June 13, 2011

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The Most Dominant Athlete In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods put the sports world on notice with his record-breaking Masters performance in 1997. Since then, the now 35-year old Woods has won a total of 14 majors and is threatening Jack Nicklaus’ all-time total of 18. Despite his recent struggles, he should have a good chance of getting there, simply because he still has put together solid efforts in the aforementioned Masters.

Beginning in 2000, when Woods won three of golf’s four major championships, he was sports’ most dominant athlete. The popular question became ‘Tiger or the field.’  And while the field came out on top more often, Tiger’s ten titles from 2000 – 2006 was one of golf’s greatest strings of brilliance and proved that it wasn’t such a silly question. But Woods has since fallen in the golf rankings and hasn’t won one of those coveted majors since the 2007 PGA Championship nearly four years ago. Because of that, a new athlete has taken over as the most dominant athlete on the planet:

Rafael Nadal.

With victories in the 2010 French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon tournament, and the 2011 French a few weeks ago, Nadal is clearly the class of all of tennis. He’s now won four of the past five major championships and at the age of 25, is clearly in his prime.

The knock on Nadal in the past has been that while he is an amazing player on a clay court, he couldn’t match Roger Federer on grass. But winning two of the past three Wimbledon’s has squelched that notion and while Nadal isn’t quite as dominant there as he is on clay, it’s quite clear that he is top tennis player regardless.

The thing about Rafa is that he’s not only the most dominant player in sports today, but he could wind up as the greatest tennis player of all-time. I’m not quite ready to give him that crown just yet, but with ten Grand Slam championships already, Nadal has a good chance of surpassing Federer’s all-time record of 16. As the years go by, like all great athletes, there will be a decline in his game. But Nadal is so good on the clay court (since 2005, he’s won the French Open every year except 2009), that he could win that championship for several more years.

Part of the reason he’s sports’ most dominant athlete is there just aren’t a bevy of great ones around ruling their respective games right now. Think of baseball – is any one player all that dominant? Albert Pujols may come the closest and he’s hardly as overachieving the way Nadal is. Football? I don’t know, Peyton Manning? Even in a one-on-one sport such as basketball, it’s hard to say that Kobe Bryant or Lebron James is as dominant as Rafael Nadal is. Bryant may have approached that level winning the past two NBA titles, but even on a good Lakers team, he couldn’t guide them out of the second round of the playoffs this season.

Note that most dominant is a different thing entirely from ‘best.’ Though Nadal dominates his sport like no other athlete, he may not be the top athlete. When comparing sports, it’s obviously extremely difficult to label a current No. 1 and to name one the clear best is virtually impossible to do. Nadal may be up there, but it’s not realistic to compare him to someone like Lebron James.

Still, it’s time to start recognizing Nadal as not only the world’s most dominant tennis player, but its most dominant athlete in all of sports.

August 25, 2010

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Countdown to the U.S. Open!!!

By: Stein

Although, Wimbledon, undoubtedly, is the most coveted prize for any tennis player, arguably, the most anticipated and exciting tournament this year for tennis fans is the US Open! The question on everyone’s mind and all the buzz is centered one man: Rafael Nadal!

Will Rafael Nadal stun us all and achieve the coveted and rare Career Grand Slam? Can the “King of Clay” and World’s number one player win on the speedy hard courts?  Will the man with the big guns blasts his opponents and all of the doubters off the court this year?

I say, “YES”! Sure, Nadal was demolished in uncharacteristic fashion by Andy Murray at the Roger’s Cup…However, we have all seen and know that Murray isn’t very mentally tough when it counts, and we know what that can do to one’s tennis career. Remember Amelie Mauresmo?  Nadal’s performance last week in Cincinnati, and the best comeback performance of the US Open Series, thus far, proves that although he may not have the best hard-court game on tour, he has the best heart .  Down a set and at match point against the Frenchman, Bennitaeu, Nadal fought back and won the match in a decisive fashion. No one else on tour can do that, not even Federer!

Although it will be tough, Baghdatis is back and better than ever, Federer is in hot pursuit of trying to achieve 20 Majors, the “Joker” and Roddick want to add a second Major to their resume, and Soderling, Murray, and Berdych all want a piece of the pie, but the man to beat, hands down, is Nadal.  My prediction for the final: Murray and Nadal in a stunning five setter.

Vamos Rafa!