A pair which has 31 Grand Slams between them in the open era.
A pair which has finished six consecutive calendar years as the top two ranked players on the ATP Tour, which itself is a record.
A pair whose 20 of the 33 clashes have been in tournament finals.
A pair whose storied rivalry is considered to be the greatest in tennis’ history.
One is the master of clay. The other is the master of grass.
One known for his calm demeanor. The other known for his aggression.
A Mallorcan Matador. A Swiss Maestro. A Rafael Nadal. A Roger Federer.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have provided the most intense, entertaining and closely chronicled feuds in the modern tennis in the past decade. Their 2008 Wimbledon final was lauded as the greatest match ever by many analysts, which Nadal won by 6–4, 6–4, 6–7(5–7), 6–7(8–10), 9–7 in 4 hours and 48 minutes.
But like every book has an end to it, this story of the two legends also seems to be in its final pages.
Federer was defeated by Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-4 7-6 (5) 4-6 7-6 (5) in the third round of this ongoing Australian Open whereas Nadal was knocked out of the tournament by Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals in a 6-2, 6-0, 7-6(5) fashion.
And as we move into the final of this year’s Australian Open between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, yet another final which does not feature any of the two, we ask this uncomforting question to ourselves- Is this the end of the golden era?
Roger Federer is 33 now, an age considered to be old for this game as the game demands a lot from your body. He is still quick and possesses the elegance he is blessed with, but at this age the weaknesses which were minor in his younger days seems to magnify. Federer’s single handed backhand which never had the same impact as his forehand and which Nadal usually used to exploit with his heavy top spins on the dusty clay courts is haunting him now. He has lost the swiftness which many experts refer to as “the baby speed” that can make a difference between a point lost or won. His serve is still strong but lacks that extra bit of sting. All these little problems have prevented him to go that extra mile for winning a grand slam since the Wimbledon in 2012.
Rafael Nadal’s fight is more within, than on the court. His biggest concern is the string of injuries that has kept him out of the game in recent years. While injuries are a part and parcel of the game, it greatly affects Nadal as his game is more of grind-it-out style which demands a lot from his knees. The “king of clay” has still managed to win a Grand slam every year for a decade now, but the going seems to get tough with every outing. It can be seen how he surrendered against Berdych in his quarterfinal clash, also losing a set 6-0 for only the third time in his career.
The Men’s field in tennis is also getting richer and stronger each slam with new faces cropping up in every event. Last year saw two new champions in Stansilas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic. This also makes it tough for Federer and Nadal, as the early stages of the tournament are no longer a cakewalk and they have to dig deep for each victory.
Watching them play was the biggest inspiration for a 90’s kid who would continue to support them whenever they step on the court with an undying hope to see them on the podium for one more time.
The era which once had the serve and volley play of Federer and machine like stamina of Nadal is surely over, but it remains to be seen if the 2 maestros will come out triumphant even now when there’s so much competition.
The 90’s tennis kid whose walls adore the posters of these two, would certainly want that.
Edited by Shivang Aggarwal