Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: Top 5 Matches of This Never Ending Rivalry

Sriram IlangoCorrespondent IJune 4, 2011

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal: Top 5 Matches of This Never Ending Rivalry

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    The Rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has been the main storyline in men's tennis for more than half a decade now. But this year, it seemed different.

    Yes, after a really long time, Federer's opponent had more to lose than him last night. Novak Djokovic was having an unbelievable year with 41 straight wins. He wanted one more to secure the No. 1 ranking and equal John McEnroe's record of 42 straight wins since the beginning of the season. But it wasn't to be.

    Cometh the moment, cometh the man they say. Roger did just that. He revoke his prime from the ashes and put an full stop to a man who was possibly playing the best game of his life.

    But now that is not the headlines. It all comes down to the Final.

    Roger vs Rafa once again! Here is a look back at the best matches these two titans have played over the years.

The Battle of Surfaces: Something Unique

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    Yes, it was only an exhibition match all right. But it had something unique. At the time of the match, Nadal was on a 72-match undefeated streak on clay while Federer was on a 48-match winning streak on grass. They both have truly mastered their respective surfaces.

    It was truly something unique to watch. Players changed their shoes while shifting courts, they adjusted their play between surfaces and it really was a delight to watch.

    Just the court itself took $1.63 million to prepare and the tickets were sold at a rocket price.

    The scoreline indicates that Nadal won the matches 7-5 4-6 7-6 (12-10). It if was after all an exhibition, why would there be such an closely contested score card? It's probably because nothing is taken for granted in a game between Federer and Nadal.

    Like I said before, this match was not as competitive as the matches that are going to follow, but this gave the whole aspect of the rivalry. Federer came and played the game in Mallorca, Nadal's hometown. Nadal has played exhibitions at Basel, Federer's hometown.

    Tell me any other rivalry which had friendship. You wouldn't find one!

Wimbledon Finals 2007: Federer Reigns Supreme

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    The 2007 Wimbledon Finals was a matter of pride for Federer. He had been comprehensively defeated by Nadal in the prior French Open finals. Now he faced his nemesis for the second time in the Wimbledon finals.

    Grass was still not a forte for Nadal. Not many people thought that he would make it to the finals especially after being all but out in the Quarters and Semis. But there it was, another Roger vs Rafa major finale.

    Federer started the game with his awe inspiring game breaking Nadal and going 3-0 ahead in the first set. But Nadal broke back and the game went on to a tie breaker. At 6-3, Nadal's shot falls behind the line, but he overturns that using the DRS. Then Federer loses two of his set points but manages to win the first set 9-7 in the tie breaker.

    The first set was an indication of the fantastic game that was going to be played over the next few hours. Nadal took the second while Federer won the third once again in a tie breaker. Federer gets angry over a DRS call, and that helps Nadal take the fourth set.

    The game was equally poised. Federer had to win this match in order to equal Bjorn Borg's five consecutive Wimbledon title record of the Open Era. The fifth set took off.

    Federer was 15-40 down twice in his serve but came back both the time to lead 3-2. Then he broke Nadal with a fantastic game. He showed his class by holding and breaking Nadal once again to take the game 7-6 (9-7), 4-6,7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-2.

    This game was probably the only time when Federer was at his very best in a major final against Nadal. But more importantly, this game proved the world that the man from Mallorca can do a thing or two in the green side of the court too.

Rome Masters Finals 2006: Truly the King of Clay!

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    This was probably the French Open Final that we never had between Federer and Nadal. Yes, this clay court final saw Federer challenging Nadal in the top most standard.

    A year before, a rather unknown Nadal defeated the then world No. 1 Federer in the semifinals of the French Open and then went on to win the title. A week before this, the same Nadal outwitted Federer in the Rome masters finals. So, Federer had everything to prove against Nadal.

    Federer began the match flawlessly and went on to win the first set in the tiebreaker. But, then the good old Nadal of the clay rises back and takes the second and third sets. Federer looked out of his game when he got inspired and broke Nadal twice to take the fourth set 6-2.

