Welcome to a brand new day in men’s tennis. This is no longer Roger Federer’s game. His day has come and time has passed; now we’re living in Rafael Nadal’s universe.
With his win Sunday at Wimbledon, Nadal is now number one with a bullet. There’s not another player in the world that can touch him or his game. His dispatching of Tomas Berdych was officially the coronation of a new king in the game.
It wasn’t easy for Nadal by any means. After an early French Open exit last year to Robin Soderling and a knee injury that sidelined him for Wimbledon and hindered his U.S. Open performance there were concerns as to whether or not Rafa could return to the form that made him a former number one in the world. Boy has he answered those questions.
He has made the quarterfinals of every tournament this year winning five tournaments, two masters’ challenges and two grand slams including his Wimbledon triumph. He also regained his status as the number one player in the world leaving every competitor, including Federer, in the dust.
Now comes a new challenge for Nadal, can he become greater than Federer overall?
With the Wimbledon win Nadal sits at eight slams all-time, half of Federer’s record all time total and he got there almost a year earlier than Federer. We know that Nadal is a beast at the French Open, possibly the greatest clay court player ever (apologies to Bjorn Borg), and Nadal is mastering the grass court game. Yet the hard-court is where Nadal seems to struggle the most. Despite his 2009 Australian Open win, Nadal has made a total of 3 semifinal appearances in the hard-court slams (U.S and Aussie Open) and posts a sub 83% win percentage at both tournaments including a 75% clip at the U.S. Open. As he prepares to become the next in a short list of career grand slam champions his struggles on the hard-court must sit in the back of his head and are a glaring red mark on his otherwise stellar record.
However with the way that Nadal is currently playing it is not hard to imagine him taking Queens by storm next month and strolling away with his ninth slam setting his eyes squarely upon Federer’s freshly minted record. Who can stop him? Maybe Robin Soderling on his best day, maybe a rejuvenated Federer if he has some mastery left in his game, but as we saw in the last three matches at Wimbledon and all throughout the French Open, it will be hard for any man to come close to the level that Rafa’s is at right now. This is his game and his era that we are currently living in. “The King of Clay” is now just The King.