Roger Federer vs. Rafa Nadal: Who Is the Man To Beat, and 10 Bold Predictions for 2011

Alex FungContributor IJanuary 5, 2011

Federer is still the man to beat right now.
Federer is still the man to beat right now.Julian Finney/Getty Images

When Roger Federer finally won at Roland Garros last year, he was proclaimed the greatest of all time. Immediately afterwards, he confirmed this by breaking the record of winning 14 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon. At the beginning of 2010, with 16 Grand Slam titles, five World Tour Finals and 285 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings, who would have dared to object?

But after failing to reach a Slam final this year, along with the fact that Rafael Nadal also achieved a Career Grand Slam at the recent U.S. Open, a new debate arose. Is the GOAT Roger or Rafa?

At the moment, that is an impossible question to answer. Both players have proved their greatness at one time or another. Instead, since we live in the present, why not consider:

Which of the two is in better form at the moment?

Federer is still enthusiastic about the game. As Annacone said, “He still wants to work hard, get better and generally keep moving in a forward direction.”

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But besides that, Federer is playing some of his best tennis at the moment. In his last eight tournaments of the year, he reached the semifinals twice, reached the finals twice, and won the tournament four times.

More importantly, he ended the year on a high note by winning the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and defeating Rafa in the process.

That being said, Rafa hasn't been too shabby either. Although he was ousted in the third round at the Shanghai Rolex Masters after the U.S. Open (l. to Jurgen Melzer) and skipped the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, he did defeat three top eight players in London on what could be perhaps his worst surface.

Coupled with the idea that his biggest threat is usually his body and he’s gotten five weeks to let it rest, Rafael Nadal should be in good form. In fact, he even beat Federer recently in the exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi.

However, one must remember that it is still hardcourt season which, although Nadal has won two grand slams on it, he will probably not do as well as Federer, especially at the moment.

Federer is still the man to beat.


Now, time for quick predictions for the upcoming year.

In 2011…

 1. Federer will deny Nadal a chance in winning four consecutive Grand Slam events by winning the Australian Open.

See above.

2. Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick will both win another ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.

Andy Roddick has been working really, really hard. With that kind of fitness, one can definitely see him winning a Masters 1000 event again. He has all the motivation he needs at the moment.

In the case of Robin Soderling, he made his breakthrough in this sector in November. That, for sure, was his stepping stone to repeating this type of performance once more, as long as Nadal and Federer don’t get in the way.

3. Nadal will win the clay slam…again.

As long as the tendinitis in his shoulder does not affect him too much, how can you not see this happening?

4. Federer will finally break Sampras’s record of 286 weeks at No. 1.

He does not have many rankings points to defend between the Australian Open up until the Rogers Masters in Montreal. This means he has a huge chance of rising up to No. 1, especially if he wins Wimbledon. The only person in his way is Nadal, and it is doubtful that he will have another year like 2010.

5. A 12-hour epic will happen again at Wimbledon…but with Sam Querrey this time.

Jealous of Isner, Querrey will purposely toy with a qualifier in the first round at Wimbledon. He’ll make sure it lasts one more hour than Isner’s epically long match and then give the knockout blow to proceed to the next round.

6. Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq will become the No. 1 doubles team.

They recently launched their official “Stop War, Start Tennis” merchandise in Chennai. As soon as a lot of people buy them, this duo will realize truly their effect on the tennis world, which will inspire them to do well…or at least enough to win tournaments for their fans.

7. Djokovic will stop Andy Murray from winning the U.S. Open in the finals.

Both Djokovic and Andy Murray will defeat Federer and Nadal on their way to the final, since the latter two will be tired and exhausted from all their fighting throughout the earlier part of the year. Murray will then play tentatively, while Djokovic will let loose, preventing Murray from winning his maiden Grand Slam title and run away with his second Grand Slam trophy.

8. Max Mirnyi will finally get to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after making it to two consecutive finals.

Only after switching sides to Daniel Nestor’s team. Amusingly, one of their opponents will be Zimonjic.

9. Grigor Dimitrov and Thomas Muster will make it into the top 25.

Hopefully, with ample experience combined with his natural talent, Grigor Dimitrov now understands what it takes to make it to the top 25, and he will make it there by the end of the year.

Thomas Muster, on the other hand, has all the experience he needs. After continuously getting knocked out in the first round in a few tournaments early on in the year, his hard work will soon pay off. Younger players will expect an easy win when facing him, thus letting their guard down, and Muster will steamroll through them. He'll make the top 25 after going it farther in tournaments, especially during the clay season. Just not as far as Nadal.

10. The ATP will finally decide to change the format of Davis Cup.

With all the criticism going around and lack of fans paying attention to this tournament, the ATP will give in and decide to make it an annual event where one country hosts the tournament, and the nations will compete in a simple, understandable knockout format (with qualifying first, of course).