He was first the greatest Spanish player ever.
He was then the greatest clay-courter ever.
He then won the greatest match ever.
All the while continually beating the greatest player ever.
Never Ever Did
Rafael Nadal became the toast of the tennis and sports worlds last night, winning the 2010 US Open and a career Grand Slam by beating Novak Djokovic in 4 sets. His epic victory not only places him alongside the greats of tennis, but also with the myths that have built the sport's history.
At age 24, he has a resume that exceeds anything that John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg ever did and has a couple of things that Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras never did.
At age 24, he is far ahead of the pace that the greatest achiever and player in tennis history, Roger Federer was at the same age. At age 24, Nadal can win 4 straight and a calendar year grand slam, something only Rod Laver ever did and, because of Nadal, Roger Federer never did.
Up there on the mountaintop, looking even further ahead
Does this specific win, make Nadal one of the greatest players of all time? No. He was one of the greatest players ever, already for the past three years. You simply had to watch him play to know that. What it does and will give him, is the widespread recognition of his greatness. Now people will appreciate the great things about him even more, like they did with the ones who achieved the legend status before.
Will he surpass Federer in slams and in terms of tennis impact? Tough to say but It is very likely because of three things. 1. He's still looking to improve as a tennis player 2. He is humble but not satisfied 3. He has a mental toughness, that comes around once in three generations, that is unbeatable when he's healthy.
A Racquet Gladiator
“We will see what happens in the future,” Nadal said, “but I’m not a genius.” He was talking about Federer. Yes, Federer is a genius. But Nadal is something else.
Watching Nadal play tennis is like reading about a myth—a man whose strength is insurmountable, whose will is unbreakable, whose thirst is unquenchable. He wields his racquet like a second-century gladiator would wield his sword. He fights for every point like he is that gladiator in the Colosseum fighting for his life.
A lot of times, sports stars get described with the words warrior or gladiator. But no other player, athlete, or sportsman has ever deserved the metaphors more.
And he won the crowd
What is tennis if not a fight to the finish, one on one, where the loser is figuratively dead and the winner's main reward is the adoration and applause? The crowds at Arthur Ashe cheered with the same gusto and for the same reasons that the crowds from two millennia ago did for the winners at the Colosseum.
From this day forward, the crowds will cheer him even more. Because there are no caveats, no footnotes left. Most fans are waiting for a day like yesterday. From now on, they will know they will be seeing something they've never seen before.
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