Third best player on the ATP tour in the Open era – Rafael Nadal
I really really wanted to put Roger Federer number three here due to Nadal being better head-to-head against the guy from Switzerland and that Nadal has two more Grand Slam titles than Federer, but I just couldn’t. Do I think that Nadal would beat Federer on clay or a hard court when they were both in peak form, probably yes. But this article isn’t about who is better and instead who is greater in the global scheme.
Nadal, however, is very likely the best player ever on clay. His only match might be Bjorn Borg. Borg had a much shorter career than Nadal and while Nadal has a ridiculous record of 112-3 at the French, Borg (with a less composite racket, of course) had a record of 49-2. But Nadal was able to sustain his success for much longer and would likely give Borg a beat down on most hard court surfaces.
Nadal, unfortunately, won’t return until 2024 and that will likely be his last year on the tour. That’s a shame as Nadal was still playing at a high level until an injury ended his 2023 season early after a second-round loss at the Australian Open. But while Nadal was a clay-court master, he still had an 88.1 percent winning percentage at all Grand Slams and won at least one of all of the four majors.
He was also ranked in the top 10 of the ATP rankings for 912 consecutive weeks. In other words, a bit over 17 years. He also won two Olympic gold medals so it shows he doesn’t just care about himself, he cares about others as well. But we already knew that, right? Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca, Spain has helped hundreds of kids learn the game.