As far as sporting rivalries go, Federer / Nadal will surely go down as one of the greatest in history. Not because of on-court aggression or bitterness. Not because of flaring tempers or disagreements. But simply for the immeasurable quality that every single encounter between the pair produces.
This is not an egotistical rivalry between two big-headed opponents. This rivalry is on the court – it’s a rivalry of raw sporting competitiveness.
Sunday’s Australian Open final was again a perfect example of the two best tennis players in the world living up to expectations and together producing some of the best tennis the world has ever seen.
Just like at SW19 in London six months ago, the match went to five sets with the Spaniard coming out on top (7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2).
Make no mistake, these contests will be remembered forever. It’s the kind of matches that these two men produce that makes them special. We are hugely lucky to be able to witness such quality time and again.
Federer found it hard to contain his emotions after the match. When he struggled with the on-court interview, everybody in the arena – Nadal included – broke into applause for the world number two. He managed to say, “God, it’s killing me!” before emotions engulfed him and he had to step away from the microphone.
They are probably not best friends off the court, but both men possess true sportsmanship, true respect for one another. Both will always acknowledge each others’ efforts with genuine sincerity.
These may be tough times for Roger Federer, but one day – maybe not for a few years – he will sit down and re-watch these battles, and he will appreciate what exceptional sporting moments he was a part of.
When a defiant Federer took to the microphone for a second time he said: “I’ll try again! I don’t want to have the last word, this guy deserves it,” he said turning to Nadal, “Rafa, congrats. You played incredible. You deserve it man, another incredible final.” Cue more applause.
Nadal replied: “I know how you feel right now is really tough, but just remember you’re a great champion and you’re one of the best in history and for sure you’re going to match Sampras.”
Two outstanding players. Two fantastic examples of sportsmanship. Two phenomenal finals. And one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. Bring on Roland Garros.
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