Fedal Rivalry: Has Federer Beaten Nadal in the Long Run?

Lewis DaviesContributor IMay 16, 2012

INDIAN WELLS, CA - MARCH 17:  Rafael Nadal of Spain congratulates Roger Federer of Switzerland after their match during the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2012 in Indian Wells, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Fedal: a term spawned from the surnames of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the greatest players in tennis history, which refers to their intense and, some say, unparalleled rivalry during the early 21st century.

Expect that definition in a dictionary near you soon. In the meantime, while we continue to live the fairytale, let’s have a look at who will be considered the winner of the Fedal rivalry.

On head-to-head record, Nadal is well ahead and is so much so that even now he looks as if he’ll finish in that position when his old adversary puts down his racquet for good.

However, an 18-10 singles record is deceptive. Everyone knows Nadal is the undisputed King of Clay and half of these encounters have involved a tussle on the red dirt.

Federer is no mug on the clay, proven by his capture of the elusive Roland Garros crown in 2009 which separated him from names like Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors who failed to lift it. He had some luck along the way though, as Nadal suffered an injury during the tournament.

Had Federer not secured the career Grand Slam, he would have been extremely unlucky. Of the six French Opens that Nadal has won, five were achieved after beating his Swiss counterpart along the way.

That’s not the only surface he’s proved a thorn on either. While Federer has failed to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros, the Spaniard has been victorious over the grass court king at Wimbledon.

The 2008 final, considered one of the best matches ever played, may have been won by the Spaniard but that and the 12 months earlier could have paved the way for Federer to remain the number one player of all time.

Ties between the pair have produced some of the lengthiest matches ever and the contrast in styles will affect Nadal more. The athleticism, work ethic and mental endurance the Spaniard is renowned for contrasts the silky smooth, almost effortless, nature of his adversary.

It’s no coincidence Federer hardly ever gets injured. He was born to play tennis. Federer is 30 and still sits in the world’s top three while Nadal is 25 and his knees are already beginning to crumble, leading to breaks from the game.

You can argue that Nadal was the one man to stop Federer from reaching illustrious legendary status but the ultimate judgment of a player comes down to their Grand Slam record.

The recent emergence of Novak Djokovic as the dominant figure of men’s tennis has killed Nadal’s chances of reaching his rival’s record Grand Slam haul of 16. As he sits on 10, youngsters such as Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic are fast approaching major-winning levels, while Andy Murray will surely grab some big silverware eventually.

Having not won a major outside the French Open since 2010, Nadal’s chances of winning another seven are waning, while Djokovic has left it too late to mount a challenge.

It certainly seems as if the old saying is true, Federer did lose the battles but ultimately won the war.