‘Federer is better than Nadal, but…’ – Spanish tennis great on why Rafa has overcome Roger so often

Michael Graham
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal PA

Former ATP top ten player Nicolas Almagro believes Roger Federer deserves to be saluted as the most talented player of all-time, even though he has a losing record against his greatest rival Rafael Nadal.

Speaking to Tennis365 at La Manga Club in Spain, former world No.9 Almagro gave us an insight into the challenges of playing against two of the icons of the modern game, with his compatriot Nadal trumping Federer in one key area.

Nadal beat Federer at the French Open last month to record his 24th victory in their enduring rivalry, with the Swiss maestro only managing to beat his Spanish foe on 15 occasions and yet Almagro suggests those results only tell part of the story.

“I believe Federer is better than Nadal, but their record doesn’t show this,” stated Almagro, who retired from the game earlier this year. “In my opinion, Federer is the best player of the all in terms of technique, but Nadal has beaten him so many times because he is stronger mentally

“Federer was my toughest opponent because he played with you and not against you. It was a totally different experience. Slice, short shot, top spin, volley, he had everything. You didn’t know what was coming next and he had everything. There was no big weakness.

“He is all talent and it is only when he plays someone like Nadal and 99 per-cent of the balls are coming high to his backhand, then he is in trouble. It is difficult for him to find a solution and that is where Nadal has had an edge over him.

“If you have the talent and you don’t have the mental strength you cannot win and while Roger has great mental strength, the challenge of overcome what Nadal was giving to him has proved to be too much a lot of the time, especially on clay.”

Almagro beat Nadal on clay in 2014 in Barcelona, yet he lost 15 times against a compatriot who led a generation of Spanish players who may never be matched.

“Our generation was amazing, it was not normal for one country to have it like we did,” reflected the La Manga Club’s recently appointed tennis academy director. “In ten years, every year we had three in the top ten and this is ridiculous. You can wait a long time for this to be repeated and in my opinion, it will never be the same again.

“We have some good young players and they could be top ten for one year, but it will never be like it was in my generation when we had so many champions all at once and you can say it is even more amazing that this great time for Spanish tennis came at a great time for tennis.

“The best players of all-time have been playing the game in the last 15 years and this is why the ATP has a big problem coming up when all these legends have gone. I’m glad it is not my problem to solve.

“They are trying many things with the ‘Next Gen’ and they are doing some nice marketing, but it will never be the same when these guys are gone. Stefanos Tsitsipas is a great player, but he is not Federer. Nick Kyrgios is very interesting for a number of reasons, but he not the same as Nadal.

“Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev could be great players, but it will not be the same rivalry as Nadal and Federer. It may be beautiful to watch, but these guys are not 20 Grand Slams or 18 Grand Slams on the record, so tennis has a big issue coming up when the big guys decide to stop playing.”

La Manga Club offers outstanding coaching for players of all levels overseen by former ATP top ten player Nicolas Almagro. For more information, click here –https://lamangaclub.com/en/sports-leisure/tennis-centre-la-manga-club

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