ESPN asked their readers to vote about the player who ‘at-their-very-best’ dominated the sports field like no other in the 21st Century. The ESPN committee nominated a list of 16 contenders for the fans to vote.
This list is about the most dominant sporting displays. The conditions for it was that the sporting accomplishment must have occurred within last 20 years, and the team or individual must have dominated this ‘said field’ for a period of time – more than a single season or calendar year or Olympics – as the ‘Undisputed Best.’
These 16 names were taken for a knockout-style voting tournament, based on several factors like the strength of the field, the length of their domination, and of course, pure numbers.
The nominees were as follows:
Rafael Nadal at the French Open from 2005 till now, winning the Grand Slam 12 out of the 15 times he’s played in. In the process he racked up a ridiculous 93-2 win-loss record which speaks volumes about the dominance.
Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, a record he has held for 13 years now — is the most dominant sprinter of all time.
Michael Schumacher between 2000 and 2004, he won 48 out of 85 races and went about setting records that stand to this day. In 2002, he became the only driver in F1 history to finish in the top three in every race of the season. In 2004, he went on a quite ridiculous run, winning 12 of the first 13 races.
Tiger Woods, during his exceptional run in 2000-01, became the only player to win four consecutive golf majors in the modern era.
Roger Federer on grass between 2003 and 2007 showed his invincibility on grass that stood out, as he won a staggering 65 straight matches on the surface. He went on to win every edition of Wimbledon from 2003 to 2007.
Simone Biles‘ 25 World medals and four Olympic golds, also showed her dominance on the World Championships stage which has already firmly placed her among the all-time great gymnasts.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona turned the game’s most primary skill into an art form with his eye catching “Tiki-Taka” revolution, stocked up a staggering 14 trophies in four seasons, including two Champions League triumphs and three back-to-back La Liga titles.
Floyd Mayweather Jr with his record of fifty bouts, fifty wins including twenty-seven knockouts.
The Australian Women’s Cricket Team and their dominance in the shortest form of the game, winning five of the last six T20 World Cups. Australia have won in 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020.
Michael Phelps, for 12 years, dominated the swimming pool with all-time records to his name: most Olympic medals; most Olympic gold medals; most gold medals at a single Games; most swimming world records.
Serena Williams, between February 2013 and September 2016, spent 186 consecutive weeks as the world’s top-ranked singles player. She won nine of the 19 majors she took part in during the above mentioned period, besides two runner-up finishes and two semifinal appearances. Her win-loss record in majors held during that period stands at an imposing 98-10, for a win percentage of 90.74.
Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo breaking records, the ever solid Sergio Ramos and magical moments from Gareth Bale during their three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles between 2016-2018.
The Australian Men’s Cricket Team captained by Ricky Ponting and their streak at the ICC Cricket World Cups. They won 11 matches apiece in both 2003 and 2007, and then extended the Australian unbeaten streak at World Cups to 32. They won two consecutive World Cups and went unbeaten for 142 weeks at World Cup competitions.
Virat Kohli captained India to 20 wins in 26 test matches played on their home turf.
The New Zealand All Blacks, between September 2011 to November 2015, they won 56 of their 61 matches, losing only three and drawing two, their streak including back-to-back Rugby World Cup triumphs.
The Los Angeles Lakers managed by Phil Jackson with the Shaqille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant dream team won the NBA Championship in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
The final result:
Rafael Nadal with his record breaking 12 titles at Roland Garros came out on top ahead of Usain Bolt’s extraordinary performances at the Olympics.
Nadal overcame Usain Bolt receiving an astonishing 73% of the 3,008 total votes.
It’s safe to say that Rafael Nadal is the most dominant athlete of the 21st century, at least according to the readers of ESPN.