By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Wimbledon—Novak Djokovic is Grand Slam king, but Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal exert a greater impact on tennis, says Toni Nadal in a new interview.
Speaking to ClayTennis.com, Toni Nadal, Rafa Nadal’s uncle and original coach, said both Federer and Nadal have transcended tennis more than Djokovic. Toni Nadal also says had Rafa Nadal not suffered so many injuries “he probably would have won more than the others.”
Uncle Toni also pointed out of the Big 3 champions only Rafa Nadal owns the career Golden Slam—winning all four Grand Slam championships as well as Olympic gold medals in both singles and doubles, which he achieved partnering buddy and now coach Marc Lopez at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“I think Federer and Nadal have transcended their sport more than Djokovic,” Toni Nadal told ClayTennis.com. “And Federer has transcended his sport more than anyone else.
“When it comes to categorizing who is the best… we would have to establish clear standards that are always a bit open to opinion, because who is the best, the one who holds the world record or the one who wins the Olympics? I don’t know.
“I think the one who has managed to play at a better level and do more difficult things is Federer, the one who has won more is Djokovic and if we were to count all the things Rafael hasn’t played because of injury, he would probably have won more than the others.”
Toni Nadal says based on record, Djokovic is the best, however he asserts both Federer and Rafa Nadal are more important to the game’s growth than the 36-year-old Serbian superstar.
Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Djokovic is two wins away from capturing his 24th major title to equal Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam record.
If Djokovic defeats Jannik Sinner in the semifinals and goes on to defend his Wimbledon crown on Sunday, he will tie Federer with eight Wimbledon championships. If Djokovic defends Wimbledon he will arrive in New York for next month’s US Open on the verge of momentous history bidding to become both the first man since Rocket Rod Laver in 1969 to win the calendar Grand Slam and seize a 25th Grand Slam crown to break Court’s record, which was once believed to be untouchable.
Still, Toni Nadal says the fact only one of the four Grand Slam is played on clay and the year-end ATP Finals are staged on hard court hurts his nephew’s cause and helps Djokovic in his hunt for history.
“Well, Djokovic is better because he has won more titles than Rafael. If Djokovic is 23?” Toni Nadal said. “But let’s establish a number of things: we live in a tour that is always played on fast courts. My nephew always plays three Grand Slams on the surface he doesn’t do well and one on the surface he does well.
“He has always played all the Masters on the surface he doesn’t do well on. In the world of sport, the officials can tip the balance one way or the other. Who wins the Tour de France? If the sports officials puts in the mountains, one type of rider will win it, and if he puts in a time trial, another type of rider will win it.”
In an interview with Tennis Now prior to the pandemic, Toni Nadal, who plays with a one-handed backhand himself, called Federer the most stylish and one of the most important players because he drew so many people all over the world to play and watch tennis.
“If I was not Rafael’s uncle and coach I would want Federer to win every tournament,” Toni Nadal told Tennis Now in that 2020 interview.
After his nephew rallied to defeat Daniil Medvedev in the 2022 Australian Open final, Toni Nadal said if Rafa had not endured so many injuries, Pointing out his nephew suffered a foot injury after defeating Mariano Puerta to win his maiden major at the 2005 Roland Garros and battled through the pain of the chronic foot injury to fight back from two sets down vs. Daniil Medvedev in the Melbourne final, Toni Nadal said if Rafa Nadal had been healthier in his career “he would have been the best.”
“I try not to be a fan of anything or my nephew or anything,” Toni Nadal said. “The one who is a fanatic is a closed person.
“Who is the best? It is a difficult thing to determine.
“The one who manages to play at the highest level punctually, the one who wins the most titles… If my nephew hadn’t been injured so much, and it’s not uncle’s love, he would have been the best.”
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