Yet again, with Nadal's return to the top of men's tennis, talk has begun on the possibility of him breaking Federer's unfathomable 16 Slams (in a seven year span no less ).
The most common argument is that Nadal is 24 and already has seven, on the verge of a possible eighth in his 10th Slam Final Appearance. In contrast, Federer had five at the same age. This argument is beyond weak. Firstly, Federer did not have a history of recurring injury as Nadal already has. Just to begin, I am going to lightly asses the basic premise: Nadal has seven Slams, he needs 10 to surpass Federer-if we are to assume he doesn't win any more.
In a calendar year, even a casual tennis fan should know there are four Slams, and that only one player in the history of tennis has managed to win all in one year in the open era, Laver more than 40 years ago. Federer managed to win three of four in a year three times, a record Nadal would most likely have to equal to reach 10 more Slams. Consider the age equation: Federer's decline is elementary, in comparison to past legends, Borg, Sampras, McEnroe and others. Only Agassi was able to win more than a couple slams past the age of 28 since Laver.
If we are to consider the age 29 as the point of no Slams, for arguments sake, then Nadal has five seasons to collect 10 Slams, an average of two per year.
The Hard Court dilemma : Nadal has not made the U.S. Open Final, and it has seemed to be the most open tournament alongside the Aussie Open. Speaking of the Aussie, even Federer could not complete a threepeat. Nadal has openly stated his wish for the hard court season to be shortened, which brings up a number of questions and seems to point to him not being able to consistently put up winning runs.
Grass & Clay Combination : It seems easy now, but even Borg only managed to do it four times. If Nadal does beat Berdych Sunday, he will have done it twice. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he does it three more times for a total of five, that would be seven Slams in total over a three year period. In theory, this seems to be pointing to a career of 20+ Slams, but consider Nadal has never won three slams in a calendar year and, were he to win Sunday, it would only be the second time he has won two in the same season.
Injuries : one cannot assume Nadal will miraculously stay completely healthy the next five years. One must consider the variables. He may win five Slams in two years, but what of the off time? After winning the 2009 Aussie Open, Nadal went over a year before winning his next Slam at the French Open.
Is Federer Done? And who else is competing? Even if Federer is done winning Slams, there are other young contenders, namely Del Potro, Berdych and Soderling. Not to forget Murray, Djokovic, or the aging but still seemingly spry Roddick. Nadal dominating the game as Federer once did would arguably be an even more ungodly hold on the tennis world.
How many Slams WILL Nadal win? One can only ponder. Perhaps Nadal does pull an Agassi and sticks around long past Federer's retirement party, or maybe he implodes like Borg. In my opinion, I think double digit career Slams are fine to expect, but beyond that it is a crapshoot. After all, McEnroe had seven Slams at age 25, seemingly in control of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and the next eight seasons saw him make one Slam Final appearance with four additional semis.