Is Rafael Nadal the Greatest of All Time?
Like Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were carved into the granite of the symbolic national structures, Mt. Rushmore, in the summer of 2009, there was an addition to its counterpart in tennis.
Late into the gentle Wimbledon night, Roger Federer was crowned champion and was personally carved into the pantheon by his neighbors on that mythic mount.
But now Federer, that impeccably elegant, divinely perfect Swiss genius, was proclaimed the grandest champion of all, better than everybody else, the first face on the tennis mountain that all eyes will be drawn to.
For those of us who were raised on the relatively monotonous, monochrome, and mundane but distinctly appreciable court exploits of Pete Sampras and the power serve and quick volley era of the 90's, Federer became an acquired taste.
Well worth the time that it may have taken to acquire it though.
But wait, late into the dusk of endless platitudes, the always peculiar and offbeat Bud Collins was asked the question, already answered by almost all the great champions in the greatest of tennis temples.
"I would say, one of them, one of the greatest players with Laver, Borg, and Pete. You know, I'd also wait to see Nadal's career, because he should be in that conversation"
The forgotten man in the conversation. The undefeated champion. Unable to defend his title because of the ill-fated injustice of injury.
Could Bud Collins be right?
Could the muscular Nadal, be the best, when it's all said and done?
Could he still be underrated, while being considered the best player in the world?
For there is an allusion, that is the one flailing, flogging flaw in the most magnificent and majestic combination of skill and success that tennis has ever seen.
The head-to-head record.
Against his main rival.
How can the greatest be not greater than a supposedly less skilled contemporary on 13 out of 20 occasions?
The Swiss genius is greater than all who came before, and yet, the Spanish bullfighter has tamed him.
Does it diminish Federer's status from "of all time" to "one of", or does it maybe make Nadal the greatest?
Domination of a rivalry cannot be sufficient substantiation. He would have to have a similarly awe-inspiring list of accomplishments at the end of his career.
The answer would have become evident in the next three years, but that was before the inauspicious knee impairment.
Now the prominent school of thought is uncertainty and an inescapable early decline due to an extensive history of knee injuries at 23, or maybe because of a bruising and burdensome style of play.
But an opening, an opportunity, an option is there, to end a career as the greatest of his profession.
Very few people even dream of it.
The tale is yet to be told.
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