Nadal settles the GOAT debate, for now
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Nadal settles the GOAT debate, for now

Nadal, a player who feeds on his insatiable desire for success on the tennis court

Nadal settles the GOAT debate, for now

Rafael Nadal is the first male player in Tennis open era to notch up 21 Grand Slams. An achievement that places him ahead of his compatriots and illustrious tennis legends Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The number 21 makes him technically the ‘Greatest of all time’ (GOAT) for now. In the coming years, Djokovic may surpass Nadal and claim the title of GOAT for himself, but for many tennis fans, that won't change a thing. For them, the manner in which Nadal won his 21st at the Australian Open 2022, makes him the GOAT for all time to come.


Let me try and put things in proper perspective for you.

In the US Open 2021, Daniil Medvedev had put it across Djokovic (who was also trying to get his 21st Grand slam title) in straight sets.
Medvedev is clearly the best of the new generation of tennis players and he is at the prime of his powers as a tennis player. The proof was the demolition job he did of Djokovic in a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4  in the US Open final. It should be noticed that Djokovic himself was on a good run having won the last three Grand Slams and was vying for a calendar slam. Also, Djokovic was playing on his preferred synthetic courts where he has won most of his tennis titles. But still, he could not stand against the talent, dynamism and mental toughness of Medvedev.

We have to measure Nadal’s Australian Open win against Medvedev on this scale. Even though now Nadal has won 6 Grand Slam titles on synthetic courts, we all know his preferred surface is Clay Courts, where he is considered without any debate, the GOAT. Medvedev too prefers the synthetic courts of the Australian Open. He was also playing in his second successive final at the Australian Open.

Nadal was struggling from a foot injury and was out of action for six months. He had only returned to competitive tennis a couple of months ago. Clearly, his body was far from prepared for a grueling Australian Open, played under a hot sun. His reaching the final in itself was a huge achievement and an unexpected one too. But then we are talking about Nadal, a player who feeds on his insatiable desire for success on the tennis court and gives his absolute everything on the court to achieve it.

This is what Nadal showed in the match against Medvedev. He simply refused to lose, even though he was behind in the game, having lost two sets, and Medvedev was showing no sign of weakness. Much like Nadal, Federer and Djokovic also stand out for their mental toughness in difficult situations. The champions that they are, all through their tennis careers, they have always played the important points better. They also always play with a positive frame of mind. But here one can see that Nadal has an edge. One has seen Federer or Djokovic going through a meltdown or losing their way mentally at times or looking defeatist too on rare occasions. But Nadal has never shown such tendencies.

That is what transpired at the Australian Open too. He simply refused to cave in. He let it all out in the court. Yes, he did lose a few finals at the Australian Open in the past, but that was not because of a lack of trying. On those occasions, his best was not good enough, but more often than not, it works. It is only a testimony to his mental toughness that he has a huge, almost superman like record of 13 title wins at his favorite red clay surface of Roland Garros. It is a feat that has no parallel in sporting history across all sports. He has beaten Federer at his favorite Wimbledon grass courts too, and that was when Federer was in his prime. Federer, even though he is an absolute legend himself, could not achieve that against Nadal’s favorite clay courts in the French Open.

In May 2022, Nadal would most likely be at his best, ready to reclaim his French Open title and reach the figure of 22 Grand Slam wins and thus cementing his GOAT status further.