It was as clinically business-like from Rafa Nadal in the final of the US Open as he decimated the 28th seed Kevin Anderson 6-3 6-3 6-4 earlier in the morning on Monday. His third career win at the Flushing Meadows took his overall grand slam tally to 16, just three behind all-time leader and his fiercest rival Roger Federer (19).
By the end of the previous season, many had predicted the end of the road for the duo. But cut to today, and both young guns and other challengers have been swept apart alike by the pair, who grabbed a couple of majors each in 2017.
In turn, they’ve also reignited the age old debate between the two sets of fans about the #GOAT, the greatest of all time.
2017 Grand Slam men’s singles champs:
Federer: Australian Open 🐨, Wimbledon 🇬🇧
Nadal: French Open 🇫🇷, US Open 🗽
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 11, 2017
Winning a record ninth Wimbledon on the cusp of 36, Roger Federer might just have done enough to earn that badge for himself. But the Spaniard’s back-to-back wins at Roland-Garros and New York mean that he continues to breath down Fedex’s neck.
So can Rafa really dethrone Roger in the coming years?
For one, age is on his side. The Basel-born turned 36 last month and despite his calculated participation in ATP events, his body could soon give in to the backbreaking physical demands of the sport.
We saw it during the 2017 season, which kicked off with Federer looking 10 years younger but eventually crumbling. Five-set opening rounds at the US Open culminated into a surrender against Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter finals.
Federer won Wimbledon without beating Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. Nadal has won the US without beating Federer, Djokovic and Murray.
— Sambit Bal (@sambitbal) September 11, 2017
This dip in form over the past few weeks have also led the 31-year-old Nadal to climb up to the top of the pile. He will most certainly resume 2018 as the Number 1 player and is even the favourite for the year-end Masters title now.
A continuation of the same sort of form for both these supermen, though a little unlikely, might result in Nadal equaling (possibly even surpassing) his greatest rival by the end of the next year.
Following his US Open triumph, Nadal said, “I never think much about that,” when asked about this comparison with Federer. “I do my way and he does his way. He has 19, I have 16. That’s a big difference. I don’t think much about this.”
He might not admit what his fans are hoping for, but Rafa Nadal sure has rediscovered his mojo — the one that halted an unchallenged Roger Federer on his tracks back in the day. And if he manages to keep his fitness worries at bay, the King of Clay could well become the King of all time by the time he hangs his boots.