Jon, I saw your tweet about [Rafael] Nadal and Wimbledon. How would you rate him as an all-time grass court player?


• For what it’s worth, I noted that, if, indeed, Nadal has played Wimbledon for the final time, it’s poetic that A) he won his final match (as Roger Federer did at Roland Garros) and B) his final defeat was to …

How good of a grass courter was Nadal? Interesting question. And this was always a strange dimension to his gilded career.

Nadal at Wimbledon was wildly inconsistent. From 2006 to ’11, he was a beast and reached the final in all five years he entered, winning twice.

His inroads against (and, finally, takedown of) Federer—a four-set final loss in ’06; a five-set final loss in ’07; a five-set final win in ’08—is a crowning achievement.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 18, 2023 Spain’s Rafael Nadal looks dejected after losing his second round match against Mackenzie Mcdonald of the U.S. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

Late in his career, Nadal was terrific, winning 15 of his last 17 matches at SW 19.

And in the middle? He lost to Dustin Brown, Gilles Müller (15–13 in the fifth), Steve Darcis, Lukas Rosol and a teenage Nick Kyrgios.

Sometimes he was less than 100% physically. Sometimes he was running on fumes after his romp through the clay.

But, sometimes he lacked confidence and tactics and went down with mystifying passivity.

Go by Nadal’s highs—two titles and eight semis or better—and he is an all-timer.

Go by his win percentage (83%), and it dips.

A reader came up with this ranking of the greatest men’s Open Era grass court players.

Nadal has to make the list, if barely.

It’s hard to quibble with too much here, and it’s a fun thought exercise.

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