3 reasons why Nadal might never suppress Roger Federer
1) Rafael Nadal’s Game Will Not Age Well
With Nadal winning his tenth Grand Slam title this past week, he is now tied for sixth on the all-time list with Bill Tilden, leaving him six Grand Slams shy of Federer’s 16 titles. Whether he catches Federer may ultimately be decided by their differing play styles.
Federer has an all-around game that is predicated on technique. Nadal’s game, in contrast, is deeply rooted in his supreme athleticism. Nadal actually has a below-average serve and an inconsistent backhand, but he gets by because of other factors in his game, such as his unparalleled movement, defensive ability, stamina, and mastery of spin.
Nadal flies around the court, and as was evident in last week’s French Open final against Federer, the Spaniard was able to keep forcing the Swiss to make that one extra shot, taking a toll on Federer both physically and mentally. But relying on speed and agility is dangerous, as those are two of the first things that most athletes in any sport tend to lose as they age.
The staggering amount of topspin that Nadal is able to generate is a function of his superior strength, which allows him to produce more rotations on the ball than most others can. While strength deteriorates more gradually than speed, Nadal will still see his strength wane, resulting in less spin on the ball.
Durability is a foremost concern as Nadal’s playing style is very hard on the body. As he ages, he will be more susceptible to injury and will be less able to recover stamina during and in between matches.
2) Novak Djokovic, the New Rival in Town
Nadal recently hit his 100th cumulative week as the world No. 1 player. But he still has over three-and-a-half years at No. 1 to go if he wants to approach the amount of time that Federer has spent at No. 1 during his career.
Knocking at the door is Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, who is currently just 45 points behind Nadal in the world rankings. Djokovic has defeated Nadal four times in 2011, two of those wins coming on clay.
While Djokovic’s winning streak came to an abrupt end against Federer in the French Open semifinals, the meteoric improvement in his game is undeniable. Oddly enough, whether Djokovic succeeds at overtaking Nadal in the rankings is probably out of the Spaniard’s control, as the Serb has more room for improvement this year than does the Spaniard, who will enter Wimbledon as the defending champion.
Moreover, Djokovic will continue to stand firmly as a significant threat to Nadal in Grand Slams in the foreseeable future.
3) Roger Federer Isn’t Done Yet
Federer’s legacy isn’t even complete yet. One thing Federer proved over the past couple of weeks is that he is still able to compete at the highest level on the big stage. With his marked consistency in the Grand Slam tournaments, Federer gives himself ample opportunity to further increase his record of Grand Slam titles and perhaps open up another chance to move back up the rankings.