Wimbledon 2012: Highlighting Top 5 Rivalries Heading into Epic Tournament

Oren FriedmanCorrespondent IIJune 21, 2012

Wimbledon 2012: Highlighting Top 5 Rivalries Heading into Epic Tournament

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    Wimbledon has been the most iconic tournament in the history of tennis, full of fierce rivalries and relentless resolve.

    This year will be no different, as it will feature the greatest in the sport battling it out on grass. From Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova to the Williams sisters, Wimbledon 2012 is sure to be as riveting as ever.

    Here are the top rivalries heading into the tournament.

5. John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut

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    John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut gets an honorable mention in these rivalries simply because of their epic match in 2010.

    Beginning on the tournament's second day, the head-to-head wore on, becoming the longest match in tennis history in terms of both time and games.

    Isner won after a grueling 11 hours and five minutes played over three days. The two set other records as well, including serving over 100 aces each.

    Ultimately, Isner did not make it far after beating Mahut. He promptly lost to Thiemmo de Bakker in the next round.

    While this rivalry may not be as storied as some of the other head-to-heads in tennis history, it still warrants mentioning, as it will be sealed in tennis lore for years to come.

4. Maria Sharapova vs Petra Kvitova

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    This year, Maria Sharapova will be looking to avenge her 2011 Wimbledon final loss to Petra Kvitova.

    After winning the French Open earlier this summer, Sharapova looks to be in complete control of her game, holding on to the women's No. 1 overall ranking.

    The task will be challenging however, as Kvitova is poised to defend her title. Both are stellar on grass, and this rivalry might be one to watch for years to come.

    Kvitova, the world's No. 4, will be looking to hold off Sharapova and supplant Agnieszka Radwanska from the world's No. 3 ranking.

    At just 22, Kvitova might just be starting her reign in tennis's elite. Defeating Sharapova and the rest of the field at Wimbledon for a second straight year will only add to her already impressive resume.

3. Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal

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    The favorites to reach the final at Wimbledon this year, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been the most compelling matchup in tennis over the last year.

    In the 2011final at Wimbledon, Djokovic defeated Nadal in a convincing four sets. Coming off a loss in the final at the French Open to Nadal, Djokovic is looking for redemption on grass.

    This has all the makings of an intriguing matchup as Djokovic looks to defend his crown. 

    With Nadal on his heels for the world's No. 1 ranking, Djokovic needs to hold off the clay maestro if he would like to continue occupying the world's top spot in the future.

2. Serena Williams vs Venus Williams

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    While Serena Williams has remained among tennis's elite, her sister Venus Williams has fallen to No. 55 in the WTA world rankings.

    Venus has been unseeded for this tournament, but it would be foolish to write her off. While she has not won the tournament since 2008, her pedigree is enough to keep her in the discussion.

    Serena has continued to impress. Although she lost to Marion Bartoli in the fourth round of last year's tournament, she has a rich history of dominating at Wimbledon. Serena won the tournament in 2010 by beating Vera Zyonareva. 

    The most compelling sibling rivalry in the game's history, Venus and Serena have gone back and forth over the years at Wimbledon.

    In 2009, Serena beat Venus to win the tournament, a year after losing to her older sister in the final. Serena won back-to-back crowns at Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003 by taking down Venus in the final in both years.

    Watching how to the two sisters fare at Wimbledon will be exciting, and a head-to-head matchup will be all the more intriguing.

1. Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer

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    Rafael Nadal has come to his own by dueling with Roger Federer in high stakes matches.

    One of the most exciting tennis rivalries in the history of the sport, fans have watched the changing of the guard as Federer has been overtaken by Nadal.

    Coming off of his French Open victory, Nadal will try to avenge last year's loss at Wimbledon. Federer will be a strong opponent and either could find his way to a spot in this year's final.

    Federer has been unbelievable at Wimbledon, but in the last couple years he has struggled. In 2011, the world's No. 3 lost Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals, and fell the year before in the same round to Tomas Berdych.

    Yet, from 2003-2009 there was no one better in the tournament. Federer won every one, except in 2008, where he lost to Nadal in what many believe to have been the greatest match in modern tennis history. 

    That match proved to be some nice redemption for Nadal, as Federer had taken him down in the final in both 2006 and 2007, en route to his incredible five year winning streak at Wimbledon.

    Any tennis purist can appreciate this matchup, and fans will be salivating over the potential to see Nadal square off with Federer at Wimbledon once again.