well that’s sports. A little luck is needed along the way to become great and the great ones take advantage of it. If that argument of Nadal and Federer is sound then why didn’t Phil win the majors Tiger missed last year? Phil is known by many as the 2nd best golfer in the world……

  • SpinMax

    You say that you cannot compare eras and then you say federer is the best/won the most. It sounds like you are comparing eras.

    Bernie Williams has 22 postseason homers
    Babe Ruth has 15 postseason homers
    By your logic, Bernie Williams is better because you wouldn’t take into account that Ruth didn’t have wildcard nor the ALCS back then. The same situation applies to Rod Laver who was not allowed to compete his 5 best years.

    But lets do it this way…lets apply the same rules to Federer, since his career isn’t over we’ll only remove his best 3 years, not 5 years. When you have Federer playing by the rules Laver had to play by…Fed would only have 7 major wins.

    I hope you’re not one of those guys who considers Ali the best…cause his best years he couldn’t compete. Who knows, he might have lost every fight in that time.