Acknowledging The All-Time Greats

I recently wrote a post touting Serina Williams as the greatest female tennis player of all-times. I acknowledged there were arguments that could be made for Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, and Martina Navratilova. But I believed Serina had done enough to separate herself from the others. When it comes to the men however, I don’t believe a clear standout exists. Therefore, I haven’t as of yet written a piece on the all-time greatest male tennis player. I believe there can be legitimate cases made for a number of men including Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and even Novak Djokovic. The wide variety of supporting arguments include number of Grand Slam wins, quality of competition, doubles participation, type of equipment used, and longevity just to name a few. But after this past Sunday, there can be no doubt or argument about it, Raphael Nadal is the king of the clay. By winning his unprecedented tenth French Open title, Raphael Nadal is the greatest clay court player of all-times. No one in tennis has dominated one surface the way “Rafa” has owned the clay over the course of his career. His numbers are indisputable and unprecedented. Over thirteen years to date, his numbers are incredible: 10 French Open titles, 52 singles titles, a .916 win %, a 100-2 record in 5 set matches, only taken to 5 sets twice in French Open matches, never lost a French Open final. He has also dominated the clay court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Barcelona that lead up to the French Open with record numbers of wins in them as well. After a couple of down years mainly due to nagging injuries, many had written Nadal off as a Grand Slam threat, even in the French. But after his totally dominating play with no sets lost in the tournament, and only 6 games dropped in his three set sweep of the final, the future looks bright once again for Nadal. Now alone in 2nd place behind only Federer (17) with 15 total Grand Slam titles overall, Nadal is in the thick of the discussion for overall greatest of all-times. But without a doubt, for all of the above and more, Raphael “Rafa” Nadal is the greatest clay court tennis player of all-times.

 

More On Ali

As we arrive at the first anniversary of the passing of the Greatest Of All-Time, the honors and tributes to Muhammad Ali continue to come in with no end in sight. In late April he was honored, along with tennis legend Serena Williams at the annual Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy awards given to sports legends who exemplify the ideals embodied by Olympian and humanitarian Jesse Owens: integrity, perseverance and service. Filmmaker Spike Lee had the honor of presenting some members of Ali’s family with the Jesse Owens Global Peace Award recognizing the late boxing legend’s commitment to peace and justice outside the ring. Another of the many new books on Ali’s life coming out focuses on the years during Ali’s battle with U.S. government over his refusal of military induction. The book is entitled “Sting Like a Bee: Muhammad Ali vs The United States of America, 1966-1971” and was written by Leigh Montville. Finally, what is perhaps the most unique of the latest stories honoring Ali is the one written by Tom Junod that will appear in the June 12th World Fame issue of ESPN The Magazine entitle “The Greatest, At Rest.” The article tells the story of the meticulous and detailed planning of Muhammad Ali’s funeral by Ali himself along with his wife, Lonnie, that began years before his passing. It details her determined efforts to see his vision carried out despite the difficulties presented by the clash at times between his religious beliefs and his world-wide celebrity. It also details the numerous carefully selected individuals entrusted with the various aspects of Ali’s desired funeral services and their solemn determination to carry out their duties. This is a most extraordinary behind the scenes look. It is a must read for any Ali fan and a must add for any collector of Ali memorabilia.