Rafael Nadal has already dethroned Roger Federer as the greatest tennis player in the world. Now, after winning his second Wimbledon title with a convincing 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 win over Tomas Berdych, the question becomes can Rafa top Roger's record of 16 majors and wrest away the title of greatest tennis player who ever lived?
The 24-year old Spaniard won his eighth Slam on Sunday at the All England Club and with his recent play, he figures to add to that total quickly. Nadal played flawless tennis during the second week of Wimbledon, just as he did during the French Open last month. His blistering groundstrokes and devastating spin combined with his ability to get to nearly any ball on the court makes him unbeatable when he's playing anywhere close to his "A" game.
Even when great opponents are playing great tennis, as Andy Murray did in their semifinal match, Nadal still wins in straight sets. His youth means he has at least three more years (or 12 more Slams) in his prime, golden opportunites to play catch-up to Federer. At first glance it's easy to say, sure, Rafa's good for at least eight more. Who's going to beat him?
But trying to predict the future with any degree of certainty is a fool's errand. It was only nine months ago when Tiger Woods passing Jack Nicklaus for the most majors in golf history was a foregone conclusion. Rafa has the talent to win 20 Slams, but his aggressive manner of play lends itself to injury. Plus, he's never been all that great on the hard courts, never making it past the semis at the U.S. Open and winning just once in Melbourne. And who knows who else is on the tennis horizon. When Federer was dominating in 2005, Nadal was thought of as a clay-court specialist.
It's possible, but probably not probable, especially when you consider that all this presupposes one very big thing: that Roger Federer is done winning majors. If, like me, you believe that while Fed's days of domination are over, he still has two or three Slams left in him, then Nadal doesn't have to win eight more to tie, but 10 or 11. That task becomes much more daunting.
Nadal will go down as one of the all-time greats. Unless something drastic happens, he may be playing the rest of his career for second place.