On March 28 2004, a young Spaniard shocked the tennis world by defeating the World #1 at the NASDAQ-100 Open (now Sony Open) in Miami. That was Rafael Nadal’s first victory over Roger Federer. Little did we know that they would go on to have one of the greatest rivalries tennis has ever seen.
Federer and Nadal (or ‘Fedal’ as fans have christened them) have played 33 times, most recently at this year’s Australian Open, with Nadal leading the head-to-head 23-10. (As a Federer fan, I gotta say that 13 of Nadal’s victories have come on clay, which is Roger’s weaker surface. So there!). They’ve contested 8 Grand Slam finals and remain the only 2 players to do so.
It’s so interesting to watch them play each other as they couldn’t be more different.
Roger has a well rounded game, known for his speed, fluidity, and exceptional style of play. Many critics say he has one of the best forehands in the game. On the other hand, Rafa is very aggressive and athletic, with heavy topspin groundstrokes. He pounds the ball like no one else. Even the way they move is different. Federer glides around the court, whereas Nadal storms around, like a bull.
Rafa’s game is well-suit to the clay court, which is why he’s been so dominant on that surface and of Federer. On clay the ball travels slow and, because he’s so quick, Nadal can run down everything thrown at him. His 8 French Open titles testify to this.
When they play indoors, many pundits favour the Swiss. Why? Because of the flatness of his shots. The flatter the shot, the quicker the ball runs through the court. The ball also bounces lower, which suits Federer as he likes getting low, but not Nadal as he prefers to hit at shoulder height.
From 2005 to 2013, both players won 26 Grand Slam titles out of a possible 36. An amazing stat that will never be replicated. The two combined have won 140 titles & earned $146 million dollars.
Both men have prevented the other from completing historic feats.
From 2005-08, Nadal beat Federer at the French Open, denying him a Career Grand Slam in 2005 & 2 Calendar Year Grand Slams in 2006 & 2007. Meanwhile, Federer twice denied Nadal from becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the “Channel Slam” (winning French Open & Wimbledon in the same year) by defeating him in 2 finals. Federer has also prevented his rival from winning the World Tour Final – three times.
Off-court, they maintain a friendly relationship. Although highly competitive, they maintain a respect for each other and have had virtual no issues. Naturally, they’ve criticised each other but nothing serious.
They both bring out the best in each other. Fans and analysts are on the edge of their seats when they play. Funnily enough, they have never played at the U.S. Open. The American fans are missing out!
With both players coming near the end of their amazing careers, the rivalry is almost done. The when and where are unclear. But what is clear is that tennis will miss these 2 behemoths, battling it out on the court.
Enjoy it while it lasts.
Side note: You should definitely check out @PseudoFed, a Federer parody account on Twitter. So funny!