Rafael Nadal was born five years after Bjorn Borg had clinched his 6th and last French Open title. At Roland Garros, after the French Open win against the iconic Roger Federer, which helped him share honors with Bjorn Borg for the record number of French Open titles, Rafael Nadal was seen apologizing to the crowd for winning.
Probably because they have been cheering Ro-Ger, Ro-Ger all along without much interference from a minority that shouted Ra-Fa, Ra-Fa. And Nadal thought he owed the majority an apology. While there are several quarters where the world icon falls short of this tenacious Spaniard, humility definitely scores high. When McEnroe pressed him to consider his place among the immortals, after the win, Nadal said: No, for sure no. What Roger did is almost impossible to improve. After his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1 victory, which was way tougher for him than the three set 2008 French Open title Nadal said, It's an honor to say that I won as many French Opens as Borg.
Even before the match began, former world champions Andre Agassi and Jim Courier had said that Nadal was their favorite for Sunday's clash. You would have to favor Nadal because he tends to be more comfortable against Federer than Federer is against him, Agassi, eight Grand Slam singles titles winning champion, had said at a press conference at Roland Garros yesterday. Though the prediction came after Federer knocked world No. 2 Novak Djokovic, ending the latter's winning streak that lasted six months, Agassi and Courier thought Federer didn't have clay court prowess to beat the defending champion Nadal. After all, the only place Federer has been an underdog, even during his glorious years, was Roland Garros.
Clay court statistics hold Nadal in a more authoritative position when pitted against the 'Greatest Ever' Federer. 'The King of Clay' leads 11-2 on clay; Federer leads 2-1 on grass and they are tied 4-4 on hard court. Nadal has the uncanny ability to battle in the brink and turn around the match, a winning trait which was more apparent yesterday, than his 2008 French Open dream win. In 2008, I didn't really think I won the French Open because it was easy. It was different this year, Nadal said after the big win.
Being a lefty has worked wonderfully for Nadal and for his brute style. Nadal who is actually right-handed, owes to his uncle and coach Toni Nadal for putting the racquet in his left hand that let him master a style that intimidates the opponent. Though his game doesn't look like a ballet, Nadal is a fine-tuned specimen in his own technique.
Nadal has his 25th birthday bash (his birthday was on June 3rd) waiting after the French Open title and he is more than halfway through Grand Slam wins comparing to Federer's total of 16. And he is five years younger than Federer. Nadal is one of the two players to complete the Career Golden Slam (winner of all four majors and a gold medal; Agassi being the other). In all likelihood, Nadal might actually surpass or at least ensure a tie with legendary Federer.