Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The Greatest of All Time.
“I do think without Rafa winning one more major, you could make the argument that he’s the best of all time,” Agassi said Thursday in response to a question from SNY.tv on a conference call to promote the PowerShares senior tour.
(Read this earlier column for more on the question of whether Nadal, Federer or Rod Laver is the Greatest of All Time.)
After winning the U.S. Open, the 27-year-old Nadal has now 13 Grand Slam singles titles. His one-time arch-rival Roger Federer is the all-time men’s leader with 17 and Pete Sampras ranks second with 14.
If Nadal wins the Australian Open in January, he would tie Sampras for second all-time.
“I also think getting to 14 slams and tying Pete doesn’t suggest that Pete is in his category,” Agassi, winner of eight Majors and the career Grand Slam, said of Nadal. “I think Pete dominated his generation and won 14 slams but was never a factor during the clay court season.”
Nadal has now won every Major except the Australian Open at least once. Eight of his 13 Majors have come at the French Open.
Nadal holds a 21-10 head-to-head edge on Federer and has a winning record against every other player in the Top 30.
“He does have a winning record over Fed, although a lot of those wins come on clay,” Agassi said. “He has beaten Federer on other occasions on other surfaces as well.
“You can also make the argument this guy doesn’t have a losing record against anybody in the top 30 in the world, and once [Nikolay] Davydenko is gone, you can probably move that number to the top 80 in the world. If I’m sitting at a dinner table, and I’m Rafa, and made a statement about the best of all time, I would choke on my food a little bit.”
Agassi also pointed out that with six Majors, Novak Djokovic is in elite competition, too. Djokovic has won every Major except the French.
“It’s an amazing time in men’s tennis to be looking at two guys in the same generation that have a legitimate claim to that title,” Agassi said of Federer and Nadal. “That’s also forgetting about the fact that Djokovic is one win away from entering not necessarily this all time conversation, but certainly accomplishing a win at every slam. So now you got three guys potentially in one generation who have done something that only five guys have done over five decades.
“I think it’s a golden age in our sport for sure. I think we’re better off for it. I hope everybody appreciates what it is we’re watching.”
As for Federer, his former coach Paul Annacone says the Swiss legend still has greatness within him, but Federer didn’t reach the final of a single Major in 2013 and has yet to qualify for the ATP World Tour Finals next month in London.
“With Federer, I would not be surprised whatsoever if he were to win another major,” said Jim Courier, a four-time Major winner and the U.S. Open Davis Cup captain.” I think anybody that counts him out right now does it at their own peril.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.