An article in the NYT asks if Federer or Nadal is the greatest among the current generation of male tennis players. What does Nadal have going for him? Apparently, his “ability to crunch the best numbers in what remains the essence of tennis, a sport often referred to as boxing without the blood.” So, he “holds a 21-10 record over Federer”; “holds a winning record over every other Grand Slam singles champion who has crossed his path as a professional” (with one minor exception); has the same, this time perfect, “winning record over every member of the current top 30”; and the list goes on and on: “Nadal also has the best career winning percentage in tour history at 84 percent to Federer’s 81. Nadal also has the edge in Grand Slam winning percentage over Federer at 88 to 86 and in Masters 1000 winning percentage (84 to 77) as well as a better strike rate against top 10 opponents (69 to 65).”
What can all these numbers tell you? I have no real knowledge of or experience in tennis, but here is my take: if after watching the two men at their best for about 15 min. you still think Nadal’s statistics hold much non-statistical significance, you are a hopeless and incorrigible nerd. Of course, the opposite extreme of taking in “Federer as a religious experience” can have its own downsides – but I would rather go with these.