Ali-Frazier, Kasparov-Karpov, Prost-Senna, Bartali-Coppi, Evert-Navratilova, Borg-McEnroe, Nicklaus-Palmer… The history of sport with capital letters is written from the opposition of great talents. And one of the duels that is among the most exciting is Federer-Nadal. The virtuoso violinist in front of the drummer who has refined his style until he has become another player, a multi-instrumentalist. Ice against fire. The seeming ease against continual overcoming. Forty games, with a balance of 16-24 for the Spanish. A rivalry that began in Miami 2004, with the victory of an indomitable long-haired 17-year-old who knocked down (already hammering the Swiss’s one-handed backhand) the one who was then number one at the age of 22.
Since then, both wrote prodigious stories. The most beautiful, on the Wimbledon grass, in the 2008 final, “Is the best ever” for Sports Illustrated. A 4h:48 battle in which all their rivalry was condensed. The year before, Nadal had lost it and was “half an hour crying alone” in the dressing room. Between 2005 and 2010, before the emergence of Novak Djokovic, the two dominated tennis. Head to head in 16 major tournament finals, including the 2010 ATP Finals. Nadal has been Federer’s nightmare (“This is killing me,” he sobbed after being beaten in the 2017 Australia final), but also the rival that forced him to overcome himself. Perhaps, the genius from Basel would not have reached 20 Grand Slams without a beast in front of him that already has 22. The two respect each other. They admire. They know that in their glory is that of the other.