Many say Roger Federer is the best player ever, which I would agree , however Rafa Nadal has a case to be right there. Let’s have a look.
Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer, who is better ?
While Nadal and Federer are widely considered to be the two greatest male tennis players in the Open Era, only one person can be the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) in every sport. Here is why Nadal is better than Federer.
On 10th June 2018, Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem in straight sets to win his 11th French Open title and 17th Grand Slam title in all.
This pulls him closer to Roger Federer’s 20 titles and revives the biggest debate in modern tennis history.
While the Grand Slam wins do tilt the case for Federer, this should not be the only criterion. If ATP Masters Series 1000 titles are also considered as a measuring stick it is Nadal who leads the way, having won 32 titles compared to Federer’s 27.
It can be argued that their Grand Slam and Masters Series titles balance each other out.
Nadal at 32 is five years younger than Federer and has played fewer Grand Slams.
It is also highly likely, barring serious injury or early retirement, that he will eventually surpass Federer’s tally of Grand Slam wins.
Grand Slam and Masters Titles
The natural place to start would be the number of Grand Slam wins. Roger Federer leads the way with 20, compared to the 17 won by Nadal.
Nadal is clearly the better player on clay, having won 11 titles at the French Open compared to Federer’s 1.
Federer is the better player on grass, having won 8 titles at Wimbledon compared to Nadal’s 2.
Federer has the edge on hard courts too, winning 11 titles at the Australian and US Open compared to Nadal’s 4.
Who is better ?
Ranking these two champions and electing the GOAT is a harsh task, especially since their careers are not finished.
Nevertheless, here are a few facts to draw a comparison.
As of April 2020, Federer has won 20 Grand Slams titles, one more than Rafael Nadal (19).
Roger Federer has won 103 ATP titles in his career, which can be broken down as follows:
- Grand Slam: 20
- Masters : 6
- Masters 1000 : 28
- ATP 500: 24
- ATP 250 : 25
He also won the Davis Cup once in 2014 with the Swiss team.
He won the silver medal in singles at the 2012 London Olympics and the gold medal in doubles with Stan Wawrinka at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Also he has lost 54 finals, including 11 in Grand Slams.
Rafael Nadal has won 85 ATP titles in his career, which can be broken down as follows:
- Grand Slam: 19
- Masters : 0
- Masters 1000 : 35
- ATP 500: 21
- ATP 250 : 9
He also lost 37 finals, including 8 in Grand Slams.
Rafael Nadal has won the Davis Cup five times with Spain; in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2019.
The Spaniard won the gold medal in singles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a gold medal in doubles with Marc Lopez at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Roger Federer won 82.1% of the games he has played in his career (1242 wins to 271 losses).
Rafael Nadal won 83,2% of the games he played in his career (990 wins to 200 losses).
- On hard courts, Federer won 83.3% of his matches, Nadal 78.8%.
- On clay, Federer won 76.1% of his matches, Nadal 91.8%, the King of clay !
- On grass, Federer won 87.4% of his matches, Nadal 78.0%.
Nadal has a 55% career point winning ratio, compared to Federer’s 54%. Federer is a better server: he has won 70% points on his serve versus 67% for Nadal.
But Nadal is a better returner, one of the best of the tour: he has won an impressive 42% of return points in his career, compared to 37% for Federer.