Career Grandslam. 15th slam. World number 1 again. Hailed as the greatest player of all time. 2009 couldn’t be better for Federer. But spare a thought for Rafa.

I must say I wasn’t a fan of Nadal earlier. He was Federer’s nemesis after all. But last year’s Wimbledon final changed it all. In that epic match Rafa did what nobody could do in nearly 5 years. He completely broke Federer, and how! Federer was fired up in the 5th set, after winning the 3rd and 4th sets being down 2 sets to 0. The backhand pass by Roger when Rafa was at match point in the 4th set would have left any other player totally de-spirited(which a friend of mine calls “The Federer effect”). Not Rafa though. After 4 and a half hours Rafa came through to claim his first Wimbledon. Many other players would have wilted under the pressure of playing a 5th set in the final against a fired up 5 time Wimbledon defending champion. The sheer grit and consistency of this man from Mallorca amazes me.

Roger and Rafa have completely contrasting styles of play. Roger serves extremely well, hits drop volleys, stop volleys, backhand slices etc, and has a very destructive forehand . But there aren’t so many aspects to Rafa’s game. He returns shot after shot and makes his opponent play an extra ball every time. He has a slow and defensive game. For instance, Federer took 3 hours for a 5 setter against Haas while Rafa took 3 and a half for a 3 setter! Initially these were the things that made me dislike his style of play. But as I said, after the Wimbledon final, I had a new found admiration for him.

The game which I thought had “very few aspects” became to me the game which was so extremely consistent that it was nearly impossible to break it. It isn’t easy to hit shots with so much topspin and so much accuracy and regularity. The off-forehand winners that he hits off the short balls are a treat to watch. He makes almost no unforced errors. His serve has tremendously improved. Although he still doesn’t get free points off his serve, he regularly gets around 70-75% of his first serves. He has learnt to play at the net. Add to that his defense skills, which are second to none, and we have a player who is as good as a player can get. We can safely said that he is the best clay court player of all time. His clay court record is something that may probably remain unbeaten for a long time to come. 81 match winning streak on clay. Four time French Open champion; the four times being his first four French opens. And when he was being tagged “only a clay courter”, he went on and added a Wimbledon and an Australian Open crown to his bag.

The only thing he has to his disadvantage is his fitness. His style of play has already taken a toll on his knees. He needs to alter his game so that he doesn’t stress his knees so much. Word is that Rafa’s time as one of the World’s best is over unless he does something to his game. But I wouldn’t listen to the ‘word’. ‘Word’ was that Federer would never win a Grandslam again after being beaten left, right and centre by Rafa at Roland Garros last year. But since his Wimbledon loss, he has won 3 of the next 4 slams and reached the final of Australian Open. Great players always adjust to the demanding situations. Rafa is surely one of the greatest players to have played the game, and there’s no way he’ll disappear from the top of the tennis scene just because of an injury. I do hope to see him at the US Open, which if he wins, he’ll achieve his very own Career Grandslam. Never in the history of tennis have two players completed a Career Grandslam in the same year. Rafa deserves it. Vamos!