It’s a debate that has been raging since time immemorial it seems.
Roger Federer, the man who makes everything look easy, would have been in contention for the greatest athlete of all time had it not been for arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal to throw a spanner in the works.
This, however, is not an article on who is the better of the two but merely one on which of the two living legends has had a better 2017 season.
Yes, there is plenty of tennis left in the year still, but one could argue that the major events have now been wrapped up with the conclusion of the US Open in September.
Grand Slams won: 2 (Australian Open and Wimbledon)
1000 Masters won: 2 (Indian Wells and Miami)
500 Masters won: 1 (Gerry Weber)
Grand Slams won: 2 (French Open and US Open)
1000 Masters won: 1 (Monte Carlo and Madrid)
500 Masters won: 1 (Barcelona)
The aforementioned stats have, as is often the case in their epic duels, little to separate the two.
Federer started the year on top, beating his nemesis in a classic five-set Australian Open final before going on to complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ for the third time in his career.
Notably, Federer beat Nadal on in both Masters enroute to the title to suggest, for the first time in their storied rivalry, he had the upper hand.
At 36, however, the Swiss is simply not the tour de force that he once was and his decision to skip the entire claycourt season handed Nadal the initiative.
Or was Federer’s absence purely coincidental?
For we all know Nadal is a true master of the crimson surface and as he stormed to the Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid Masters titles, was overwhelming favourite to lift an unprecedented 10th French Open crown.
Nadal did so with consummate ease, never once looking in trouble to a historic ‘La Decima’ and his win was even sweeter considering the injury-plagued two and a half-years he has suffered.
Centre Court beckoned but Giles Muller scuppered any chances of a repeat of the Australian Open final and Federer waltzed his way to a record eighth Wimbledon and a staggering 19th overall Grand Slam title.
The Swiss had made a mockery of those who had called him out for being too old to play a younger man’s game and at that moment, his status as the GOAT (Greatest of all-time) was seemingly cemented.
Yet, the final Slam of the year-the US Open-loomed and once again, Nadal (by now World No.1 in the rankings) brought himself back into the GOAT debate with a pretty straightforward march to the title.
Argentine giant Juan Martin del Potro upset the odds by knocking out Federer in the quarters but was spent by the time he faced Nadal in the semis.
The unheralded Kevin Anderson was Nadal’s opponent in the final but the Spaniard was in an unforgiving mood as he bulldozed his way to a 16th Slam crown.
Federer is still in a shout to be back atop the ATP rankings, but Nadal does have an almost 2,000 point lead over him.
So with plenty of action in October (Shanghai and Rolex Masters to name a few) and November (ATP Finals) left, will the Swiss overhaul his nemesis once more or will Nadal end the year on top?
Nadal does hold the edge and with him holding the No.1 ranking, it would be hard to disagree with the sentiment that for 2017 at least, he has edged his great rival despite losing all three of their matches in the year.
Federer fans would disagree, but as was pointed out in the early stages of the article, this isn’t about who is the greatest of all time, simply in the eventful calendar year we are in.