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Here is this week's edition of Tough Call. If 2007 Rafael Nadal played 2017 Rafael Nadal, who would win?
Ready, set, go....
REASONS 2017 NADAL WOULD WIN
- Experience: He’s got a decade’s more experience - and a dozen more majors. And as the game has grown and evolved over the years, he’s still one of the very, very best.
- He’s riding high on confidence: He came into the French Open with just 1 loss in his last 18 clay court matches (to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals of Rome).
- He’s not undefeated here but he’s an insane 78-2, those two losses coming to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 and to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2015.
- Despite missing a big chunk of last summer, including Wimbledon, he’s at No.4 on the ATP World Tour rankings (and could go even higher after Roland Garros).
REASONS 2007 NADAL WOULD WIN
- Youth: Nadal is still one of the fittest and most athletic players out there today, but a decade ago his body was nowhere near as beat up from the grind of the tour as it is now.
- He was riding VERY high on confidence: He went into the French Open with just 1 loss in his last 82 clay court matches (to Roger Federer in the Hamburg final that year).
- He was undefeated at Roland Garros (at that point he didn’t know what it was like to lose at the French Open - he had won the event both previous times he’d played it).
- He was the No.2 player in the world (as opposed to the No.4 player in the world now).
OUR EXPERTS WEIGH IN
STEVE FLINK: 2017
I would go with the 2017 version of Nadal over the 2007 Rafa. His level of aggression and serve are better now than ten years ago and he has in my view reached peak form on clay that slightly surpasses anything I have seen from him in the past.
ASHLEY NDEBELE: 2007
The 2017 Nadal is firing on all cylinders and taking names in Roland Garros. He’s only lost 20 games in his last four matches. However, the 2007 Nadal was more fearless, more confident, and his body wasn’t beat up. He was basically invisible, leaving everyone including Roger Federer, without any answers. The modern Nadal can definitely take the vintage Nadal but not sure if the knees can withstand getting jerked around the court by the 21-year-old.
ED MCGROGAN: 2007/2017
“It’s impossible to compare generations,” they say when trying to weigh the accomplishments of two sports teams from years apart. But comparing the same person, while still a fool’s errand, isn’t as challenging. The Rafa of ’07 was closer to his peak, but he didn’t have the variety on his serve that eventually helped him win on surfaces besides clay. Rafa’s backhand is better now than it was then, too. Still, a Rafa loss today isn’t a stop-the-presses moment like it was a decade ago, even on dirt. Rafa circa 2017 would win on hard courts, but everywhere else, I’ll side with the younger version.
NINA PANTIC: 2007
A 21-year-old Rafael Nadal would beat today’s Rafa, although the margin would be slim. Modern-day Nadal has dealt with crisises in his health and confidence, while 2007 Nadal only lacked experience. Nadal is on track to repeat his 2007 results, but his younger self was unstoppable on clay. Nadal has shown chinks in his armor over the past two years, and while he certainly looks to have put all of that behind him at Roland Garros, the cracks are still below the surface, as evident by his straight-set loss to Dominic Thiem in Rome.
STEVE TIGNOR: 2007
Nadal turned 21 in Paris in 2007; he turned 31 there in 2017. To paraphrase Shaquille O'Neal, 31 ain't 21. Watching Nadal rampage through the draw this year, it's tempting to say that he has defied that axiom. How could anyone be better than he is now? Well, in 2007, Rafa didn't drop a set until the final, and he beat Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on his way to the title. It doesn't get any better than that.
BRAD KALLET: 2007
Rafa looks as good, perhaps, as he ever has. He went 17-1 in the clay season before Roland Garros, and has been toying with the competition in Paris. (He also reached the final in Melbourne, on hard courts, let’s not forget.) But Rafa 10 years ago was a different animal. He may be wiser now, but he was fitter and more ferocious then. At this time in 2007, Nadal was on the verge of his third straight French title. Give me that guy every time.
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