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Nadal muscles way onto list of all-time greats

THE good news for Roger Federer is that he may still achieve his life's dream of winning more grand slam titles than any other man.

Federer only needs one more major to match Pete Sampras' record of 14 and at the age of 27, time is still on his side.

But the bad news for the Swiss master is that even if he does get the record, he may not hold it long. His greatest challenger now is not the man in front, but the one coming from behind.

Spain's Rafa Nadal captured his sixth grand slam title when he beat Federer in an epic five-set thriller at the Australian Open on Sunday in Melbourne.

It was an enthralling match that Federer might just as easily won but the result erased any doubts over just who is the top player in the world right now.

"I love to win," Nadal said yesterday as he prepared to leave Australia.

"I love the competition. Not only in tennis, I love the competition in all aspects of life.

"When I compete, I love to be there and fight to win."

Nadal has now beaten Federer in 13 of the 19 matches they have played, including each of the last five.

Significantly, Nadal has beaten Federer in five of their seven grand slam finals.

If not for the Spaniard, Federer would have already sailed past Sampras's mark and laid an undeniable claim as the greatest of all time.

But any arguments about just who is the greatest player have now been put on hold because of Nadal's continuing rise.

While Nadal has been responsible for stalling Federer's relentless march toward Sampras's record, the Spaniard has also done him a great service.

Just as Sampras had Andre Agassi to contend with, Federer now has a truly great rival ensuring any future grand slams will be hard earned and therefore all the more valuable.

For Nadal, the question of which one is the best player is a mute point.

"He has 13 grand slams. I have six. The Masters Cup, he has won four. I have not won one. So there's no discussion," Nadal said.

Nadal also called for a reduction in the number of hard court tournaments to save players from injuries and burnout.

Despite having just claimed his first grand slam title on a hard court, the world number one said there were too many tournaments played on the surface.

"Hard court surface is tougher than grass or clay for the body, and all the time we are playing more on this surface," the Spaniard said. "We have to change that a bit more."


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