1 slam, 4 TMS (on different surface), and 11 titles in all.... at 19! Would have been the single standout performance of the year. But.... Wertheim writes
Great year has been overshadowed by a certain Swiss
I've asked this before, but I thought I'd give it another shot since the timing seems right. How accurate do you think it is to put Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on equal footing in terms of the years they have had (as many news sources seem to be doing)? How would you assess their respective successes this year? Who impresses more?
-- Ethan Steele, Stanford, Calif.
Many of you have been asking about Nadal's year. Vincent Durrough of Nashville went so far as to write, "If Nadal wins another Masters Series event, and he wins the Masters cup over Federer, shouldn't we be calling him the best player in the world?" I feel for Nadal. In any other year, winning 11 titles would make a player a lock for No. 1. Add in the fact that the guy is still a teenager, he took a Major and four (!) Masters Series events, and he'd be fit for canonization. Regardless of what happens in Shanghai, this is just a banner year.
By unfortunate accident, Nadal is a contemporary of Roger Federer. As sterling as Nadal's season has been, it takes a backseat to Federer's 2005. Federer has, of course, won two Slams (and reached the semis at the other two) and has also taken four Masters events, winning titles on all surfaces. The cold and clinical rankings essentially end the debate. Spectacular as Nadal's year has been, Federer's has been superior -- 292 points superior, to be precise.
Subjectively, though Nadal and Federer split their the head-to-head matches and have won the same number of TMS events (Aside: it's pretty amazing that only two players have won the eight biggest ATP tournaments this year ) I think Federer's play in the Majors tips the scales. These are the money events, and Federer's 24-2 record is just otherworldly. (Federer can thank James Blake -- who, of course, took out Nadal in the first week of the U.S. Open -- for cementing the case.)
But let's forget Federer for a second and give Nadal his due. He's had a tremendous year. He's splintered the "clay-court specialist" label. He's made a lot of promoters happy. And, as an overnight star still in his teens, he's looked awfully comfortable wearing the trappings of celebrity.