Last Sunday in Madrid, home fans hollered in the Caja Magica as Spain clinched its sixth Davis Cup title. While the competition was very different to previous editions, its outstanding player was utterly familiar.
Rafael Nadal capped off a stonking 2019 by leading his nation in every respect to the trophy.
The 33-year-old won eight matches in six days and didn’t lose serve once! Apart from the on-court brilliance, Nadal also rallied the crowd and supported his teammates.
The Mallorcan finishes 2019 as world no.1 with 19 career majors, five Davis Cups, two Olympic gold medals and a shedload of prize money earned.
But, is he the greatest male player of all time? Here are five reasons why he might just be.
The Undisputed King of Clay
We’ll start with an easy point in his favour. The world no.1 is by far the greatest man to have ever graced a clay court.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Nadal’s Roland Garros record is amongst the greatest stats in sport.
Nadal has won 12 French Opens from 15 appearances in Paris, giving him a winning record of 93-2 or 98% (with one injury withdrawal). He stands alone all-time in clay court titles won (59) and is approaching 450 wins on the dirt.
If I asked you which male player had the best winning percentage throughout their career, you’d probably bark Roger Federer at me.
Now you wouldn’t be far off as the Swiss sits fourth all-time with a record of 82.1%. The three that sit ahead of Federer are Bjorn Borg (82.67%), Novak Djokovic (82.69%) and the Mighty Mallorcan on 83.2%.
With 977 professional match wins, Nadal will soon join Federer, Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors as the only ATP players in history with over 1,000 wins.
Master of the 1000s
As I’m sure you know, Nadal has 19 major titles stashed in Mallorca which puts him one behind Federer in the all-time standings.
However, one area where he outdoes the maestro and everybody else is in the nearly majors – Masters 1000s.
Nadal stands alone in this format in terms of titles won (35), finals played (51), match wins (384) and winning percentage (82.9%).
Another area where Nadal stands above Federer and Novak Djokovic is when he wears his country’s colours. Spain have won five Davis Cup titles with Nadal as the fulcrum.
The lefty has an extraordinary singles record which has been the foundation for all that success.
Nadal lost his first Davis Cup singles rubber back in 2004, but hasn’t been beaten in the 29 matches since.
He’s also a double Olympic gold medallist with one in singles (2004) and one in doubles (2016).
It’s well established that Nadal is a monster between the lines of a tennis court. Just ask the poor ATP professionals who confront his ferocious groundstrokes, athleticism and bulletproof belief each year.
If you want evidence, take a look at his record against the best players of his era.
Nadal still leads Federer (24-16) overall and is just below the waterline with Djokovic (26-28). As for the other top players he’s faced, it’s almost cruel.
Here’s a select list of victims with Nadal’s winning record % in brackets
- Vs Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro, Lleyton Hewitt (60%+)
- Vs Andy Murray, Andy Roddick (70%+)
- Vs Stan Wawrinka, David Ferrer (80%+)
- Vs Andre Agassi, Marat Safin, Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman (100%)
With a healthy body, confident strokes and a desire as strong as ever, Nadal looks set to threaten even more records in 2020.