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The Amazing Race toward GOAT status: Rafael Nadal's résumé

The Amazing Race toward GOAT status: Rafael Nadal's résumé

His 83.1 winning percentage on all surfaces is the highest of any men’s player in the Open era, but his major title count relies heavily on his success at Roland Garros.

As Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic approach the first major of 2020s, their three-way race to be crowned the Greatest of All Time has never been closer. Below we review Nadal's résumé. Check out Federer's and Djokovic's to see how the trio stacks up against each other.


Quick hits (as of January 13, 2020)

Age / 33 (will turn 34 in on June 3)

Years on tour / 19

Grand Slam titles / 19

ATP Finals titles / 0

ATP Masters 1000 titles / 35

ATP tournament titles / 84

Weeks at No. 1 / 207

Year-end No. 1 rankings / 5

Career record / 981-199 (83.1%)

Outlook / "I would love to be the one who wins more. But I’m not playing tennis for it. I am playing tennis because I love to play tennis."


Résumé strengths

> Nadal is the best men’s clay-courter of all time. He has won the most titles at Roland Garros (12), the most titles on clay (59) and has the highest winning percentage on the surface (91.8%). 

> His 83.2 winning percentage on all surfaces is the highest of any men’s player in the Open era. Nadal also has the highest winning percentage in Grand Slam finals (70%) of the Big Three.

> Nadal has spent more weeks in the Top 2 (531) than anyone. He has won at least one Slam in 13 different years, a men’s record. He’s the oldest year-end No. 1, and he’s the only one of the Big Three to have won an Olympic singles gold.

Getty Images


Résumé weaknesses

> While he leads Federer in their head-to-head, 24–16, Nadal trails Djokovic, 29–26. Nadal’s Grand Slam title count relies heavily on his success at a single major (Roland Garros), and he has never won the ATP’s year-end championships, an event where Federer and Djokovic have 11 titles between them.


What advantages or disadvantages does Federer have in the race?

> He’ll always have Paris. No one enjoys a home-court advantage the way Rafa does at Roland Garros, where he’s 93–2 and has won the event 12 times in 15 tries. It’s not inconceivable that he could win five more French Opens. The disadvantages come at the Australian Open and Wimbledon; he hasn’t won either in a decade. The question for the future may be: Will Paris alone be enough for Nadal to pass Federer and hold off Djokovic?


2020 Preview

> “I’ve got him penciled in at 20 Slams,” says Knowles, who thinks another Roland Garros title for Rafa this year is virtually a foregone conclusion. 

Nadal will be the favorite in Paris again, but Djokovic, who beat him there in 2015, and Dominic Thiem, who has lost to him in the last two finals, could pull an upset. If Nadal comes to Roland Garros with a chance to tie Federer at 20 Slams, the pressure will be immense. 

Can Nadal find a way to steal another Slam elsewhere? He should have won a second Australian Open by now; since his lone title in 2009, Rafa has lost four finals. Nadal should contend in Oz again, but he may need someone else to do the dirty work of knocking off Djokovic.


2020 Prediction

> Nadal wins Grand Slam No. 20 at Roland Garros and wins his first ATP Finals title.