It appears one tennis icon has the backing of another tennis icon. Roger Federer, owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, publicly endorsed Rafael Nadal by saying that the 13-time Grand Slam winner definitely has a shot to top him. Nadal, Federer’s junior by nearly five years, is in his prime and clearly talented enough to prove Federer’s words true, but the 32-year-old Federer does not intend to make it easy for him.
The two giants of tennis have played against each other a total of 33 times so far, the most recent coming in January at the Australian Open. Nadal overcame Federer handily en route to improving his record to 23-10 in their one-on-one matches. While the sample size is large enough to make a clear case for Nadal being superior to Federer at this point in time, Federer feels he is in great shape and still has his best tennis in front of him.
Nadal and Federer share more in common than dominating the sport they both have such a passion and talent for. Both players are active philanthropists, and each has his own foundation dedicated to different causes. While the Rafael Nadal Foundation supports the Special Olympics and works with children who grow up in underprivileged surroundings by using sports as a means of social integration, the Roger Federer Foundation is primarily concerned with helping children in Africa achieve a brighter future.
Federer is coming off a trying 2013, failing to reach a final in the year’s first four months for the first time since 1999. He also fell out of the top four ranked tennis players in the world for the first time since July 2003. Federer’s struggles came in part due to back problems he attempted to play through, a decision he would later look back on and regret. Federer’s public endorsement of Nadal should not be viewed as the former player conceding his record, but the problems that plagued him in 2013 almost certainly had an impact in his acknowledgement that his Grand Slam record could be in jeopardy.
As for Nadal, the 27-year-old Spaniard’s career accomplishments are already so impressive that some view him as the greatest tennis player in the history of the sport. He is currently ranked the number one player in the world, and has such an amazing track record playing on clay that he has developed the nickname “King of Clay.” Nadal looks to be unstoppable at present, and even in the event that Federer racks up a few more Grand Slam titles, given Nadal’s youth and talent, the odds of him eclipsing the total and taking the record for himself would seem reasonably high.
Provided that Federer stays healthy, the two tennis stars should have several more years of friendly rivalry left in them, although Nadal has established himself as the the probably superior player at present. The proud Federer may not necessarily confirm such a statement, even with his suggestion that Nadal could one day overtake him in terms of Grand Slam victories.
Regardless of what lies ahead for two of the best tennis players to ever play the sport, there is no question that watching the two of them work over opponents–and sometimes each other–on the court will remain fun, and viewers are fortunate to witness what is obviously true greatness from two immensely talented individuals. The fact that Roger Federer did not hesitate to give Rafael Nadal his due credit, endorsing him in the process, is a classy move, and makes it all the more easy to root for both players.
Commentary By Spencer Hendricks