Four times they met, three times in finals, and not just any finals: The first was the Australian Open, the two of the others determined the champion at the biggest Masters of the year, in Indian Wells and Miami.
What is more, from No9 and No17 respectively in Melbourne following long stretches of injury absence in 2016, they have entered the home straight for the World Tour Finals in London as world No1 and No2 and the only remaining contenders for the accolade of year-end No1.
Federer, who looks to close the points gap in Basel this week, has admitted that his chances of displacing Nadal at the top are slender—and will depend upon him going deep at the Paris Masters as well as London—but even if the Spaniard has sealed the end-of-year No1 by mid-November, these two giants of their sport could well set up one more big final this year.
Federer has made no secret of his ambition to add a seventh World Tour Finals trophy to his resume, but Nadal will be at least as eager to win his first. It could be as fitting a climax as that posted in 2016 by the absent Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
On the way, however, Federer and Nadal’s remarkable season has brought them into opposition for a clutch of ATP Player Awards, which will be presented during the London tournament.
Both are nominated for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, both for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, and both always figure highly in the Fans’ Favourite Award.
All that, and the Player of the Year Award—which is given to the year-end No1. And perhaps that is only right for the two 30-somethings who began their 38-match rivalry well over 13 years ago, and have bounced back this season to record the best match-records of 2017: Federer six titles and a 44-4 run; Nadal six titles and a 65-10 run.
However, if these two have no rivals this autumn for the Player of the Year Award, there is plenty of competition throughout the other categories.
ATP World Tour Player of Year: Player who ends year as No1
ATP World Tour Doubles Team of Year: Team that ends year as No1
ATP Star of Tomorrow: Youngest player in top 100 as of 6 November 2017
NB Denis Shapovalov is the only 18-year-old in top 100, and cannot now be usurped by another player
Voted by Players [NB players shortlisted in voting by international tennis writers]
Comeback Player of the Year: Player who has overcome serious injury in re-establishing himself as one of the top players on the ATP World Tour.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Player who reached significantly higher ranking by year’s end and demonstrated increasingly improved level of performance through year.
Pablo Carreno Busta
Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award: Player who, throughout year, conducted himself at highest level of professionalism and integrity, competed with fellow players with utmost spirit of fairness, and promoted game through off-court activities.
Juan Martin del Potro
Tournaments of the Year: Tournament in its category that operated at highest level of professionalism and integrity and provided best conditions and atmosphere for players.
ATP World Tour Masters 1000
ATP World Tour 500
ATP World Tour 250
ATP Coach of the Year: ATP coach who helped guide players to higher level of performance during the year. Nominees to be announced on 30 October.
Voted by Fans online: closing date 6 November
ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Favourite
Singles: any player in top 25 Race to London as at 15 September
Doubles: any team in top 15 Race to London as at 15 September
Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award: Person who has made outstanding humanitarian contributions.
Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award: Journalist who has made significant contributions to the game of tennis.
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BIOGRAPHY: Mohamed Salah