HE may be the newest member of a select band of greats to have won all four Grand Slam titles, but newly-crowned US Open champion Rafael Nadal does not even rate himself the best player currently on the men’s tour.
Of course, that is because Nadal has the misfortune to be competing in the same era as Roger Federer, winner of 16 major tournaments to the Spaniard’s nine, and to many observers the finest player of all time.
Yet Nadal’s triumph at Flushing Meadows late on Monday night – a title-clinching 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Novak Djokovic, underlined his status as world No1 and strengthened the argument that he has now usurped Federer as the man to beat.
Not that the 24-year-old will countenance such talk.
“The titles say he’s much better than me, so that’s true at the moment. I think it will be true all my life. For me, always Roger was an example, especially because he improved during all his career,” said Nadal.
“So I try to copy this and I know Roger and me are different, much different styles. Being better than Roger – I don’t think it’s the right moment to talk about that because I don’t think that.”
Asked whether he could overhaul Federer’s tally of 16 Grand Slams, Nadal added: “It’s very far. For me, it’s too far to think about that. I think talk about if I am better or worse than Roger is stupid.”
Federer’s grace and unflappable temperament on court are in direct contrast to Nadal’s feral, power-driven game and ensure the Swiss will always have his cheerleaders when the two are compared.
But Djokovic knows who he rates as the preeminent force in 2010, and it is the man from manacor, Majorca, who currently boasts the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.
“He has the game now for each surface and he has won each major,” said the Serbian world No2. “He has proven to the world that he’s the best in this moment, so there is no question about it.”