Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have an unforgettable collection of field competitions – including nine Grand Slam finals – and a healthy reserve of mutual respect out of court.
“I saw him grow up right in front of my eyes,” said Federer in an interview with The Associated Press last year. “I always feel like he’s one of the tennis guys – players – I could call and if I told him something it would be a secret between the two of us. And I appreciate that we were able to build a relationship like this. “
Each has played more games against Novak Djokovic, who leads his series face to face against the other members of the Big Three.
However, it is Roger against Rafa who seems to be the rivalry that dominates the others. Perhaps because they are currently # 1-2 for most men’s Grand Slam titles. Or perhaps because of their epic final of 2008 at Wimbledon, the tournament had to be held now but canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The dynamic between Federer, 38, and Nadal, 34, has changed.
“We have entered a bit of a phase. At first he was extremely shy and he was – how do you say? – like, looking up at me, he just said: “Whatever you say, Roger, I agree with you.” Because you are so important to the game. And I know you want the right thing, ” Federer told the AP. “And over time, he became himself, the dominant player he became, and he started to build his own strong character. … And then, of course, the rivalry started to build. “
Some great male tennis rivalries in the open age, which began in 1968:
RAFAEL NADAL VS. ROGER FEDERER
Meetings: 40 (Nadal, 24-16); Grand Slam Finals: 9 (Nadal, 6-3)
Highlights: Federer has won three of four Wimbledon games, but their most famous match is Nadal’s 9-7 victory in the fifth in the 2008 final; Nadal’s 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 victory in this year’s French Open final, the most unbalanced Grand Slam loss in Federer’s career; Federer’s 3-1 return to fifth place at the 2017 Australian Open, their final Slam final.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC VS. RAFAEL NADAL
Meetings: 55 (Djokovic, 29-26); Grand Slam Finals: 8 (tie)
Highlights: Exhausted, they rested on chairs during the trophy ceremony after Djokovic 5 hour and 53 minute victory at the 2012 Australian Open final; Nadal’s 9-7 victory in the fifth set in the semifinals of the French Open 2013 was a beautiful thing.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC VS. ROGER FEDERER
Meetings: 50 (Djokovic, 27-23); Grand Slam Finals: 5 (Djokovic, 4-1)
Strong points: Last year’s unprecedented fifth tiebreaker at Wimbledon, with Djokovic winning after saving two championship points; Djokovic’s victories with two match points saved in the semi-finals of the US Open 2010 and 2011; Federer’s victory in two ties, in four sets on a dark and damp day in the semi-finals of the 2011 French Open, to break Djokovic’s winning streak in 43 games.
JOHN MCENROE VS. JIMMY CONNORS VS. BJORN BORG
McEnroe-Connors: meetings: 34 (McEnroe 20-14); Grand Slam Finals: 2 (tied)
McEnroe-Borg: meetings, 14 (tied); Grand Slam Finals: 4 (McEnroe, 3-1)
Borg-Connors: meetings, 23 (Borg, 15-8); Grand Slam Finals: 4 (tie)
Highlights: Borg’s 8-6 fifth-set victory over McEnroe after drop a tiebreaker 18-16 in the Wimbledon final in 1980; Connors’ five-set victory over McEnroe at the All England Club two years later; Borg takes over Connors in two Wimbledon finals, Connors winning his two US Open finals.
STEFAN EDBERG VS. BORIS BECKER
Meetings: 35 (Becker, 25-10); Grand Slam Finals: 3 (Edberg, 2-1)
Highlights: The only men to compete three consecutive title matches at the All England Club, with Edberg winning in 1988 and 1990, Becker in 1989.
PETE SAMPRAS VS. ANDRE AGASSI
Meetings: 34 (Sampras, 20-14); Grand Slam Finals: 5 (Sampras 4-1)
Highlights: Sampras won his only Wimbledon final in 1999 and the last game he ever played in the 2002 US Open final; tie in the quarterfinals of the US Open 2001 was fascinating.
ANDY MURRAY VS. NOVAK DJOKOVIC
Meetings: 36 (Djokovic 25-11); Grand Slam Finals: 7 (Djokovic, 5-2)
Highlights: Nothing means more to recent British tennis fans than Murray’s victory over Djokovic in the 2013 final to give the host country its first male champion at Wimbledon in 77 years.
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Source: AP News