Nadal's ascent could start Monday

Best player of all time? If Rafa completes career Grand Slam at 24, he has a case

Updated: September 12, 2010, 10:12 PM ET
By Johnette Howard | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- It sounds odd to say that all-time Grand Slam title leader Roger Federer needed to get to, and then win, the U.S. Open final against Rafael Nadal.

But if Federer wants to retain his unofficial title as the best player of all time, he arguably needed to beat Nadal again in a Grand Slam final, at the one major Nadal has never won but Federer has owned almost as much as Wimbledon -- if only for Federer to prove he still can.

Instead, Nadal -- who will play third-ranked ...

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