Rafael Nadal and Rod Laver after Nadal's 2009 Australian Open Victory
With the start of the Australian Open just days away, it's not a surprise that we would hear Australian tennis great Rod Laver's take on the potential "Rafa Slam."
Laver, who is regarded as one of the best players of all time, won the coveted calendar year Grand Slam twice, first as an amateur in 1962 and then again as a professional in 1969.
He was the only man to win all four majors in the same calendar year twice.
So what's Laver's take on the "Rafa Slam?"
ESPN reported that in a telephone interview with the AP, Laver stated, "He's got three under his belt, and he's playing well. There's a good chance he could pull it off. But it's not a Grand Slam, certainly."
While it is completely understandable that Laver would defend his record, insinuating that Nadal's potential accomplishment is less than Laver's calendar year slam is simply ignoring the facts.
When Laver won the Grand Slam in 1969, for example, three of the four tournaments were played on grass; thus Laver, a gifted serve and volleyer, was playing on his best surface in three out of the four tournaments.
Nowadays, the four major tournaments are played on different surfaces.
The French Open is on clay, Wimbledon on grass and the Australian and US Open are played on two very different hard court surfaces.
These days, you have to be a truly complete player if you want a chance to win all four tournaments in a row.
Secondly, the variety of players and playing styles that one encounters during any given tournament in these modern times is far different than in Laver's days. The current depth of men's tennis is ridiculous. Just last season alone, six different men won a master's tournament even though Nadal himself won a third of them.
As far as playing styles are concerned, just take a look at the top five players in the world: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling and Andy Murray. All five of them have distinctly different playing styles.
In these modern days of tennis, the playing field is deep and there are numerous types of players that you can encounter in a single tournament.
Add in the media attention that current players have to deal with and the promotional obligations that the top players have to make room for in their schedules, and it's clear that winning four major tournaments in a row in the current state of tennis is as, if not more, difficult than what Laver accomplished.
This is not to say what Laver did was not an incredible feat and that he should not be regarded as one of the best players of all time, because he certainly should.
But, if Nadal were to win the Australian Open, his accomplishment should be in the same conversation as Laver's, even if it wasn't in a calendar year.
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