How Does the 'Sabatini Effect' Affect the GOAT Status of Federer and Nadal?

Donald MarhefkaCorrespondent INovember 4, 2011


Who was Gabriela Sabatini?  She was a leading player on the women’s circuit in the 80s and 90s, known as the “Divine Argentine,” and her flashy game and undoubted attractiveness awarded her a large fanbase.

In 2006, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

She was the U.S. Open Champion in 1990, although unfortunately this was her only Grand Slam win.  Why, if she won only one Grand Slam, was she inducted into the Hall of Fame?

This is what I’m calling “The Sabatini Effect.”

She was a finalist once at the U.S. Open and once at Wimbledon, she won the WTA Tour Championship twice as well as appearing twice more in the finals.  She reached the semifinals 15 additional times in Grand Slams.  At the WTA Tour Championship, she reached the semifinals an additional three times. 

So, sometimes we must look beyond the raw statistics to get a true picture.


Roger Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles while Rafael Nadal has captured 10.  The generally acknowledged way of determining who the GOAT is to simply count the number of Grand Slam victories. 


But, is this the best way?

Let’s look at the 2008 Wimbledon Championship, which is widely accepted as one of, if not the, best match of all time.  Of course, Rafa won by a 9-7 score in the fifth set in vanishing daylight.  In other words, it was a crapshoot. 

So, according to the current way of counting, Rafa gets one point while Roger gets none.  Is it fair that Roger gets exactly the same number of points in 2008 that Rafa got in 2009 when he didn’t even play?

Of course, there are many other examples:

Rafa Nadal played in the finals of the 2011 U.S. Open.  He was down two sets to love against Djokovic.  The third set was one of the best sets of tennis I have ever witnessed. In the end, both men were utterly spent.  Although Novak won the match, is it fair that Rafa receives exactly "zero" for that effort?

I propose a system that will try to compensate a little for the finalist in a Grand Slam.  Let’s give one point to the loser and—say—two points to the winner. 

So now, the score is not 16-10 in favor of Federer, but 39-24.  Let’s call these points GOAT points.  So, it would be Federer over Nadal 39-24 GP. 



Most people are in agreement that the fifth-most important tournament is the World Tour Final (WTF).  In the WTF, only eight players are entered, but they are the top eight for that year.  Needless to say, there are no easy matches as the first two rounds sometimes are at a slam.  Many players consider the WTF to be the equivalent to a Grand Slam.

The prize money is on a level with a Grand Slam.  The number of ATP points depends on the number of victories.  Last year, Federer got 1,500 points.  A Grand Slam awards 2,000. 

According to the “Sabatini Effect,” the WTF should be included in determining GP. 

Federer has five WTF titles along with one finalist finish.  One of Nadal’s goals is to win a WTF title.  This would round out his impressive resume.  He was a finalist in 2010. 



Now to update the GP totals to include the WTF:

Federer 50

Nadal    25

This is a truer picture of the relative GOAT status of Federer and Nadal, in my opinion.