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The greatest ever?

Rafael Nadal’s win over Roger Federer in the French Open final will reignite the age-old debate about who is the greatest player of all time. Grand champs

india Updated: Jun 07, 2011 01:54 IST

Rafael Nadal’s win over Roger Federer in the French Open final will reignite the age-old debate about who is the greatest player of all time.

Both men are scathing of any such comparisons, but that will not stop the arguments which are set to escalate as Federer, approaching 30, enters the twilight of his career and 25-year-old Nadal, fitness permitting, enters the prime of his.

The Spaniard’s thrilling four sets win at Roland Garros means he now has 10 Grand Slam titles, with six French Opens, two Wimbledons, and one apiece at the US and Australian Open.

He is now in sixth equal place on the all-time list level with 1920s American star Bill Tilden and just one behind legends Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg. More pertinently he is now just six Grand Slam titles shy of the record currently held by Federer, who is five years older.

Having proved that he can play well and win on all surfaces, Nadal looks set to at least match Federer’s total which would give him a statistical argument to claim he is the best player ever.

No comparisons, please!
Not that it seems to matter much to the player himself.

“When you talk about these statistics, when you try and make these comparisons, really it’s not very interesting to me,” he said. “I’m very happy with what I have, with who I am. I’m not the best player in the history of tennis. I think I’m amongst the best. That’s true. That’s enough for me.”

Sentiments echoed by Federer, who long laid siege to Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles which he equalled with his crucial win in the 2009 French Open and then followed up by winning at Wimbledon the same year and at the Australian Open in 2010.

“Who cares where you stand,” he said. “It’s when it’s over that you can’t do anything any longer, that’s when you’re proud of what you accomplished.

“That’s why I’m happy for him (Nadal) that he’s won these Grand Slams and these tournaments. He can prove to people that he can play a good type of tennis. This is what counts.”

Nadal has a better head-to-head record
To date the two have met an incredible 25 times, 14 of these on clay, since a teenage Nadal shocked Federer in straight sets on the Miami hardcourts in early 2004.

Federer grabbed his first win over the Spaniard at the same tournament the following year when he bounced back from two sets to love down to win. But since then it is Nadal who has dominated their head-to-heads and he now stands at 17-8 with a Grand Slam finals record of 6-2 against his arch-rival.

Despite the arrival of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro at the topmost level of the sport, Nadal and Federer both agree that in any tournament their greatest adversary is the other.

That rivalry will now switch over to London where Nadal will try to defend his Wimbledon crown with six-times former winner Federer desperate to equal the seven titles won by his great idol Sampras.

“That’s obviously the huge priority right now, to win Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time. That’s the number one goal in the season,” Federer said.

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Nadal holds on to No. 1 ranking

Rafael Nadal’s record-tying sixth French Open title has helped him hold onto his No 1 ranking, just ahead of No 2 Novak Djokovic. As of Monday, Nadal leads Djokovic by only 45 points — 12,070 to 12,025. Djokovic would have moved up to No 1 for the first time in his career if Nadal had lost to Roger Federer in Sunday’s final at Roland Garros, or if Djokovic had beaten Federer in the semifinals two days earlier. Federer stays at No 3, followed by Andy Murray and Robin Soderling. French Open champion Li Na, the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title, rose three places to a career-best No 4 in the WTA rankings. AP, Paris