Nadal, Timeline Towards Glory
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With his 9th Career Slam and with that, the completion of the Career Grand Slam ( on all surfaces ) Nadal is primed for glory. How far he can go and how far he is on the road to immortality is the reason for this slide show. The following slides will showcase, in order, the men he has edged, equaled and has yet to surpass.
Less we forget how the greats looks in the middle run of their careers. Nothing is certain, but speculation is omnipresent.
Surpassed Jim Courier
Nadal meeting Courier at Aussie Open 09
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My comparisons of Nadal to Courier began two years ago. They are now history.
Nadal has surpassed Courier in many ways, but sticking with the Slams, Courier made 7 Finals, on all surfaces, winning back to back titles at the French and Aussie.
From 91-95, Courier was the third man alongside Sampras and Agassi. From 1996 he quickly dissapeared.
Nadal has edged Courier in winning at all the Slams, and dominance at the French is certainly ahead of what Courier did at that Slam himself.
Surpassed Stefan Edberg
Edberg on the senior tour
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Edberg was one of the strong Swedes that succeeded Borg, perhaps not in play but in representing the Norse nation.
Edberg was, even if many forget, one of the premier players and a former world #1.
Way, way back in the 1980s.
He, like Courier, saw success on all surfaces at all the Slams, but for a longer period of time.
Edberg is one of few players who won multiple Slams at 3 different sites, two in Australia, New York and Wimbledon. He made an additional 5 Finals which he lost.
Statistically speaking, Edberg was very close to Nadal until Rafael won his U.S. Open.
Edberg made 11 Slam Finals, as Nadal, and provided persistent contention for every Slam, however he did not win a French Open and therefore unable to complete the Career Grand Slam.
Outside the Aussie Open which was not as popular as today, Edberg was a force for seven seasons, Nadal has at times dominated the last five.
Surpassed Boris Becker
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Becker's claim to fame, aside from being one of the game's greats, is becoming the youngest ever Wimbledon champion.
He would become a specialist on grass, making seven Finals at Wimbledon, winning three.
In his later years he would find success at the Aussie Open going 2 for 2 in Finals there.
Due to his emergence at such a young age, Becker was able to sustain relevance on the tour for twelve seasons.
He also attained an 80.33% win percentage in Grand Slams, one of the highest, but one Nadal has surpassed.
Surpassed John McEnroe
Nadal with McEnroe after the 2010 U.S. Open win
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John McEnroe is one of the most recognized tennis players of all time, yet in truth his career was not at the top tier of legend. A great player he was, but his dominance evaporated shockingly fast.
For six seasons, McEnroe finished Top 2 on the year ( four straight year end #1 ).
His Slam success, in singles that is, was largely confined to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
He made one French Open Final, aside from that he made five Finals at both Wimbledon and New York.
It was he who dethroned the great Bjorn Borg in 1981, while besting Borg at the U.S. Open twice.
His Slam list counts 4 U.S. Opens and 3 Wimbledon titles. He won two Slams in a year twice.
The downturn for McEnroe was post 1985. Between 1986-1992, he would make three Slam Semifinals, two at Wimbledon. Like many players of the day, McEnroe may have benefited from playing at the Aussie Open on grass and accumulated more Slam titles, he did not however.
Nadal's dominance has overcome what McEnroe achieved, and his success at all the Slams is beyond McEnroe singles career.
Edged Mats Wilander
Wilander at the senior tour
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Unfairly forgotten, it was Mats Wilander who became the 3rd player in the Open Era to win three Slams in a calendar year ( after Laver and Connors ). Wilander's dominance in 1988 would not be matched until Federer in 2004.
Wilander, like Nadal made 11 Finals, he won seven.
Although he only reached the top 2 rankings ( #1 ) in 1988, he was a consistent threat for a Slam on all surfaces.
He did not succeed at Wimbledon but in his time the Aussie Open was played on grass, where he won three times ( 88 was played on hard court ).
