Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: The greatest rivalry of all time

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been involved in some titanic tussles and it is their rivalry that has enhanced the viewing experience of tennis among millions.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal file photo, Image credit: Twitter

When one looks at the list of greatest sporting rivalries in history, there is Joe Frazier vs Muhammad Ali in Boxing, Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova in Tennis, Arnold Palmer vs Jack Nicklaus in Golf, Tyson Gay vs Usain Bolt in Athletics while in Men’s Tennis there was John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg. However, if one has to add to the list of greatest individual rivalries in any sport, then perhaps the clash between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer should be highlighted as one of the greatest in the history of not just Tennis but individual sport.

Consider the sheer magnitude of the Federer vs Nadal rivalry in Tennis. It has created a fan base and division unlike any other previous era. The numbers and the competitive nature of both Federer and Nadal are simply mind-boggling. Federer and Nadal are the only players in history to have finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the ATP rankings for six consecutive years. When Federer was at his peak and making every other Tennis player look foolish, it was Nadal who stepped up and ended the juggernaut of Federer that had begun from 2003 till 2007. 

Nadal changed the entire complexion of the game when he took on Federer and turned the tables totally. In head-to-head encounters, Nadal holds a 24-16 edge over Federer. Nadal has won 13 of their 15 matches on clay, eight of 14 matches on hard court, while Federer has won 2 of their 3 matches on grass. In fact, Nadal’s greatest wins have come against Federer on all three surfaces, Grass, Clay and Hard Court.

It was Nadal who chipped away at Federer’s aim to win the Grand Slam when he regularly defeated him in the French Open. The margin of victory was comprehensive on clay. In 2008, both Nadal and Federer played one of the most epic finals in Wimbledon. In pitch darkness, after four hours and 48 minutes, Nadal won Wimbledon for the first time when he beat Federer 6-4,6-4,6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.

Nadal not only ended Federer’s dominance in Wimbledon and in 2009 when he defeated Federer in the Australian Open final. In fact, Nadal’s slow demolition of Federer is the trademark of his rivalry when it all began in 2004.

Nadal holds the edge

When the rivalry first came to head in 2004, it was Nadal who struck the first blow when he defeated Federer, at the peak of his powers at that time. That win in the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Miami is considered the breakthrough for Nadal. Although he lost in 2005 in the same tournament to Federer, Nadal went on to win five consecutive games against Federer. In fact, from 2008 to 2009, Nadal extended his advantage over Federer by winning five more games which included wins in the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open. From 2013 to 2014, there was one more five-game winning streak over Federer and it was in this period where Nadal improved his Hard-Court record against the Swiss Maestro.

Federer bridges the gap

In the last couple of years, Federer has managed to close the gap slightly by winning seven out of the last eight encounters against Nadal. This included a record 20th title when Federer beat Nadal in five titanic sets to win the Australian Open. Federer was one step closer to reaching the French Open final in 2019 but he was hammered in straight sets by Nadal but in 2019, he defeated the Spaniard in the Wimbledon semi-final in four sets. 

The Nadal vs Federer rivalry is beyond numbers. The exhibition and the ability to not yield an inch in any battle and on surface is what makes this tussle gladiatorial to say the least. Thank goodness for the Nadal vs Federer rivalry and thank goodness for the duo to make the sport of Tennis one of the best spectacles in the modern era.

Sportslumo Desk

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