The situation for Rafael Nadal at this stage of his career is quite different than it is for Novak Djokovic. Unless what we saw in the Monte Carlo final was a rusty Nadal who still needs more time to find his way back to the top of the game, this is as good as it gets. A final on clay, with the world’s number one standing in his way. When the careers of both men will be over, the Serb will be remembered as the better player.
Because Nadal always had Roger Federer to cut into his title count while he was on the rise, dominating the clay courts completely, later on having to face the surge of Novak Djokovic, who in one off-season between 2010 and 2011 finally found the way to bring his talent into a consistent package with an incredible mental ability that puts him in a winnable situations regardless of the score.
And Djokovic? It’s hard to see anyone disrupting his reign, and his adding Grand Slam titles to his count of six. We still haven’t seen Nadal in a best of five scenario but my guess is that Djokovic is the huge favorite to claim the title in Paris this year, and so on for the next few seasons unless some prodigy rises out of nowhere, and there doesn’t seem to be any young stallion threatening to change the face of the game and join the top ranked players in the near future.
Roger Federer might surprise some at Wimbledon, but the time to pull down the curtain is very close. Andy Murray can compete with Djokovic on Clay and Grass, but not on a consistent level. One in three, one in four tournaments probably. He loses matches that Djokovic never gives up on, which always gives him the edge over the talented Brit, who can’t find the same kind of success on the clay courts.
Djokovic is at six Gran Slam titles at the moment, winning five of them over the last 27 months. It’s hard to see him not claiming most of what’s coming in the next few years unless something remarkable happens. Nadal and his 11? It might grow by one more, maybe two. When a player is hurt time and time again, history usually tells us he’ll finally break down at some point. Without the kind of competition Nadal had once he got to the top, Djokovic’s road to being the “greater” player in a historic sense seems quite clear.