The ATP has gone all out to underscore Rafael Nadal's ascension to the top spot by showcasing the remarks of a few former No. 1's including a few of the sports greatest champions:
ROGER FEDERER: "Rafa played great to get it. That's what I expected and hoped for, many years ago when I got to No. 1, that if ever somebody were to take it away for me, he would have to play an incredible tennis schedule, win the biggest tournaments, dominate the game basically, and then like this he can take No. 1. So I think Rafa totally deserves it."
STEFAN EDBERG: "Nadal is a great player with incredible charisma and fighting spirit, who deserves the No. 1 ranking. Especially after winning one of the greatest Wimbledon final ever following the French Open win. Federer is one of the best players ever to play the game and his record of 237 weeks at No. 1 is incredible. A tribute to his sportsmanship as well!"
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: "I believe becoming No. 1 in the world is the biggest glory of an athlete. Nadal deserved to be in the No. 1 position since a few years. Federer definitely helped him to become a better player. Nadal's achievement is well deserved and I believe he has the capability to hold the No. 1 position for a long period, a feat that I'm sure he is very determined to accomplish."
ROD LAVER: "Nadal's had a terrific Wimbledon, winning a tough five setter against Roger. He is a worthy new No. 1. Federer’s consistency for three years dominating all opponents is one of the great efforts in open tennis. Hopefully Nadal can continue his winning ways through 2008. The US Open will be a huge test for both of them."
JOHN McENROE: "It makes you realize that Federer is a human being, after compiling four of the greatest years in the history of Open tennis. Nadal’s made some great improvement in the last year or so and he’s followed it up with some wins at other events [beyond clay]. He deserves it."
CARLOS MOYA: "When Rafa becomes No. 1 he will totally deserve it. He's been close for three years. But until now, Federer has been playing out of this world. He's more human now, and Rafa has improved a lot. I can't say that I really helped Rafa so much - maybe a bit when I was 24 and practising with him. That motivated me; you don't want to lose to a kid. He's helped me to be a better player by his intensity in training and his desire. He knew he could ask me questions and I could answer him. I don't know what it means, but of the three guys who have been No. 1 from Spain, two are from Mallorca."
PETE SAMPRAS: "He's a great fighter and I'm impressed with him. He's had the best year and he's clearly number one. He's 22 and think about that. It's incredible what Nadal's been able to do and I think he's going to get better and better if he can."
These remarks are including in the overall tribute that includes this great video.
At the end of it all, there's this:
COUNTRIES AT NO. 1
Nadal is the 24th player to hold No. 1 in the history of the ATP Rankings (since 1973) and he is the third male player from Spain to hold the top position. Here is a breakdown of the 12 countries at No. 1:
United States 6 (Connors, McEnroe, Courier, Sampras, Agassi, Roddick)
Australia 3 (Newcombe, Rafter, Hewitt)
Spain 3 (Moya, Ferrero, Nadal)
Sweden 3 (Borg, Wilander, Edberg)
Russia 2 (Kafelnikov, Safin)
Austria 1 (Muster)
Brazil 1 (Kuerten)
Chile 1 (Rios)
Czech Republic 1 (Lendl)
Germany 1 (Becker)
Romania 1 (Nastase)
Switzerland 1 (Federer)
I guess it's no surprise that the United States is atop the list, though I never gave it much thought. But I must say: to see Roddick's name alongside the others warmed my heart just a bit, especially given the tailspin he's in right now. I know this is all about Rafa, but I just had to say this. As Guga said, becoming No. 1 is arguably the most coveted accomplishment of an athlete.
Again, congratulations to Rafa and his legions of fans, one of whom we know very well.