Nadal-Federer: different rivalry in world tennis

Por: Nelson de la Rosa


Sport is marked by rivalry. In the competition, they are all rivals in search of the most important prize, and both collectively and individually some duels become legendary, epic and seem to have no end.
Tennis is no exception, and the rivalry between Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Swiss Roger Federer touches the legend. They are the top two players in the world for at least fifteen years and are playing the top and major prizes long before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo became the most followed porf in world football.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played their first match in March 2004, in the third round of the Miami Masters. The Swiss, then at the age of twenty-two, premiered at number one in the world, after winning in two Grand Slam tournaments, while Nadal was just a 17-year-old youth and his name did not look at the first thousand in the Professional Tennis rankings.
However, that match lasted an hour and ten minutes and against all odds won the young Spaniard 2 sets by 0 and scores of 6-3 and 6-3. From then to date they have faced thirty-eight chances with twenty-three victories for Nadal and fifteen for Federer.
Before entering the elements that also make sui generis this rivalry, I want to give some statistics to illustrate how epic this porf has been.
Let’s start with the top-notch Grand Slam circuit that includes four tournaments: Melbourne (Australia), Wimbledon (England), Paris (France) and New York (USA). The first and last are disputed over the so-called hard surface, while the second is on grass and the third on clay or clay. This is important, because not all players maintain the same performance in all scenarios.
For this reason, success at least once in all four tournaments speaks clearly of the player’s quality. That’s the case with Federer and Nadal. The Swiss has won eight times at Wimbledon, six in Australia, five in New York and only once in Paris. That is, very good on grass and hard court but less on clay.
Nadal is the opposite. The Paris clay has seen him be Champion eleven times, while in New York he has won three times, two on the English turf and only one in Australia.
Taking the bills out, Federer has won twenty Grand Slam and Nadal seventeen tournaments, although it’s good to remember that his careers aren’t entirely parallel, as Roger got to the professional circuit earlier.
In these Grand Slams they have played between them twelve matches and the Rafa leads 9-3. Of those matches, nine have been in finals and the Spaniard has won six times in Paris, one in Australia and one at Wimbledon, while Federer’s successes are two in England and one in Australia. Capriciously, they have never discussed the final in the United States. The edition recently ended this year and the Swiss was eliminated in the quarter-finals, while Nadal had to leave due to injury in the semi-finals against Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro, in the after-final.
The second circuit in importance is the Master 1000, which includes the tournaments of Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati (United States), Monte Carlo and Paris (France), Shanghai (China), Madrid (Spain), Hamburg (Germany), Montreal (Canada) and Rome (Italy). The winners of each lid add a thousand units to their accumulated World Rankings, which is updated every week.
In these lides, which are also played on diverse surfaces, Rafael Nadal is clear dominator with thirty-two titles for twenty-seven Roger Federer.
The results show that Nadal is an “off-the-box” on clay. On that surface the Spaniard has a balance of eleven wins for two against Federer. However, it dominates on hard courts (11×9) and on grass (2×1).
So far what the numbers say. However, his influence on tennis goes far beyond the outcome of a match or the accumulation of prizes on any surface.
Specialists have rated them differently. Rafael Nadal has always been characterized by being a “fighter”, while Roger Federer possesses a natural talent.
In this regard, Rafa recently referred to his first weapons: “My spirit, my inner strength, my struggle and my surrender have always been greatly magnified. I think I’ve had them, obviously, there are a lot of people who have them, but you don’t earn what I’ve earned, if you’re not tenaciously gifted.”
For Nadal, talent is something people confuse: “It’s not playing nice or hitting the ball too hard.” In tennis, and throughout sport, the ultimate goal is to win. “The one who earns the most is the one with the most talent. He is the one who manages to do a certain activity better,” says the tennis player, who has always fled the great euphoria when he achieves a triumph, nor does he tend to drama when adversity looms over him.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer believes that his great relationship with Nadal is due to their tremendous respect for each other and recently in an interview he said: “I remember when Rafa arrived on the circuit he was very shy and respectful of the sport and those who were in the top, especially with me, who was number one. He agreed with what I was saying. He then developed his own personality, with his own opinions. That was very interesting to me, to see how Rafa was growing up and becoming the champion he is today.”
Their relationship is such that the Spanish authors Antonio Arenas and Rafael Plaza recently published the book Rafa & Roger in the Editorial Libros Cúpula.
Rafa and Roger have elevated tennis to a new dimension. Their duels arouse the attention of fans around the world and there are many children who come to this sport after watching them play.
They are players who inspire by their example. And beyond the tennis quality of duels, it is important to imitate them by the human values they embody off the track. Together they have lived moments that have united them forever, in such a way they have shared tears, laughed together with laughter, each other’s comforted each other and constantly congratulated thee on their successes.
They’re the ideal benchmark. Their actions show that to succeed you have to work and demand each day. And every press conference they give, either together or separately, includes a question about each other.
I remember last year in New York journalists insisted with Nadal after conquering at Grand Slam the number sixteen in his career and the Spaniard’s response went viral on social media: “I don’t want it to look like I’m her boyfriend, jjj but Roger has always been a great ambassador for tennis and for our sport , with good image, of course, and representing good values… someone capable of doing what he does while maintaining passion and love for sport.”
Precisely in 2017 they fulfilled an old dream: to play together. The event took place at the Lever Cup, an exhibition tournament in Prague. In the end old Federer told reporters: “We will be rivals again, thank God, or unfortunately, or as they prefer to see it. But this was very special. It was an absolute pleasure to share a court with Rafa, to be on the same side of the net. Seeing that you can trust big moments, see how you make decisions, how you think… They are memories for life.”
They both know what it’s like to have to leave the court, go back and become number one again. The Swiss, at the age of thirty-five, was out for six months for left knee surgery and back ailments, while the Mallorcan, at the age of thirty, had to leave the Paris Grand Slam himself for a serious wrist injury.
The specialists didn’t think they’d come back, let alone be the best in the world again. However, the mix of work and talent in both marked an unexpected turn and the two returned to the top of world tennis.
“Fedal” is the word that emerged in the tennis world to identify rivalry, one of the most momentous in all sports. Thirty-eight matches marked by different play styles and fight without giving room.
This is Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the protagonists of the biggest sporting rivalry in world tennis, far removed from the advertising morbidity surrounding footballers, basketball players and ballerers. Never among them has there been war, other than to win the point in a match, perhaps because respect and admiration for constant work prevail, they are the world benchmark of what I dare call the healthy and elegant sporting rivalry.
May his example motivate not only tennis players but athletes of all disciplines. Ω

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