It's Catching Up: Djokovic-Nadal Rivalry Hot on Federer-Nadal Rivalry's Heels

Michael CasentiCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2011

Half of the soon to be "Big One."  The other half: not Roger Federer.
Half of the soon to be "Big One." The other half: not Roger Federer.Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Any casual follower of tennis probably knows the names "Roger Federer" and "Rafael Nadal."  Their rivalry has been the sport.  It has been the source of millions of followers—young, old, male, female, white, black.  But an already established rivalry is kicking up pace, and in a manner unexpected.

Some players are just better than others, and Novak Djokovic is one of the better players.  He has potential for up to five Grand Slams, and the five is a staggering number, considering Federer and Nadal's utter dominance of the Grand Slams. 

But as seen in a not-so-hot Melbourne, the Serb can bulldoze through the draw, even if an in-form Federer stands in the way. 

Djokovic's better play in recent months has allowed him to have the opportunity to meet Nadal in more tournaments.  Nadal's consistent form usually brings him to the finals of tournaments, where it would not be a surprise to see Djokovic on the other side of the court. 

And how well do they play when the situation is right...

The U.S. Open they shared together was a tremendous display of shot-making, possible better than recent Federer-Nadal matches.  With Djokovic's clean play, and Nadal's excellent offense-defense strategy, the duo is usually bound to play great matches.  At least until the Serb crumbles under the pressure. 

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However, whenever confident, Djokovic has challenge the never-say-die Spaniard.  Such was the case at the U.S. Open, and the 2009 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open semifinals, where Djokovic fought on till the end of the three-hour epic encounter.

The good news is Novak Djokovic does not suffer from "strangulations" any longer.  His mind has been in his head nowadays.  His health has been decent.  And the people like him, which generally equates to more confidence.

Federer and Nadal's gradually increasing amount of lackluster performances (by their matches' usual standards) has ushered in the next "Big One"—a rivalry for the ages.  With already 20 matches played against each other, Nadal and Djokovic may become the next Navratilova-Evert rivalry, as the two men are young, fit and eager to play—and win.

The "King is [not] Dead," as Novak Djokovic's mother put it, but the "King's" rivalry against Nadal may soon be "dead," at least in competition for the best rivalry.