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Friday, June 22, 2018

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.

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