Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal: Rivalry of the Century

Sport has given us some of the greatest rivalries of all-time.  One need only think of Muhammad Ali against Joe Frazier, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer or Steffi Graf versus Monica Seles.
With the benefit of hindsight, there’s no rivalry that’s more enthralling than the battle for supremacy between two of the greatest tennis players of all time - Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Identical in Physique, Disparate in Playing Style

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
What’s even more extraordinary is the two men are almost identical in physique.  Both weigh 85 kg and are 1,85 metres tall… but that’s where the similarities end.
Where Federer is graceful and effortless on court, Nadal is aggressive, pugnacious and almost brutal in his style of play.  The Swiss Maestro is a right hander who thrives when playing on grass and hard courts indoors. The left-handed Spaniard is a clay court specialist with a penchant for winning on hard outdoor surfaces.

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Federer appears cool, calm and super human in the heat of battle, barely breaking into a sweat.  On the other side of net Nadal is a heavily perspiring ball of tension who likes to walk the lines, place his water bottles with absolute precision and rely on a volley of tuck-and-touch trigger movements to get his serves in.
This is a rivalry that has spanned more than 10 years.  It’s one that has captivated tennis fans across the world.  Ask any aspirant tennis star in Kenya, Canada, Ecuador or the United Arab Emirates who they would like to emulate - on and off the court - and you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be either Federer or Nadal.

How the Greatest Rivalry in Men’s Tennis Began

How the Greatest Rivalry in Men’s Tennis Began
The first time the two met was at the Miami Masters way back in 2004.  At the time Federer was the incumbent number one in the world while Rafael Nadal was newcomer to the pro circuit ranked 34th on the ATP rankings.
Expectations were that Federer would easily swat away the attentions of the 17-year-old but to everyone’s surprise it was Nadal who won without dropping a set… and that’s how the greatest tennis rivalry in history began.

Nadal versus Federer: Head-to-Head

Nadal versus Federer: Head-to-Head
Now 15 years on, the two have met 38 times.  In keeping with that very first showdown it’s Raffa who’s clinched 61 percent of the wins.  He’s claimed 23 matches over Federer’s 15.  As far as finals go, Nadal is ahead 14 - 10 and in the 12 Grand Slam matches they’ve contested, the Majorcan is 9 - 3 up.
In a turn up for the books, Federer has won the last five matches.  During his most recent purple patch he beat Nadal at the Australian Open and Shanghai Masters to claim the crown. 
It’s not the statistics that tell the full story of the Nadal vs Federer rivalry.  It’s the awesome spectacle they’ve created on courts around the world.  Since they first went toe-to-toe, the two aging stars have appeared in five epics that are widely regarded as the greatest tennis matches of all-time.

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The 2008 Wimbledon final was a four hour and 48 minute five-set marathon that’ll go down in history as one of the most fiercely contested sporting events ever, a contest Nadal won on a rapidly darkening court.
Now with the 2019 French Open weeks away, the rivalry is set to be rebooted on Court Philippe Chatrier.  Will it be the King of Clay who adds to his 5-0 supremacy on his preferred surface or can the Swiss capitalise on a super star in decline?

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Published: 05/10/2019