The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has been fairly one-sided. The head to head record between the two of them is 17-8 in favor of Rafael Nadal.
Federer is widely regarded as the greatest play ever, but as pointed out by Mary Carillo, he hasn't even been able to consistently beat Rafael Nadal. This got me thinking, how is it possible that Federer has lost to Nadal 17 times in his career?
I mean, clearly Federer has more major titles, clearly Federer has more final appearance, clearly Federer has been the more consistent week in and week out player, but yet some how Nadal has more than double the amount of wins as Federer.
That was when I decided to look into their head to head matchup. Something struck me as odd, out of the 25 times that they have played, 14 of those matchups have been on clay. Federer has only won twice on clay against Nadal so that means that 12 of Nadal's 17 wins have come on clay.
I am not in any way to take away from Nadal's dominance and skill set, but how is it that they have played more than half of their matches on clay courts?
For so many years, the only way these to players would meet is if both of them made it to the finals. But Nadal hadn't been able to make it to the finals of the U.S. Open, Wimbledon or the Australian Open during a great stretch of his career.
Which means Federer would only be able to play him on clay. Which as everybody seems to know, it is almost impossible to beat Nadal on clay. Federer is an amazing clay court player, but he is not nearly as good as Nadal.
Now, I know clay counts for just as much as every other surface, but I never hear anyone saying Sampras shouldn't have been considered the Greatest ever just because he couldn't win the French Open. Just because Federer and Nadal are close to equal on every surface, but Federer can't find a way to win on clay doesn't mean that Nadal is a lot better than him (well, it does mean he is a lot better than Federer on clay).
But if Nadal had been reaching the finals of all those other majors with Federer, their record would be a lot closer and this debate wouldn't be going on.
There is a new greatest player ever in every decade, every player has their weakness.
Federer's weakness in clay court against Nadal. Sampras's was the French Open finals.