Rafael Nadal won a record 22nd major and 14th French Open title earlier this month. The Spaniard, who is part of the “Big 3” of men’s tennis along with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, has moved away from the other two in the Grand Slam race.
Besides being the leader in the Slam tally, Nadal is also the only member of the Big 3 to win an Olympic gold medal, which he won in Beijing in 2008. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Spaniard also won the gold medal in the men’s doubles.
Nadal has won a total of 92 career titles and was world No. 1 for 209 weeks. The southpaw is one of only four men in tennis history to win two Career Slams. The King of Clay is also a five-time Davis Cup champion and has won 36 Masters titles.
The year-end championships were his only Achilles heel. Nadal reached the final twice, but lost both (to Djokovic and Federer).
In the head-to-head count, Nadal leads Federer 24-16 and trails Djokovic 29-30.
Over the years, each of the Big 3 has been called the GOAT, or Greatest of All Time, by tennis watchers. Here’s a look at five tennis players who picked Rafael Nadal as their GOAT:
Mark Woodforde is a former number 1 in doubles and winner of 12 doubles titles and 5 mixed doubles titles. He is one of only five players to have completed the career Golden Slam in doubles, that is, to have won all four major tournaments and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.
Following Rafael Nadal’s triumph at the 2022 French Open, in an interview with the ATP Tennis Radio podcast, Mark Woodforde shared his thoughts on the GOAT debate.
“If Djokovic had won the Grand Slam of the calendar last year, that for me would have distinguished him from Roger and Rafa,” Woodforde said. “But now that it’s not in play, I think the default is the most Grand Slams and at the moment Rafa is for me the greatest of all time.”
#2 Yevgeny Kafelnikov
Sydney Olympic gold medalist Yevgeny Kafelnikov is a former world number one. He won two Slam singles titles – the 1996 French Open and the 1999 Australian Open. The Russian also has four major doubles to his name.
Following Rafael Nadal’s victory at the 2022 French Open, Kafelnikov acknowledged the Spaniard’s achievements in a tweet and claimed he is now the GOAT.
“GOAT so far #22 and up,” Kafelnikov wrote.
#3 Maria Sharapova
Another Russian who picked Rafael Nadal as GOAT is former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova. The five-time Slam singles champion is one of 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 around Nadal in Rome. In the caption, she felt Nadal was the GOAT.
“Two minutes on the court with the GOAT. I was so nervous,” she wrote.
Sharapova then reflected on her tweet.
“Yes, I have a lot of admiration for him,” said the Russian. “I loved the spirit that he goes on with, you know, the focus. You know, it kind of comes back to the fire thing. I think he only knows how to go about it 100 per cent.”
“If you look at the training schedule, I mean he’s there – he’s won two events, and in Rome he’s training three hours a day,” she added. “He knows that’s what works for him and he’s going to do it no matter his age, no matter what injuries he comes up with. It’s incredibly admirable because the older you get in this sport the more physical he gets. , the harder it is on the body.”
#4 Stan Wawrinka
In 2014, Stan Wawrinka beat Rafael Nadal to win his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. The Swiss won two more major titles – at the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open.
The former world No. 3 also has a gold medal in doubles, which he won at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with 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’m not surprised but I admire that he’s still able to do it and like I’m not surprised it’s because, we know he’s way above everyone.” , Wawrinka said. “No matter what, we can’t compare Nadal to other tennis players, and that’s for sure. Also, he’s been injured, as far as I know, every time in his career, Nadal came back from injury, and he’s been out for four, five or six months and again at this stage and at this level, with the last tough year he’s had, of course it’s exceptional, like his entire 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 Roland-Garros titles, Iga Swiatek has always said how much Rafael Nadal inspired her.
After winning the WTA 1000 title in Rome earlier this year, Swiatek said the Spaniard was the “perfect role model”. She also felt that right now Nadal is the GOAT.
“I’m just going to be boring repeating myself, but Rafa is always a good inspiration,” Swiatek said. “Rafa has superpowers sometimes, I think. He doesn’t give up. He’s physically and tactically always there on the court. I think he’s the perfect role model. He’s the greatest of all time in tennis in this moment.”