From his first Slam win to his last was a span of seven seasons. More in common with Nadal, Wilander won 3 titles and made a total 5 Finals at the French Open.
Nadal edges Wilander is having won 3 Slams in one year, and having multiple success on all surfaces ( two on Hard, albeit different hard surface ).
Nadal's dominance in more than one season is also an edge.
Within Reach Of Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors at the U.S. Open 2007
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Jimmy Connors is a legend, his iron man presence on the tour is legendary, however his shortcomings are of Agassi status, but worse.
Connors made 15 Slam Finals, losing 7, several of which he shouldn't have.
There's almost a tetris like layer between 79-81 where Connors made 8 Slam Semifinals of 9 Majors participated, but no further.
Connors in fact held the record for most consecutive Semifinals in Slams participated ( he did not partake at the Aussie Open ) with 11.
Connors was the 2nd player after Laver in the Open era to win 3 Slams in one year. He would disappointingly follow that year up with losing in the Final of all those 3 Slams, to lesser opponents.
He would be backstopped by Borg at Wimbledon twice and would split between McEnroe in later prime.
Connors was unable to win past 1983, but made 8 Semifinals and 1 Final.
From his first semifinal appearance to his last 18 calendar seasons passed.
Within Reach Of Agassi
Agassi on senior tour
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At first glance, one may throw Nadal over Agassi on a wim, but looking closer, he's not quite yet there.
He has equaled Agassi in every win facet, a career Grand Slam, Olympic Gold medal, world #1.
However Agassi had the longevity, or two primes as others may put it.
Also, Agassi, like Connors, made 15 Slam Finals and a number more Semifinals.
Agassi's all surface presence is another notch slightly above Nadal.
Andre The Giant made two Finals at every Slam, so far Nadal has one at the U.S. and Australian Open.
Agassi in total made three French Open Finals, two Wimbledon Finals, six U.S. Open Finals and four Aussie Open Finals where he won each one.
Agassi had a total of seven Top tier seasons where he was one of three players everyone believed could win every Slam they entered.
The other thing to remember is how Agassi's career paralleled the prime of Sampras, unlike Nadal edging Federer in his decline.
A Block Away From Borg
Borg at Wimbledon
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Bjorn Borg was and is regarded as one of the greatest pure performers.
His arguably premature retirement was a result of his refusal to be anything but the top ranked contender.
Still the man with the most French Open titles, including 4 in a row, Borg dominated both the French and Wimbledon Slams.
Four times he fell in the U.S. Open, at the hands of either McEnroe or Connors, sadly, had he won one of those ( except the last in 81 ) he would have ventured to Australia where, on the grass courts at the time, he would have by all feasible calculations, won and completed the Calendar Slam.
Regardless, Borg dominated two Slam events like no one had at that point, not Laver, not Connors, not nobody.
Borg finished the year Top 4 in eight seasons.
Nadal currently has proved to be a great all around player, but he has yet to dominate at two Slam events, having made the French Open his already.
A Valley Away From Ivan Lendl
Lendl circa 1983
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It was Lendl who held some of the greatest records of consistency.
He made 10 consecutive Slam Semifinals and appeared in a then record 19 Slam Finals. Both record have been surpassed by Federer.
To comprehend Ivan Lendl's level of consistency is hard, he did make the Finals at least twice at every Slam, but most noticeable of streaks and arguably the hardest to break was his mind blowing eight consecutive U.S. Open Finals.
You may have guessed Lendl was a contender for eight strong seasons, you can add two more for an even ten seasons of legitimacy.
What held Lendl back from certain greatness among then Slam legends was the upstarts and all rounders of his day.
Lendl's 11 Slam Finals losses were by the following:
Jimmy Connors twice at the U.S. Open
Mats Wilander three times at the Aussie, French and U.S. Opens.
Boris Becker three times at the Aussie, French and U.S. Opens.
