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Agassi picks Rafa as the best

Rafael Nadal

Singapore: Eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi has picked Spaniard Rafael Nadal over Swiss maestro Roger Federer as the greatest tennis player ever, a report said on Thursday.

The American, putting a new slant on one of the sport’s great debates, said he prefers Nadal because the Spaniard has thrived in an ultra-competitive “golden age of tennis”.

“I’d put Nadal No. 1, Federer No. 2,” Agassi said.

“Federer separated himself from the field for four years. He separated himself from (Andy) Roddick and (Lleyton) Hewitt,” Agassi added.

“Nadal had to deal with Federer, (Novak) Djokovic, (Andy) Murray in the golden age of tennis. He has done what he has done and he’s not done yet.”

Conventional wisdom ranks Federer ahead of Nadal, as the Swiss holds a record 17 Grand Slam titles against 13 for the current world No. 1.

But Nadal has a convincing 23-10 head-to-head record against Federer and is one Australian Open victory away from becoming only the third man to win all four Grand Slam titles twice.

“He has won multiple (majors), every single one (more than once) except the Australian Open — and give him another year on that,” Agassi said.

“It’s just remarkable to me what he has done, and he has done it all during Federer’s prime.”

Agassi added that he did not discount Australia’s Rod Laver, two-time winner of the calendar-year Grand Slam, when rating the greatest player of all time.

Earlier, Agassi had said: “If Nadal is sitting at a table with Federer and Federer says, ‘I’m the best ever,’ my first question would be, ‘Well, then how come you didn’t beat me, because I beat you twice as many times? And, hey, by the way, you know I won everything, including a gold medal (in singles at the Olympics) and Davis Cup’.”

A few weeks after the US Open last year, Agassi’s former rival Pete Sampras had rated Federer as the best.

“It’s always been so clear to me that Roger is the greatest,” Sampras had said. “But I would say that, with Rafa doing what he’s been doing, he has an argument to be in the conversation. Rafa isn’t done yet. He could win more majors. He’s got a winning record against everyone that he has played in his generation. He’s won the Davis Cup (with Spain), he’s won the Olympics (singles).

Speaking further, Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slams, had said: “I just think that Roger was so consistent and so good for so long. But with Rafa, he’s sure to pass me on the list of most Grand Slam titles, and the question is whether he can take it further and go for that record.”

Agassi confirmed he would play in the Singapore leg of the inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) after the dates were rejigged to avoid Thanksgiving — as long as the event goes ahead.

“It seems like it’s all happening. I just can’t make any promises I can’t control. What I can’t control (is) if (the event) really exists or not,” he said.

“But if it’s happening, I’m absolutely going to be there and I will spend time leading up (to the event) playing.”

Agassi had initially balked at playing on Thanksgiving weekend, but Singapore is now due to host the IPTL from December 2-4, according to the report.

Despite a player draft in March, some details of the made-for-TV, four-stop competition remains murky.