“Have to Wait Until the End of Novak Djokovic’s Career”: 7-Time Grand Slam Champion on Rafael Nadal As ‘GOAT’

Published 05/28/2021, 2:14 AM EDT
Tennis – ATP Masters 1000 – Italian Open – Foro Italico, Rome, Italy – May 16, 2021 Spain’s Rafael Nadal shakes hands with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after winning the final REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane


Tennis stalwart Mats Wilander has paid a huge compliment to Rafael Nadal, saying that he rightfully merits the tag of the “best.”

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Putting forward four arguments to back his claim, the seven-time Grand Slam champion said Nadal already has 20 Grand Slams to his name, which is the same as Roger Federer, has won the Olympics gold, led his country to Davis Cup titles on several occasions and has more wins than losses against his Swiss rival.

Rafael Nadal did not boss his generation like Roger Federer: Mats Wilander

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In an interview with Spanish daily Marca, Wilander said that while the Spaniard has done enough to stake claim to the mantle of ‘GOAT’, he hasn’t dominated his generation as Federer did.

“He can be considered the best because he has 20 greats, gold in the Games, he won Davis (Cup) on several occasions, he has more wins than losses with Roger…But at the same time, it is difficult to say that anyone can be better than Roger. He dominated his generation for a long time and that Rafa has not done,” Wilander said.

(Quotes have been translated)

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 8 : Roger Federer (R) of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal (L) of Spain play a tennis match at Cape Town Stadium as part of an exhibition game held to support the education of African children, on February 8, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He added that Nadal also stands out in the manner he has kept himself highly competitive against players who do not belong in his generation.

On whether the 13-time Grand Slam champion is, in fact, the greatest, the Swede offered a guarded response saying that since the greatest is determined by the number of Grand Slams he wins, he would have to reserve his judgment till Novak Djokovic retires from tennis.

Currently, the World No. 1 Djokovic has 18 career Grand Slam titles, the last of which he won at this year’s Australian Open. The Serb is within touching distance of Federer and Nadal’s mark and could potentially finish with more Majors as he has more years left in the game than his Big 3 rivals.

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“He (Nadal) remains competitive in a generation that is no longer his. It is true that the greatest is identified by the ‘Grand Slam’ titles, but we will have to wait until the end of Djokovic’s career to determine that,” Wilander said.

Nadal has two losses and two titles on clay this season

After two losses on clay this year – in Monte-Carlo and Madrid, Nadal recovered brilliantly to lift his 10th career Rome title. He had also clinched a record 12th Barcelona title in between.

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The title wins have silenced doubters, who were beginning to question his hold on clay, and have filled him with the necessary belief and confidence going into Roland-Garros.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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