By Erik Gudris/ Wednesday, October 15, 2013
Tennis legend Rod Laver still feels Roger Federer is the greatest ever. But Rafael Nadal may be the man capable of achieving a rare calendar Grand Slam that Laver won twice.
Photo Credit: Shanghai Masters
Australian tennis great Rod Laver participated in several events at the recent Shanghai Rolex Masters tournament. That included being part of the draw ceremony that included an impromptu appearance by Roger Federer.
Laver, the winner of the calendar year Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969, often gets asked his thoughts on the current state of the game and how he would compare his own significant achievements with the likes of Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and others.
For the man known as the "Rocket," Federer is still for him the greatest.
"I've always said if you're the best in your era, that's as good as you really can do," Laver said at a press conference held at the ATP 1000 event. "You could take it back to, is it Fred Perry, is it Don Budge, is it myself that came along. When I look at Federer, with what he's accomplished, against the competition that he's accomplished it with, I'd have to say I would think that Roger is the greatest player, just because his record, the consistency over a span of six, eight years has been pretty amazing. I think that sort of tells you something."
But Laver also sees Nadal as having a valid argument for being considering the "GOAT." And with Djokovic's own recent success, Laver admits things are getting tougher for Federer more than ever.
"It's quite amazing that he's done so well," Laver said about Nadal's own 13 major titles. "But he's certainly an unbelievable player. I watched the US Open this year with Djokovic. It was just incredible. It was such a great match. You look at his game. Then, of course, you can look at Djokovic two years ago, three years ago when he played so well on the clay back then. We thought, 'How is he doing this?' He went on a regimen of training, stretching, diet. That's what happens. I think you have to be able to see them at the end of their career. Federer is not at the end of his career, but he's now finding it difficult to compete week in and week out, where before he had no trouble competing."
That proved true again after France's Gael Monfils beat the Swiss star in the third round of Shanghai. That loss, and Federer's announcement a few days later he and coach Paul Annacone were parting ways, added more speculation to the growing debate on the future of Federer's career.
Laver though remains optimistic about Federer's future Grand Slam chances.
"I think he's certainly capable of winning maybe the Australian, and of course Wimbledon is something that he's pretty involved with. I think he likes those two type of games. Unfortunately, someone like Nadal is always going to knock him off on the clay."
Yet Laver does see some parallels in his own career with Federer's when it comes to competing after age 30.
"The only thing I can say is sometimes when you get to be in your 30s, 30 to 35, somewhere in there, in my game, I played a match the day before, I played a terrific match, played 100%, as good as I was on a 21‑type thing. The next day I go out and there's nothing there. So what is it? Is it the desire? Is it your emotion, does it come up? Is your adrenaline not flowing as well as it normally does in a match? That's the times I found a problem. I don't know whether Roger's feeling anything of that nature. But sometimes I notice him, he just doesn't have it that day. But the day before he was magnificent. So it's not a training method, fitness, nothing to do with his body. So, you know, you just wonder, is it adrenaline that gets you up for matches."
Laver is still the only man ever to achieve the sport's highest and most difficult achievement, But the question remains -- will anyone ever win the calendar Grand Slam again? The man to do it just might be Federer's greatest rival, according to Laver.
"I would say yes, it would be done again," Laver said. "I don't own this title. It was something that I was thrilled to have been able to accomplish. I think, yes, it could be done. When I look at the way Nadal plays on grass, clay and hard courts, especially this year, he's obviously one that can win it. The only reason why Federer didn't win a Grand Slam was because of Nadal on clay. Had he been an expert, a specialist, that good. The both of them came along at a unique time. They had a great rivalry. Of course, you know, Nadal to win eight tournaments in a row at the French, it's almost unheard of.
When asked, with all the recent advances in racquet technology and nutrition, how he would fare in the modern game, Laver said he would stick to his tried and true serve and volley style, even if it didn't match up to today's players.
"I would think it would be tough for me. My mechanics would have to be totally changed from a serve‑volleying person to just a baseliner. Would I be capable of hitting the ball over the net 20 and 30 times and having it deep and having it accurate all the time? I don't think that would be in me. I never tried to do that in my career. I figured if I got it over the net five times, I'm doing good, I'm going to the net (laughter)."