It’s been a decade and a half since the greatest rivalry in the history of tennis – Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal– unfurled, something which is still going strong. Without a doubt, the rivalry between the two stalwarts is one of the most enthralling aspects of the sport. The rivalry has its own legacy, different from the player’s individual legacies, but equally appealing.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have played each other 40 times in their career so far. The Spaniard leads the head to head 24–16. Their most recent encounter was in the semifinal of the Wimbledon Championships 2019, where Federer defeated Nadal in a thrilling four setter.
The pair met each other for the first time at the Miami Open 2004 when Nadal was just 17-years-old. Despite his tender age, he managed to stun the then World No.1 Federer, and the world knew that someone great had come. Thus began one of the greatest rivalries in the history of tennis.
In the 40 matches that the pair played, 20 were on hard court, 14 of them on outdoor hard court, 6 on an indoor hard court, 16 have been on the clay, and 4 have been on grass. While Roger Federer leads on indoor hard court 5-1, grass court 3–1, Rafael Nadal leads on clay court 14–2 and outdoor hard court 8–6. The Mallorcan also has a superior head-to-head record of 14–10 in finals.
In the 14 Grand Slam matches between them, Nadal leads 10–4. The 33-year-old has dominated the Swiss ace 6–0 at the French Open and 3–1 at the Australian Open, while Federer leads 3–1 at the Wimbledon Championships. The two rivals are yet to meet at the US Open.
Such was the dominance of Federer and Nadal, that from 2006 to 2008, they played in every French Open and Wimbledon final. Their 2008 Wimbledon Championships final is lauded as the greatest match ever, which ended after 4 hours and 48 minutes of tiring tennis.
The match became the longest finals in the history of the Championships. Nadal won the title, winning the final set in near darkness.
The Federer-Nadal rivalry renewed at the Australian Open 2017 final – their first meeting in a Slam final since 2011. The quality of the match lived up to everyone’s expectations.
Federer prevailed in a thrilling 5-setter; he came back from a break down in the final set to take the match. This made him the first man in history to win 18 Grand Slam singles titles.
Since the Australian Open 2017, their rivalry took a turnaround as Federer triumphed in 4 matches, while Nadal defeated the Basel native only once at the French Open 2019, for the first time since 2014 Australian Open.
Here are some other notable Federer vs Nadal matches:
Each of these matches stretched to five sets.
The two players look for the tiniest of cracks in each other’s games. It makes for a thoroughly thrilling and fully fascinating match-ups. Both Federer and Nadal are at the culmination of their career. The world would long to watch them play against each other one last time before they finally hang their racquets.