In sport your biggest enemy can also be a blessing. They push you to your limits and beyond what you thought was possible, they make life more exciting and challenging at the same time. Rivalries bring the sport to the whole new level, not only for the athletes but also for the spectators.
When Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer faced each other for the first time on 26th March 2004 I was 12 and already a huge tennis fan. They didn’t get me hooked. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras did . It was their rivalry which had a seven-year-old girl up all night. When they retired it was the end of an era. Luckily, Federer and Nadal started a new one that kept me along.
Today marks day one of a new decade for the two most successful players of recent years. Let’s have a look at their record so far.
When they first crossed paths in 2004 at Miami NASDAQ-100 Open, Federer was already the world no 1. and Nadal, an ambitious 17-year-old Spaniard. What was meant to be an easy third-round victory for the Swiss turned out to be the biggest shock of the tournament and the first page of their compelling story.
Ten years on and Nadal leads 23-10 in their head to head clashes, however, their rivalry has been far from one-sided. Eight of their matches were decided in the fifth set and an incredible 21 sets settled in a tiebreak. The two have split winner’s and runner’s-up trophies a remarkable 20 times between themselves. Nevertheless, Federer remains the more crowned one with 17 grand slam titles, compared to Nadal’s 13.
If they were to never face each other in any final again, Wimbledon 2008 where Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7 would be my greatest memory of them. Despite Federer’s exit from Miami this year, I am one who strongly believes that their rivalry is not quite over yet. Just wait for the grass to grow.
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