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Nadal’s Future: Brighter Than Federer? Borg?

Will Rafael Nadal's health hold up long enough for him to fulfill his potential Will Rafael Nadal's health hold up long enough for him to fulfill his potential

When Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon 2010 last week, he captured his eighth slam title. At age 24 years, 31 days, he became the second youngest tennis player to hit eight majors in the Open era. The other five youngest were Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, and the youngest of all, Bjorn Borg. Not a bad group. But will Nadal surpass these men in tennis greatness?

The current record holder for majors wins is Federer with 16, who won his eighth title when he was just a few weeks shy of his 25th birthday. However, time and age are not the only considerations when projecting the future for Nadal and Federer’s legacies.

Federer’s smooth and fluid style is much more forgiving than Nadal’s grinding style of tennis. Indeed, Nadal’s health is already troubling the Spaniard; his ailing knees have sometimes forced him out of events. That leads many tennis experts to wonder how he will hold out in his later twenties.

On the other hand, Nadal is one of the mentally strongest players in sports. Of his ten trips to Grand Slam finals, he has lost only two. When the pressure is on, he will produce.

Federer, meanwhile, is no longer the dominant force he once was. That said, he is probably not finished adding to his record of 16 majors wins. The Swiss standout is still a threat every time he takes the court, and should finish his career with another couple of slam titles.

Nadal’s quest for the record is further complicated by a field of rising stars in men’s tennis. Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro is set to make a big impact when he returns to full health, and Robin Soderling could snag a major or two along the way as well. The two underachieving Andys – Murray and Roddick – will also pose a threat on their best days.

Odds are good that Nadal will at least hit Sampras’s mark of 14 majors unless his knees force him to abbreviate his pro tennis career. Perhaps then Nadal will most easily draw comparisons to Bjorn Borg, who had captured 11 majors by the age of 26, when he abruptly left the game of tennis.

Whether or not Rafael Nadal ultimately ends up surpassing Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, or Bjorn Borg, he is clearly the number one tennis player in the world right now. The finals at this year’s Wimbledon were never in doubt, as Nadal waltzed over Tomas Berdych in straight sets. At 24, Nadal is plagued by injuries, but has at least a few good years ahead. This race for the record books should be an interesting one.

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Last modified on Friday, 01 July 2011 10:06

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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