    The fifth set turned out to be the most heartbreaking one for Federer in his lustrous career. He got an early break but was unable to hold it. Then, the game went into its latter stages when both men had great chances of winning it. Federer had two set points when Nadal was serving at 6-5. He squandered them both and before he knew it, Nadal won the game in the tie breaker. The scorecard read 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6,7-6.

    The game was truly the best played in 2006. With Federer attacking the nets constantly and Nadal blistering forehands and backhands, this game was truly a classic.

Australian Open Final 2009: Emotions Overflowing

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    "In the first moment you're disappointed, you're shocked, you're sad, then all of a sudden it overwhelms you," said Federer after losing his chance to equal Sampras's record of 14 slams.

    Yes, this game was probably the most emotionally draining match for any tennis fan. This was probably the point when Federer dared to think that he might not break the all time record for most number of majors.

    Nadal had earlier played five hours of Marathon tennis against his compatriot Fernando Verdasco the day before while Federer had more rest. But Nadal showed no signs of fatigue as he kept on trashing Federer from the word go. Federer served really deep and it helped him to win the second and fourth sets. The game went on to the crucial fifth.

    When Federer was serving at 1-2, Nadal broke his serve. He cruised to 5-2, and now it was Federer's turn to serve and be in the game. He double faulted at 0-15 putting Nadal just two points away from victory. Federer managed a deuce only to lose it two points later. 

    Rod Laver was about to present the trophy to Nadal while Federer had no where else to go than see it. "God, it's killing me," he said. He couldn't speak, he cried in front of the world. So did his million fans around the world.

    Nadal put an arm around his shoulder and said, "You are one of the best players and it is always a pleasure playing against you. Remember, you're a great champion, you're one of the best in history. You're going to improve on the 14 of Sampras."

    That speech from Nadal says many things. He won the title and spoke how great the man he defeated was. This was the point in this rivalry when we realized that both men had much more than respect for each other. This was the point when Federer fans began idolizing Nadal.

Wimbledon Finals 2008 : The Greatest Match Ever Played?

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    "This is the greatest match I've ever seen," said John McEnroe, who himself had played some great tennis at the Wimbledon.

    His words have been repeated many a time by Tennis pundits and fans over these three years. Yes, Nadal and Federer played an absolute classic. When Federer's forehand hit the net at 9.16 p.m. on Sunday, Nadal lifted the gold trophy for the first time in his life in near darkness.

    Nadal won the match 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 to be the first man since Bjorn Borg to win back-to-back French and Wimbledon titles. The match was even more tight than the scorecard suggests.

    Nadal took the first two sets comfortably breaking Federer on each occasion. The match looked over but then Federer raised his game. He got the third set in a tiebreaker. The fourth set was very intense. It went to a tiebreak and Nadal had two championship points. Federer saved them both and won the tiebreaker.

    The match went on to the final set and there were no tiebreaks this time. This set was the perfect picture of Nadal-Federer rivalry. Federer with his perfection and Nadal with his powerful hits. When the match was at 2-2, rain interuped play and this gave necessary time for Nadal to regain his physical play. The world is still wondering, "What would have happened if there was a roof at that time?"

    But, what is done is done. When the players came back, Nadal saved a crucial break point and Federer saved three of his own to balance the game at 7-7. Then Federer gave Nadal a break by netting his forehand. Nadal wrapped the set at 9-7.

    The game consumed almost 1,400 megawatt of electricity at 9.20 p.m., a record that stands till date in England.

    A song from Pink Floyd went as below,

                                                  The grass was greener
                                                    The light was brighter
                                                    The taste was sweeter
                                                    The nights of wonder
                                                    With friends surrounded
                                                    The dawn mist glowing
                                                    The water flowing
                                                    The endless river

                                                    Forever and ever

    In this case, the light was darker and the taste was sweeter for Nadal. The last line seems true both for the song and the match. Forever and Ever, it will last in our memories!

    David Glimore wrote this song. He was a genius and so were Federer and Nadal.

    Let us hope that this rivalry breaks all the barriers of tennis.