As ‘emperor of clay’, Rafael Nadal equals Roger Federer’s feat while Lewis Hamilton equals that of Schumacher
The year 2020 will go down as a weird year in more ways than one. The finals of the French Open tennis tournament and a Formula 1 Grand Prix race in Germany taking place on the same Sunday is far from usual. Instead of huge crowds enjoying the long days of the northern European summer, the French Open and Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring saw a sparse scattering of spectators, even though that in itself was unthinkable a month ago. But the few who attended saw history being made. In tennis, the man from Mallorca, Rafael Nadal, won his 13th title in Paris in the last 15 years, not only equalling Roger Federer’s record of 20 men’s singles Grand Slam tennis titles but also reaffirming his title as the “Emperor of the Clay Court.” And the man he defeated, Novak Djokovic, is no slouch either, forming the third arm of the tennis triumvirate. Since 2003’s Wimbledon Championship won by Federer till the tournament that just ended in Paris, these three men have won a simply astounding 57 of the 71 Grand Slams on offer. Yet, among them, only Nadal has made a championship truly his own. Federer has held the record for more than 11 years, from his Wimbledon 2009 win right after he broke Pete Sampras’ record of 14. And Nadal’s game rose to the occasion as he excelled his own style and tactics and demonstrated a rare tautness.
Then there is Lewis Hamilton, a man who clearly dominates his sport by a country mile. On his way to equalling the legendary Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles at the Nurburgring, a race track close to the German driver’s hometown, he created a record of 91 Formula 1 race wins. If the British driver keeps on racing in 2021, no one will bet against him becoming the first man to win 100 Formula 1 races and setting a new record of world titles. Then there were heart-touching moments. Just as Federer had warm words of encouragement for Nadal, Schumacher’s son, Mick, presented Hamilton with one of his father’s helmets. Had he been well, Schumacher would have himself been there. Like Nadal, Hamilton has others nipping at his heels. Unlike Nadal, he has no other person with whom he needs to share the greatness in his generation. Of course, one can argue that tennis is a sport where the quality of the equipment does not make such a great difference but Hamilton is at another level. The world might have lost a great summer of sport in 2020 but we are in for a fantastic autumn of sports.