The GOAT (greatest of all time) status has always been a sensitive subject. One that many people hesitate to label any player. One that is argued until the day is dead. One that rarely finds a conclusion.
As we have seen over the past four to five years, Roger Federer has risen the bar of tennis to a standard that was never seen before. He has shown us his unique ability to adjust his game to suit almost every opponent.
He has demonstrated to us his various weapons available to him to destruct or counter attack the many threats posed to him on the court.
Winning on almost every surface, bar clay (which he was still winning ‘’titles’’ on, such as Hamburg), praise was coming to him from all directions.
From every corner of the tennis world.
Federer’s status was becoming so large that by the time he was two tears into his reign, he was the household name of tennis.
The early challenges of Andy Roddick, Leyton Hewitt and Marat Safin were thrown into Federer’s ever-growing spider’s web that he was masterfully winding around that GOAT status.
If it was to be seen literally, the timing was perfect. Federer’s GOAT with precision and perfection was entering a new dimension in tennis, a new field of it’s own, with Sampras, despite his 14 grand slam titles, quickly exiting.
For many, Federer’s Swiss revolution was deserving of the GOAT status.
It was a monster he had created. It needed continuous grand slam victory feeding, and it was getting it.
However, there was still one place where Federer couldn’t feed his GOAT...the French Open. It was at the final of this grand slam in may 2006 when Federer lost for the first time in a grand slam final, to Rafael Nadal of Spain.
Little was made of the young and persistent Spaniard, who had previously beaten him in the semifinal the year before, aged just 17.
Nadal then shocked tennis fans, analysts and pundits by reaching the Wimbledon final that same year. However, he was no match for Federer’s angry GOAT, going down in four sets.
On to 2007 and Federer had finally beaten Nadal on clay in the Hamburg Open final, ending an 81 match winning streak by Nadal (on clay). Then, the French Open final battle raged again. Federer losing again, and failing to capitalize on the momentum gained after Hamburg.
Now it was Nadal’s turn to have a go at the GOAT’S patch in the Wimbledon final, but once more he went down, this time in a more tightly contested five sets.
With Federer cleaning up around all the other grand slams, it was the French Open final 2008 before they battled again. Federer’s GOAT had caught illness and went down in a non-resistant three sets.
Then, it was the Wimbledon final. The raging Rafael finally announced himself as a Kid (a baby Goat). Federer made a brave comeback from two sets down, in which we saw tennis that redefined the law of physics, but ran out of steam in the fifth, eventually losing 9-7.
Federer’s veteran GOAT was feeling the pull of critics across the globe, and even worse, the weight of history. It was feeling vulnerable to nearly every player.
With haste the bruised GOAT retreated to New York.
Here, people believed in the lame GOAT. They roared him on like never before and, to the relief of the Swiss man, he ended the year in a flourish, taking the U.S. Open home.
For Federer’s GOAT, redemption and the number 14 beckoned at the Australian Open 2009. However for the little Kid of Nadal, it was battleground number three and a sixth grand slam title which awaited him.
It was the fifth set of this final when Federer’s GOAT showed the first signs of fatigue in a grand slam final, going down 6-2.
Perhaps it was that number 14 (the record) which had made Federer so subdued with nerves, or perhaps it was the sheer realization of Nadal as a hungry Kid in his GOAT’S field, willing to fight for every grand slam.
Federer knows that Nadal was unscripted in his story of greatness. He knows how different things might be if it wasn’t for Nadal, and perhaps his tears at the victory ceremony demonstrated this.
Nadal knows that he is breaking through to a field of greatness. He knows that he is the ever-growing Kid with six grand slam titles at the age of just 22, and perhaps his sleeves demonstrate HIM growing from a Kid into that GOAT status.
The scientific definition for competition is ‘’when two or more living things need the same thing that is in short supply."
That is exactly the competition Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have. Both men want grand slams and there’s only four a year.
What Federer and Nadal win and how they perform in the next three to four years will strongly define the field of greatness in tennis.
It is a time for us to look forward to, a time to enjoy. A time that will be remembered forever.
Good luck guys.
May the best man win.