There are many controversial articles claiming that Federer cannot possibly be the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) because of the following main reasons:
1) Futile to compare tennis players in different eras with particular reference to Laver's twice winning the four Grand Slams in a year etc.
2) Inability to dominate Nadal during Federer's career.
Comparision with Laver and different eras
Pardon if I am wrong, Laver has mentioned somewhere that Federer can still win or can aim to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in the same year. Laver also mentioned that it is impossible to compare different eras.
I am not sure about purpose of the first statement. If it is Laver's purpose to encourage and maximize Federer's potential to win all four Grand Slam singles in the same year then my respect goes to Laver. Everyone knows that it is very difficult for Federer to win all four Grand Slams in the modern era especially with the presence of Nadal who himself maybe be the Greatest Of All Time On Clay (GOATOC). Now that Soderling prevented Nadal from breaking Borg's Roland Garros record, Nadal's claim on GOATOC will be another argument itself.
Without Nadal, Federer may have already equalled Laver's record of twice winning all the four Grand Slams in a year. If that is so, critics will be quick to jump at the lack of worthy of challengers in Federer's era. With all the three of the four Grand Slams In Laver's era played on grass, can we say Laver has dominated his fellow challengers or has there been a lack of worthy challengers? I supposed that question will never be answered.
One thing that we are sure is that tennis has become a sports more widely played around the world. The inclusion tennis players from Serbia, Russia, and China (just to name a few) has certainly raised the standard and the level of play in tennis. Two main reasons for the raising the level of play is the advancement of racquets and strings and emphasis placed in physical training in a tennis player.
During the reruns of the famous Wimbledon matches of yesteryears when the tennis ball used is still white in color, one can feel that the pace of the game is somewhat slower, almost recreation (sorry hope I did not offend anybody). Not that the ball is not hit strong enough (that can be due to the racquet), it's the physical movement of the players.
However I find it quite hard to imagine if the tennis ball can be hit any harder or the movement of the players can get any faster from now on. However who knows what will happen 50 years later humans may be taller, bigger, stronger, and move faster and hit faster balls with better technology racquets. Frankly speaking, I do not see that there will be a big difference but I may be wrong.
So comparing eras is difficult given the Grand Slams are now played on three different surfaces compared to Laver's time. The level of play has transcended from the recreational style to the more physical style. The level of competition in each player's era is also different from another era. Lets glorify the achievements of Laver as well as Federer's and see if Federer's record (still expanding) will be ever be over taken.
So how are we to make comparison of eras easier from now on. Although nothing can be done to stop the improvement in the level of play due to better technology and better physical conditioning, the tennis tradition and the nature of the competition in all Grand slams (format of competition, surfaces etc) and ATP competitions should remain consistent or comparable to the present day tennis. It may be impossible to as the game evolved through the years. Lets hope there is not too much a change to this wonderful traditional game.
The Nadal Factor
I hate to say it but it is certainly a blemish on Federer's great career. The win record between the two is skewed as Nadal did not reach finals of other surfaces of the Grand Slams prior to 2008. In Federer's glorious run from 2004 to 2007, he almost only lost to Nadal on clay. Federer's lost in Wimbledon 2008 and the Australian Open 2009 are a huge blow to him and the tennis world, especially his fans, is glad to see Federer's return this year to claim the French open, Wimbledon and his No. 1 ranking even though not through beating Nadal in the finals.
It will be a huge tussle for the No. 1 ranking and the US open 2009 from now until the end of the year. If Federer can fend off the assault by his younger and hungrier opponents and end the year as No. 1, it will silence the critics based on the Nadal factor (or even Murray factor).
Nadal is certainly a blemish but the fantastic and consistent performance of Federer over his reign since 2004 till now will firmly secure his position as the Greatest Of The Modern Era (GOTME) (in my opinion) until someone breaks his Grand Slam record which is still counting. Lets see how the story unfolds for the second part of the 2009.