Rafael Nadal won a record 22nd Major and 14th French Open title earlier this month. The Spaniard, who is a part of the 'Big 3' in men's tennis along with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, has pulled further away from the other two in the Grand Slam race.
Apart from being the leader in the Slam count, Nadal is also the only member of the Big 3 to have won an Olympic gold medal, which he bagged at Beijing in 2008. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Spaniard also won the gold medal in the men's doubles.
Nadal has won a total of 92 career titles and has been the World No. 1 for 209 weeks. The southpaw is one of only four men in tennis history to have won two Career Slams. The King of Clay is also a five-time Davis Cup champion and has won 36 Masters titles.
The year-ending championships has been his only Achilles' heel. Nadal has reached the final twice, but lost both (to Djokovic and Federer).
In the head-to-head count, Nadal leads Federer 24-16 and marginally trails Djokovic 29-30.
Over the years each of the Big 3 has been called the GOAT, or greatest of all time, by tennis observers. Here's a look at five tennis players who have picked Rafael Nadal as the GOAT:
#1 Mark Woodforde
Mark Woodforde is a former doubles No. 1 and winner of 12 doubles and 5 mixed doubles titles. He is one of only five players to have completed the Career Golden Slam in doubles, i.e., winning all four Majors and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
After Rafael Nadal's triumph at the 2022 French Open, in an interview with the ATP Tennis Radio Podcast, Mark Woodforde put forth his thoughts on the GOAT debate.
"If Djokovic would have won the Calendar Grand Slam last year, that for me would have set him apart from Roger and Rafa," Woodforde said. "But now that that’s not in play, I think the default is the highest amount of Grand Slams and at the moment, Rafa for me is the greatest of all time."
#2 Yevgeny Kafelnikov
Sydney Olympic gold medalist Yevgeny Kafelnikov is a former World No. 1. He won two singles Slam titles - the 1996 French Open and the 1999 Australian Open. The Russian also has four doubles Majors to his name.
Following Rafael Nadal's win at the 2022 French Open, Kafelnikov acknowledged the Spaniard's achievements in a tweet and claimed that he is now the GOAT.
"GOAT for now #22 and counting," Kafelnikov wrote.
#3 Maria Sharapova
Another Russian who has picked Rafael Nadal as the GOAT is former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova. The five-time singles Slam champion is one of only 10 women to have completed the Career Slam. The Russian also won a silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
In 2018, Sharapova posted a video of herself rallying with Nadal in Rome. In the caption, she opined that Nadal was the GOAT.
"Two minutes on court with the GOAT. Was so nervous," she wrote.
Sharapova later reflected on her tweet.
"Yeah, I have a lot of admiration for him," the Russian said. "I have loved the spirit that he carries on with, you know, the focus. You know, it goes back to kind of the fire question. I think he only knows how to go at 100%."
"If you look at the practice schedule, I mean, he's out there - he won two events, and in Rome, he's practicing for three hours a day," she added. "He knows that that’s what works for him and he's going to deliver that no matter his age, no matter the injuries, he shows up. That's incredibly admirable, because the older you get in this sport, the more physical it is, tougher it is on the body."
#4 Stan Wawrinka
In 2014, Stan Wawrinka defeated Rafael Nadal to win his maiden Slam title at the Australian Open. The Swiss went on to win two more Major titles - at the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open.
The former World No. 3 also has a doubles gold medal, which he won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics partnering Roger Federer.
In a podcast interview with L'Equipe after the 2022 Australian Open, Wawrinka spoke candidly about his admiration for Nadal.
"For me, I am not surprised but I admire that he is still able to do it and as I am not surprised it is because, we know that he is well above everyone else," Wawrinka said. "Whatever happens we cannot compare Nadal with other tennis players, and it’s sure. Moreover, he was injured, as far as I know him, every time in his career Nadal came back from injuries, and he was out for four, five or six months. And once again at this stage and level, with the difficult last year that he had, of course, it’s exceptional, just like all his career."
After Rafael Nadal won the 2022 French Open, Wawrinka tweeted a goat emoji, making it clear who he thinks wins the GOAT debate.
#5 Iga Swiatek
Current World No. 1 and winner of two French Open titles, Iga Swiatek has always been vocal about how much Rafael Nadal has inspired her.
After winning the WTA 1000 title in Rome earlier this year, Swiatek said that the Spaniard is the "perfect role model." She also opined that at the moment, Nadal is the GOAT.
"I'm just going to be boring in just repeating myself but Rafa is always a good inspiration for sure," Swiatek said. "Rafa has some superpowers sometimes, I think. He’s not giving up. He’s physically and tactically always there on the court. I feel he’s the perfect role model. He’s the greatest of all time in tennis right now."
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