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Rafael Nadal Could End GOAT Debate With Calendar Slam in 2014

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COMMENTARY | It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Rafael Nadal winning the calendar Grand Slam in 2014.

At first blush, the idea sounds about as valuable as a large bin full of knock-off Twilight screenplays.

The thing is, upon further review, maybe it's not that crazy.

It only sounds off-the-wall until one imagines Rafael Nadal wrapping his head around the concept and making it his singular mission in life. Dedicating absolutely every molecule of his being toward this titanic achievement.

Thinking about it in those terms makes the calendar Slam appear a touch more vulnerable, causing the line between insanity and sanity to blur ever so slightly.

Consider for a moment if Rafa Nadal were to focus the same determination and tenacity to this one goal that he taps into every single time he faces a break point.

Those super-charged moments in a match when Rafa effortlessly bucks the pressure and simply executes as he's done a million times before.

After deeper consideration, the image of Rafael Nadal raising all four Grand Slam trophies in a single calendar year again crosses that fine line from impossible to improbable -- but this time for two beats of time, instead of one.

Envisioning the collaboration of Toni Nadal on such a monumental project certainly doesn't decrease the likelihood of success. Quite the opposite, really.

After bouncing back from a long layoff due to injury, Nadal looked extremely impressive this year as he played himself back into top form. Despite a slight setback at Wimbledon, he made a strong statement by going undefeated on the American hard-court swing in late summer.

Assuming Nadal finishes 2013 without any setbacks to his knee, he may actually be in the best position of his career to launch such an ambitious campaign.

When was the last time Nadal was this healthy at the end of the year and playing so well off clay? Quite possibly, never.

Assuming Nadal can hold off Novak Djokovic for at least one more year at the French Open, that leaves only Wimbledon as the looming obstacle to such grand designs.

Nadal has suffered early-round losses at Wimbledon each of the last two times he entered the draw. With the quick turnaround between the French Open and the start of Wimbledon, there's only a small window of time for Nadal to adapt his grinding game to the slick conditions presented by grass courts.

On the other hand, let's not forget that Nadal has reached five Wimbledon finals already in his career. If he's healthy and motivated, it would still be difficult to bet against him in the early rounds of any Slam. And if he gains momentum behind a couple easy wins -- that's like a freight train in motion, difficult to stop.

Additionally, who's to say that a few big cards don't fall in Nadal's favor? An early upset of a potent rival? Or an unfortunate injury to another top player that opens up a canyon-like hole in the draw for the Spaniard?

Crazier things have happened in this world. Lots crazier.

If the stars were to somehow align for Rafael Nadal to complete the career Grand Slam in 2014, there is simply no doubt this achievement would slam the door shut on the "greatest-of-all-time" debate.

At the absolute minimum, he'd put an end to the slightly less popular "greatest-of-his-generation" debate.

By winning all four Grand Slams in 2014, Nadal would consequently have a total of 17 -- the same number of majors as Roger Federer. Even more important, Rafael Nadal would become the first person in the history of the sport to win a calendar Grand Slam on three unique surfaces (clay, grass, hard court).

Nadal would of course be the third male player ever to celebrate the calendar Grand Slam at all. Rod Laver (1962, 1969) and Don Budge (1938) both won the calendar Grand Slams in their careers, but did so before hard court was introduced as a third unique surface at the Slams.

Given the considerable edge he already enjoys over Roger Federer in head-to-head competition, the debate that right now looks endless, would officially be over.

Winning the calendar would instantly immortalize Rafael Nadal as a living legend. The only player that could arguably stand as tall would be Laver, considering the complicated exercise of comparing players across eras.

The likelihood of Nadal completing the calendar does seem very low -- microscopic, if you will.

But don't all great achievements start as a small improbability?

In 2010, Rafael Nadal became the first male player in the history of tennis to win three Grand Slams on three different surfaces in the same calendar year (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open).

All Rafa needs to do in 2014 is add one more.

Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. Tweet him @AndrewProchnow.

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