If Roger Federer is the best player of all time, then Rafael Nadal is certainly the best on clay in the history of the game.
I'm delighted he was able to win his sixth French Open title at the weekend to match the record of the legendary Swede Bjorn Borg, and what will give him great satisfaction is that he won the crown while not at his best in his first four matches.
Those defeats to Novak Djokovic in the Masters Series Finals in Madrid and Rome really dented his psyche. The Serb had graced Nadal's level on clay, something that no-one else has really come close to doing, and that affected him.
Self-doubt crept into his game. There was no kidology; he was very honest and admitted he was struggling, accepted that things weren't quite right.
When the pair played their best tennis in the French Open Final, Roger was really able to worry Nadal and he must take heart from that.
Quotes of the week
That made him more determined and he grew as the competition went on and the last set in the final against Federer was the best he played.
It's not impossible to beat Nadal at Roland Garros - as Robin Soderling proved in 2009 - but it is incredibly difficult to match his intensity for four or so hours and that is where Roger fell short on Sunday.
There were periods in the match where he could have seized the initiative - 5-2 up in the first set being a prime example - but when Federer missed a few shots, Nadal pounced.
Still, Federer shouldn't be too disheartened as while he won't admit it, coming second to Rafa at Roland Garros is a good achievement. When the pair played their best tennis in that final, Roger was really able to worry Nadal and he must take heart from that.
He managed to end Novak Djokovic's 43-match winning run in the semi-finals and the final two grand slams of the year - Wimbledon and the US Open - will be played on quicker surfaces and ones that will suit his game more than the clay of Paris. He is my tip for the title at Wimbledon.
Federer has been playing some really good tennis this year, but when he's been under pressure he has lacked self-belief. The win for Federer against an undefeated Djokovic could be a catalyst for a great second half of the year.
As for the other couple of semi-finalists, I don't think Djokiovic will be derailed too much by his loss to Federer. Of course, he will be disappointed that such a marvellous unbeaten run has come to an end, but he has advanced too much this year to let that affect him and he will be a contender in SW19 and in New York.
And then we have Andy Murray. Greg Rusedski remarked that he is only 0.5 per cent away from matching Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, but I think he is a little further away than that.
He has had a very good clay court season considering his tribulations following the Australian Open Final but he still needs to work on his attitude if he wants to make it to the very top. Murray has to be as mentally focused in all of his matches as he is whenever he plays Rafa.
I'm not saying he would have beaten Nadal in the last four but he could have made further inroads into the match if he had not had a few lapses of the mind. In the main, though, he can be proud of his efforts.
This week at Queen's is not so much about Andy winning the title as getting to grips with the grass underfoot. The quicker he does that, the better his chances will be at Wimbledon.
China's Li Na won the women's French Open and you get the feeling that could start a revolution in her homeland. Interest was garnered when the country hosted the 2008 Olympics and with a Grand Slam champion in their midst, that will only grow.
It won't be an overnight process but within the next 10 years you would expect an influx of Chinese players and I'm sure that with a population of over one billion, Li will not be the sole Grand Slam winner from those shores.
Li will head to Wimbledon with great confidence now, for what will be an incredibly open tournament. I can't pick a winner.
Venus and Serna Williams, who will play in the SW19 prelude at Eastbourne next week, have all the tools to be successful but we don't know what sort of condition they will be in.
Caroline Wozniacki has spent time as world number one but she hasn't won a grand slam and there are still doubts over whether she has enough in her armoury to ever win one, so there aren't any outstanding candidates.
In wider terms, that highlights the lack of great juniors coming through. In years gone by you had the Williams sisters and before that Monica Seles, Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis. The female game is a lot closer these days, but I don't think it is as filled with talent.
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Kevin Walker says...
The only reason nadal has the lopsided record over federer is clearly because they have had about 15 meetings on clay. Federer was never a fan of slower courts. The reason nadal won wimbledon is because grass has become slower and slower as the years have went on, with no serve volleyers in the game, what is the point in having grass quick. It is now easier for a clay court specialist to do well on grass than it ever has been. Year ago half of the clay courters did not even bother to play at wimbledon because they knew there chances were slim to none. In my opinion federer is still the greatest player of all time, and to be honest i do not think nadal will win 16 grand slams. Infact i dont think nadal will ever win the us or aus open again in his career. There are to many tall poweful players who play great on hard courts along with djokovic and murray who both have nadals number on hard. Djokovic of course will beat nadal on any surface at any given time. Djokovic to win french open next year, A guarentee
Posted 15:15 9th June 2011
Adam Whiteley says...
Michael Magowan, thank you, finally, someone with Knowledge of the sport has spotted the mear fact that roger federer cannot be considered the best of all time becasue he isnt even the best in his generation. He has the greatest number of grand slams of all time, and this is the mistake people make time and time again. At least when samprass was considered the best, he had a winning record over the best rival of his generation (agassi), lets look at the figures that back this up, nadal has the singles olympic gold, roger does not, nadal boasts more masters than roger, nadal has done for roger now on all surfaces in slams, a feat wich roger does not boast over nadal, nadal has an overall winning record of 17-8, we all know that nadal is a master on the clay, and as a result has a 12-2 winning against roger on the red stuff, hard court head to head is 4-4, and the grass head to head record in 2-1 in favour of roger, now people do say this head to head record is beacuse of the cay dominance nadal has, but in fact all this nadal dominance over roger started when nadal was just 17 at the miami masters, on a hard court, roger was 22, hardly past his best now was he. roger does have 16 grand slams, fine, but also has 4 years and 10 months on nadal, who already has 10 grand slams, not bad to say these so called tennis experts keep telling us clay court speciallists can't adapt there game to any other surface.
Posted 11:56 9th June 2011
Dave Brett says...
It was the most memorable French open final for sometime and the closest Roger has got to the Clay Wizard for some years...However, not many people have mentioned what I would say was blatant gamesmanship on the part of Nadal, he clearly was holding Roger up on his serving games and not playing to the servers pace, spitting on the ground every point and toweling himself down every two seconds!! I have got a lot of time for the Mallorcan but no one can convince me this was not deliberate!!!
Posted 13:51 8th June 2011
Michael Magowan says...
When taking into consideration Federers now very lop sided record against Nadal i do not understand how Federer is still considered the greatest ever if he is not even the greatest of his generation. Nadal developed the game to defeat Federer in a hard slam final and also on his beloved grass.Why can Federer not return the favour at the French Open ?
Posted 13:23 8th June 2011
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