Chasing Down Roger
Less than seven years after Pete Sampras captured his final Grand Slam to set a record with 14 major titles, Roger Federer passed him in 2009.
Federer has held the record since, and the unofficial title of greatest player in tennis history.
But will his hold last as long as Sampras' did?
Not if Rafael Nadal has his way, and certainly not if, as it appears, the 27-year-old Spaniard appears set to take his magnificent career to new levels of excellence.
Nadal won his 13th Grand Slam on Monday with a stirring four-set victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, continuing an incredible season in which he has lost only three matches in his comeback from serious knee problems.
On one hand, like women's champion Serena Williams, Nadal has missed great gobs of time to injury over his career and it is to wonder what he, or Williams, might have accomplished if healthier at times.
But Williams looks like she may smash the women's Grand Slam mark and appears more formidable than ever, and so does Nadal. It almost seems as if their time away has either made them hungrier or perhaps left them fresher for competition.
So, are five more Grand Slam wins for Nadal possible? It certainly seems so if his famously wonky left knee can stand the competition.
Against Djokovic, who has started losing more big finals than he's been winning of late, Nadal split the opening two sets and then fought back from down a break in the third to take the third set.
That seemed to take some of the will away from the Serb, who dropped the final set 6-1 despite playing well enough, it's fair to say, to have beaten any other player on the planet on Monday.
Djokovic actually hit more winners on the day, 46 to 27, but Nadal made only 20 unforced errors to 53 for the Serb. For much of the afternoon, Nadal simply refused to be the one to hit the ball out, although on the incredible 54-shot rally that last 80 seconds, it was Nadal who finally hit the ball into the net.
Otherwise, the Spaniard just extended point after point, and by the third set, Djokovic was making uncharacteristic errors, knowing he had to make perfect shots to get the ball past Nadal. In a era of big servers, there were only seven aces in the match, six by Djokovic, demonstrating there is another way to win these days.
Now, Djokovic has to digest this disappointment, and then head to Belgrade on Wednesday to lead Serbia's Davis Cup team into a world semifinal clash with Milos Raonic and Canada.
Unless he chooses to rest the first day, it's expected he would face Canada's No. 2 Vasek Pospisil on Friday on the indoor clay surface. Pospisil has played five setters at the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open this season, losing all of them, but he has the physical ability to at the very least make Djokovic work on Friday.
Raonic is likely to face Serbia's No. 2, Janko Tipsarevic, on Friday, before the doubles on Saturday and then the reverse singles on Sunday.
Djokovic led Serbia to the Davis Cup title in 2010, an effort he later said changed the arc of his tennis career. After a bruising U.S. Open, it will be interesting to see how much fuel he has in the tank this weekend.