One is the elegant Swiss who has every shot in the book and then some you could not imagine anyone playing. The other is the muscular Spaniard with his incredible tenacity and "never say die attitude."
But aside from this on court rivalry which is lauded by many as the greatest in the sport's history, there is one more aspect that defines these two champions. Their dominance.
Individually they have dominated their respective surfaces—Roger on grass and Rafa on clay. But the even more staggering stats are those of their combined dominance.
It has been almost four straight years that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been the top two players in men's tennis.
Right from July 25, 2005 till date these two men have occupied the top two positions in the ATP rankings. Nadal climbed to the No. 2 spot in July 2005 as a teenager and held it for a record 160 successive weeks before surpassing Federer in August 2008.
Prior to this Federer had held his No. 1 position for an unbelievable record 267 consecutive weeks.
Currently they have again swapped positions with Roger re-occupying the top spot and Rafa the number two.
Roger and Rafa are the the only two players to have ever finished four consecutive calendar years at the top.
For three successive years they have met each other in the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, right from 2006 to 2008. They have been the top two players on both the clay and the grass for the past four years. In total, they have met each other in a record 7 Grand Slam finals.
No player has managed to beat both Roger and Rafa in the same Grand Slam. In fact, their only losses in the Slam finals are to each other.
Between the two of them, they have captured 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam titles (11 for Federer, six for Nadal) right from the 2005 French Open through the 2009 Wimbledon, and counting.
This means that except for the Australian Open in 2008 there was either one of two names that got engraved on the winner's trophy at any Slam—R. Federer or R. Nadal.
Federer and Nadal also hold an all-time record 11 consecutive Grand Slam titles won from the 2005 French Open through the 2007 US Open.
Both of them have held Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces, simultaneously (2008 French Open, 2008 Wimbledon, 2009 Australian Open for Nadal and 2008 US Open, 2009 French Open, 2009 Wimbledon for Federer) .
Aside from the grand slams these two players have an impressive record at the Masters Series too. Together they hold 19 of the 27 Masters Series titles (10 for Federer and nine for Nadal) from 2005 through 2007.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also possess the Open era records for consecutive wins on a single surface—Roger on both grass (65) and hard courts (56) and Rafa on clay (81). Interestingly, all three streaks were broken by the other man.
These stats show that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have dominated the sport unlike any two players before them have.
And while we do have the likes of Djokovic, Murray, and Del Potro now emerging as future contenders, they have a tough task ahead of them to break the Roger—Rafa stronghold.