No tennis (and perhaps sports) rivalry pair is more famous or spectacular than the Federer - Nadal. This is not only due to their incredibly dramatic completely contrasting styles of play, but also the fact that they are two best tennis players ever in the history of the sport, sharing 36 grand slam singles' titles between them! It goes to say that the matches of a rivalry deemed unparallelled epic would also attain the status of epic. Here are our own pick of the top 4, for various reasons!
4 - 2009 Australian Open Final
This was always the second most epic grand slam match between the two for me, before 2017 came. The game was spectacular from both spectating and analytical standpoints. As a spectator watching the match for no other purpose but to enjoy it, I was paralyzed (in a good way) throughout the match by the beautifully (yet not too deliberately) constructed rallies made all the more pronounced and artful by the slow Plexicushion court material of Rod Laver Arena. As a tennis analysis, it was interesting to see who would edge over the other on this court surface which preempts them from utilizing their primary strengths - the slowness of the surface being disadvantageous to Federer, and the low bounces of the balls being disadvantageous to Nadal. What's more, the drama a five-setter naturally has would make this a thrilling treat!
3 - 2006 Rome Masters Final
This was an exceptional match from any way of looking at it. The slowness of the clay court means that the rallies are elongated, and it would be a massive pleasure to see the two best players exchanging substantially and stylistically impeccable shotmaking for much longer during each point! The match however, attained its 'epic' status by how close Nadal came to being defeated. Federer was 6-5 (40-15) up in the deciding 5th set, when he let Nadal go with two uncharacteristically wide-margined forehand errors which no doubt was the biggest pair of chokes committed by Federer in his career! It deserves its place on this list by dint of that - the drama.
2 - 2017 Australian Open Final
The match losing the race to the spot of first place only because we placed a greater importance on drama as opposed to historical importance, when it comes to the deciding factor to a very impossible decision. Having mentioned the phrase 'historical significance', this match is in our opinion the most historically significant match in tennis history. It was the match that consolidated Federer's claim to be the greatest tennis player to have ever walked the grand slam courts. Think about it, should Federer have lost the match, he would be 19 - 17 in favour against Nadal, in terms of grand slams won. A huge difference of 2 grand slams would not be too significant a gap, given the huge age gap between the two (Nadal could take at least 3 after this, whereas the same could not be said for Federer.) Apart from that, the match being stretched out to 5 and Federer's come-back from a break down in the fifth gave it incredible drama!
1 - 2008 Wimbledon Final
If there was a peak of a tennis match to which all other tennis matches cannot rise up to, it would be this one. Breathtakingly intense in its gameplay between Federer at his prime and Nadal at the best he has and will ever be on the grass surface, the match is a massive treat even the uninitiated. A friend of mine, who has only enjoyed golf matches until a day in July 2008, actually said this was the only non-golf sporting spectacle he genuinely enjoyed. However, the drama that makes this match the number one of the list is not the drama produced by the gameplay (as much as it feels like it) but the incredible storyline of the match - a hard-fought victory fashioned in the style of a come-back from a come-back! More incredible than Federer's comeback from two sets and match points down, was Nadal's ability to pull together the will and wits to overcome two tremendous forces - Federer's momentum (yes, momentum is a very real thing in competitive tennis) and the natural shake in confidence within Nadal that such an incredible comeback from Federer must have induced.
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