Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rafael Nadal: A True Champion

The 14-time major tennis champion (3 fewer than all-time leader Federer) has 9 French Open titles. Nine. Now he strolls into a semifinal match at the Australian Open, needing one win to play for the title against his nemesis and counterpart, Federer. If we can say that one legend "owns" another legend, we should say it in this case, because Nadal has beaten Federer 33 out of 43 matches between them.

It will be a battle for the ages if it happens, a contest between two gentlemen ambassadors for the sport. You could easily make an argument that Nadal is the greatest player of all time, owning his native clay courts, and learning to best the great Federer on the others. And here he is still, hoping to add to his legend.

Yet we return to Federer, who endured Nadal's lengthy challenge to his supremacy, and then could argue that he alone consistently threatened the rise of Djokovic, as Djokovic collected 12 major titles of his own. And here we are again.

So tennis is set to reprise its own version of Ali-Frazier, though Nadal can make a strong case to be in the role of Ali. We can't say it's just like old times, because these guys never left. The two oldest members of what fans call the "Big Four" may well be primed to battle again. You could be forgiven for thinking it's 2007, instead of 2017.

Either way, let's enjoy ourselves.

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