Novak Djokovic was no match for Rafael Nadal in their Italian Open final match today, as the Serbian fell 7-5, 6-3 to Rafa in a rain-delayed match in Rome that saw Nadal regain the No. 2 ranking from Roger Federer.
Aside from establishing Nadal as the No. 2 player in the world, this match proved that the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry is no match for the Nadal-Federer rivalry. Nadal has a better record in both rivalries than his opponent, but when he plays Federer, there's a distinctive aura that accompanies the match.
Nadal has now won two straight finals against Djokovic, but prior to the back-to-back victories, Djokovic had won his last seven matches against the Spaniard. Nadal has never won more than five straight against Federer.
The thing that makes a rivalry interesting is the parity between the two sides. The Nadal-Djokovic series has lacked that competition, with the two seldom trading victories. The last time either Nadal or Djokovic alternated victories over the course of three matches was back in 2008.
Now if you look at the Federer-Nadal series, you can see that the last three matches the two played against each other have seen alternating winners each time. The best part about the Federer-Nadal matchup is that you never know what you are going to get from match to match.
When Djokovic and Nadal play, it seems as though one of them gets on a run. Since 2006, Nadal has had winning streaks of three, three and five. Djokovic has countered that with streaks of three and seven.
Not to mention the fact that Djokovic rolled over today in the two-set tilt final. You seldom see Federer go down in two sets without a fight, as he's only lost two straight sets to Nadal without winning at least four games in each two times since the two first met in 2004. That fate has befallen Djokovic the last two times he has played Nadal.
The dominance of Federer and Nadal and the allure that the two bring to the world of tennis cannot be matched by the pairing of Nadal and Djokovic. From 2003 to 2011, Rafa and Roger combined to win 26 out of 32 Grand Slam titles, leaving no room for anyone else to grab the glory.
The consistently tough competition and trading of wins and losses that comes with the Nadal-Federer rivalry is much more exciting than the streaks that we have seen in the Djokovic-Nadal tilt. Now all we need is to see Federer and Djokovic go at it for the next few years.