Coming out of the 2010 US Open, where Rafael Nadal earned his first championship trophy in New York, all talk turned to Nadal's chances to complete the "Calendar Slam." He had just defeated the rising, but still inconsistent Djokovic for his ninth major, well ahead of the pace set by Roger Federer at the same point in his career.
The question was not if, but when, Rafael Nadal would catch Roger Federer's record for all-time Grand Slam titles. Currently, Federer sits at the top of the heap with a comfortable lead over Nadal, holding 16 Grand Slam titles. However, at 24 years old and already holding nine Grand Slams of his own, with seemingly nobody on the planet that can stop him, it would only be a matter of time before Nadal reigned supreme in the tennis record books.
The records held by Federer were all on full display. With every passing tournament, and seemingly every win by Nadal, Federer's aura of invincibility and title as the tennis GOAT seemed to crumble, just slightly.
At each post-tournament press conference, the same questions would come up regarding Federer's stranglehold at the pinnacle of the men's game. Was he past his prime? Is Federer in decline? Could he even be considered the GOAT if he didn't have a winning record in his own era, against his main rival?
That was the tone almost nine months ago leaving New York. Fast-forward to today, and the landscape of men's tennis has been shaken. Neither Nadal or Federer hold the last major title, and both come into the French Open with questions about their game.
Novak Djokovic has slowly, but firmly taken the steam out of the Nadal/Federer reign at the top of the Men's game. Djokovic enters the French Open with an unbelievable 39 match winning streak, holding seven consecutive titles, including his second Australian Open Championship.
Nadal faces the reality that his No. 1 ranking is being ripped from his tight grip, and fully aware that Djokovic will become the first Men's player not named Federer or Nadal to hold the No. 1 ranking since Federer displaced Andy Roddick in February of 2004.
What does the emergence of Novak Djokovic mean to Roger Federer's legacy?
Djokovic taking the No. 1 ranking from Nadal so soon, will make it certain the he cannot catch Federer's record for consecutive weeks at No. 1. It also begins to put into question whether or not Nadal can catch Federer for the overall Slams Record at 16. The impact of Djokovic perhaps stealing a few majors from Nadal, only ends up padding the cushion for Federer.
By no means does Djokovic's rise take away from Nadal or Federer's place in history, but it does help cement the long term standing of Roger Federer's stat lines. It would have been difficult to imagine that anyone would conquer Pete Sampras' previous record of 14 Grand Slam titles, until Federer came along and currently sits on 16.
It would have been a tall order for Nadal to catch Federer at 16, however only six months ago, that was not a far fetched idea. Now with Djokovic playing at a different level than his tennis peers, and a perfect 7-0 against Nadal and Federer in 2011; it seems like he might make it difficult for Nadal to catch Federer.
To put it in simple terms: Djokovic will help Federer maintain his spot in history, because he will make life difficult for Nadal.
Federer Records that will be near impossible for Nadal to catch, once Djokovic becomes the new world No. 1:
1. 237 Consecutive weeks at No. 1. Until Nadal took over the No. 1 ranking from Federer the first time on August 18, 2008, Federer was the top ranked player for 237 consecutive weeks, surpassing the previous record of 160 weeks held by Jimmy Connors.
2. 23 Consecutive Grand Slam Semi Finals. Previous record was 10 held by Ivan Lendl and Rod Laver.
3. 16 Grand Slam Titles. While Nadal holds nine Grand Slam Titles, The emergence of Djokovic will make it increasingly difficult for Nadal to catch Federer for the record. Federer won his 16 titles in a span of 27 majors (2003 Wimbledon to 2010 Australian Open), while Sampras won 14 in 49 majors.
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