Rafa Nadal managed to equal Roger Federer's 20 Grand Slam this Sunday at Roland Garros with the conquest of his thirteenth title in Paris, a milestone that earned him the recognition of the Swiss and that has also reopened the debate on who is the best tennis player in history.
Another of the great tennis legends has wanted to join this debate, Boris Becker, who in the British newspaper Daily Mail has made a meticulous analysis of the characteristics of both tennis players to justify his decision about who is better, Rafa Nadal or Roger Federer.
As for forehand shots, Becker rates Federer's hitting a 9 (“takes us back to the 80s, it's a devastating blow but not as devastating as Nadal's), while to the right of Nadal he puts a 10. “It's a one-shot that he almost hit his head with, but that's what gives him so much power and spin for a high rebound that he has broken so many opposing setbacks.”
Becker gives both players an 8 for their backhand. De Federer says that “it is a classic old school blow that has served him well. His backhand, which produces a lot of deception, is better than that of his rivals”. For his part, on Nadal's backhand he highlights that “ten years ago he didn't have so much variety, but he has improved a lot. He benefits from being ambidextrous and that was key to winning on Sunday.”
On volley shots, Becker rates Federer's volley with a 10 while Nadal's volley is scored with a 9. Of the stroke of the Swiss he highlights that “his hand-eye coordination is so good and he picks up the ball so soon that he can do practically whatever he wants with his volley. He is someone who goes up to the net very often and feels comfortable there.” For his part, de Nadal says that “he has a fantastic eye and it is an area of his game that is sometimes underestimated. The bottom line is his habitat although the players also like his touch on the net.”
As for the serve, Becker also scores Federer better than Nadal, with a 9 for the Swiss and an 8 for the Spanish. “Federer is very precise in choosing where to put the ball and very difficult for his opponents to read. He also has a great second serve.” For his part, de Nadal acknowledges that “it is another area in which he has improved in the last 10 years. Now he has a more powerful and varied technique.”
Becker scores Nadal better than Federer when it comes to moving on the track, with a 10 for the Spaniard and a 9 for the Swiss. “Federer is not at the level of 10 years ago but he is still good. He has always moved like a dancer with small, quick steps to a good position.” De Nadal points out that “for someone of his size and musculature, he has an incredible motor. The way he moves to recover balls from impossible situations is incredible.”
In terms of versatility, Becker rates Federer and Nadal with a 10. About Federer he says: “The clay has been his weakness, but he has an advantage over Rafa on grass. How can I not give him a 10 if he has won 20 Grand Slam between all surfaces”. Something similar thinks of Nadal. “Okay, he's won most of his Grand Slams on clay, but he's also got two Wimbledons, four US Open and one Australian Open.”
Becker also gives both of them a 10 for his killer instinct on a tennis court. “Federer is not what he was at the top of his career, but don't be fooled. He's a ruthless competitor but he does everything with a bigger smile than Rafa,” says Becker, who says about Nadal that “he never fails to have that look of fierce determination and extraordinary concentration over long periods of time. “
In terms of longevity, Becker scores Federer a 10 to Nadal's 9. “You cannot argue about someone who is still at the top of tennis at almost 40 years old. I think he can win another Grand Slam, especially Wimbledon. Otherwise Federer would not continue playing,” says Becker, who also surrenders to Nadal . “It amazes me that he continues to maintain his intense style of play. I don't know what will happen between now and when he is 39, but he is a pro with his lifestyle and resilience.”
Last in terms of popularity, Becker gives both of them a 10, although he gives Federer an extra point. “He is one of the great ambassadors of tennis and one of the most famous people in the world. He can be put on a par with Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan.” The German, however, also surrenders to the figure of Nadal. “I met him when he was 14 years old and I can say that he has not changed. People recognize his humility and the respect with which he behaves. He is someone to be greatly admired.”
With the sum of all Becker scores collected by the Daily Mail, Federer surpasses Nadal by 85 points for the Swiss compared to 84 for the Balearic. The debate will remain open until January when, if the current situation allows it, Nadal and Federer meet again at the Australian Open in search of the tiebreaker of the 20 Grand Slam … with the permission of Novak Djokovic.