Rafael Nadal is officially 34-1 in first rounds at grand slams. He lost to Steve Darcis in straight sets, an older 135th ranked Belgian who lacks the experience of even appearing in the quarterfinals of any Grand Slam. Though this will go down as one of the greatest upsets in Wimbledon history, the famed Spaniard has two Wimbeldon trophies under his belt from 2008 and 2010, both times beating Federer. Tennis experts call his Wimbledon Final in 2008 against Roger Federer the greatest match ever played. Federer had 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles by that point, the previous two against Nadal. That final was just a 4 hour 48 minute display of the most storied rivalry in tennis history that saw a total of eight grand slam finals matches just between the two and six consecutive years with them having the #1 and #2 rankings in the world. Together, they have won 29 of the last 36 grand slams. Although the last couple of years have seen the tail end of this historic rivalry which has been lauded by critics every match of the way, the two still generally win at least a couple grand slams a year. Both have cemented their legacy in the record books, Rafa as the greatest tennis player in the history of clay and Federer as the greatest tennis player in history period.
I don’t believe that anybody doubts Nadal’s dominance on clay. The “King of Clay” is 59-1 in the French Open. Roger Federer took full advantage of Nadal’s loss in 2009 beating Robin Söderling in the finals of the French Open of that year, the only player Nadal has ever lost to in the French. Roger Federer is 1-4 in all time French Open Finals while Nadal boasts a 7-0 record in French Finals. All of Federer’s four losses came at the hands of Rafael Nadal. Still, Federer has the upper-hand on Nadal on both hard court and of course, grass. Nobody can say that grass surface wasn’t dominated by Federer in the past decade. For five years from 2003-2008, Federer didn’t lose a match on his best surface. He won a record tying 7 Wimbledon titles in 9 years with a chance of a record 8th in a decade if he can prevail at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. It’s hard to believe that hard court isn’t his best surface considering he has won a record tying 4 Australian Open titles and a record tying 5 U.S. Open titles. Both Nadal and Federer have career grand slams, two of four men in the Open Era (1968-present) to have attained all four grand slam championships.
Although both athletes have had significant achievements and noteworthy contributions to the sport of tennis, Nadal lacks the consistency that Federer is noted with having. Many fans know that this year’s Wimbledon isn’t the first time Nadal lost in the early rounds of the most prestigious slam. Last year, Lukáš Rosol, a 99th ranked Czech, eliminated Rafa in a five set grinder. This loss coupled with this year’s first round defeat highlights Nadal’s inconsistency and questionable endurance.
On the other hand, the 17 time Grand Slam champion has made a record 36 consecutive grand slam quarterfinals and hasn’t lost in the first round of a grand slam since he broke out onto the world stage when he won the 2003 Wimbledon. The next longest streak of grand slam quarterfinals is Novak Djokovic’s current streak of 16. Federer’s streak of grand slam semifinals, 23 will also go unchallenged for years to come. Guess who’s second? Again, not Nadal, but Djokovic has the second best record with his active streak of 12. The list goes on and on with most consecutive wins in grand slams and the best and second best consecutive grand slam finals appearances. Now, I understand that this list may seem tedious after awhile but all of his statistics and aforementioned records are a testament to Roger Federer’s durability.
Federer’s streaks can attest to another one of his active streaks: the second most consecutive number of grand slam appearances, one shy of tying the record. Barring any major setback or injury, Federer will break this record during the 2014 Australian Open. However, Nadal has not even come close to this record. His personal record is 13 consecutive grand slam appearances. Yet, Nadal never complains or makes excuses regarding his injuries. Many excluding Rafa blamed his first round exit on his persistent left knee issue. Similarly, Federer seems to compliment his opponent and appears to be gracious in defeat. After his quarterfinal exit in the 2013 French Open Final to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, he said “I struggled a little bit everywhere. To be honest, personally, I’m pretty sad about the match and the way I played. But that’s how it goes. I tried to figure things out, but it was difficult. And Jo does a good job keeping the pressure on. He was just better in all areas.” Evidently, both of these extraordinary athletes are sportsmen of their generation and are courteous in defeat, who choose not to blame their poor performances on anything but themselves.
Writers Note: Well, this article seems a little more stupid because of Federer’s second round exit to a 100th ranked player. Fortunately, all the facts are still true.