Borg, McEnroe and Cash once at Wimbledon, French and U.S. Opens.
Lendl seemed to be the man at the wrong place, wrong time.
He also made nine consecutive Year End Master Finals, winning on five occasions.
Still Nadal has a ways to surpass Lendl, for his consistency and his 8 Slams at three different sites is no brush over either.
A Sea Away From Sampras
Sampras on senior tour
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Sampras was the big man on campus since he retired. The holder of the most total Grand Slams, Sampras dominated at Wimbledon and New York.
Sampras was one of the longer lasting legends on the tour, his first and last Slam victories spanned thirteen seasons.
One of his greatest streaks was winning at least one Slam for eight seasons ( since equaled by Federer ).
The other streak was finishing year end #1 for six straight seasons.
The major stamp for Sampras's slam career was his excellent win/loss record at Slam Finals, 14 wins and only 4 losses, three at the U.S. Open and one at the Aussie.
In those four losses, Sampras lost to four different players. Throughout his career he had, essentially, no true rival. Agassi did meet Sampras in five of Pistol Pete's 18 Finals, but he lost in four of them, in three and four sets.
Pete Sampras' serve and volley was his bread and butter and he cashed it in every time.
Nadal's best opportunity to begin attempting to match Sampras' success is to build a dominance at a second Slam event, outside the French.
Wimbledon seems to be the prime target, but it may be too late.
Sampras holds the all time record for most men's singles slams at both Wimbledon with seven and U.S. Open with five.
Pistol Pete also won multiple Slams in a season on four occasions, something Nadal has done twice.
Lightyears Away From Laver
Laver (centre) with the other greats.
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Laver is not only considered by many as the greatest tennis player of all time due to his two Calendar Slams, but his doing so on the second turn at age 31, 7 years after he was banned from the Slams by turning pro.
During what was arguably his prime years, he was able to win 5 U.S. Pro Championships, and in 1967, a year before the Open Era began, Laver won all three of the unofficial Pro Slams, Wembley, U.S. and French, and also winning the Wimbledon Pro, which essentially gave him his other Calendar Slam.
It is entirely within reason to assume Laver, had he been able to participate in the "official" Slams, would have racked up close to 20, as noted by his Pro Championship wins between 63 and 67.
It would be hard for anyone to match or overtake Laver.
The one argument that could be used to diminish Laver's accomplishments is the one that can be used for any athlete in any sport, lesser pool of talent.
Although this may be true, it does not take away from Laver's dominance. Nadal's road to surpassing Laver would start with him winning the 2011 Australian Open giving him the first 4 consecutive Slam victories since Laver, albeit not in the same year.
Laver's all court dominance is dully noted and well respected, however he in fact did not win a single slam on hard surface, as all the slams were played on grass or clay.
Nadal has much work to do with Laver's 17 Slam Finals and his immense success in the pro years before the Open era.
A Galaxy Away From The God Of Tennis
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Roger Federer has attained many records, most of which seem difficult to surpass, ever.
A brief overview would include 237 consecutive weeks at #1 ( record for men and women ), 10 consecutive Slam Finals and a disgusting 23 consecutive Slam Semifinals or better ( an improvement over the previous record of 10 ).
Federer was able to dominate two Slam events at Wimbledon and U.S. Open, while being the only player to win three, then four times at 3 different Slams with four Aussie Open crowns. Winning three of four Slams in a year three times, and completing the Career Grand Slam
Nadal would have to showcase sheer obliteration over his opponents for a good four seasons, meaning he has 2011-2013 to go.
While Nadal beating the weeks at #1 streak is not a necessity, beating Federer's 16 Slam mark is all but a must.
Achieving the Calendar Slam would also go a long way to dethroning Federer from eternal greatness, as that would mean 13 Slams counting on 2011.
Nadal has shown signs of what Federer was putting on from 2004-07, now all must wait to see if he sustains those projections.