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Federer-Nadal rivalry-Part 1
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The contemporary era of tennis is completely enthralled by Federer-Nadal rivalry and it’s always more than just a treat to watch them in action against each other. For tennis fans, this rivalry comes forth as the culmination of the ultimate action, featuring the two best players of modern generation. Let’s relive the moments of their encounters, which have been etched in our memory – forever.
Nadal and Federer both share 26 Grand Slam titles between them and played twenty six matches so far with Nadal leading the head-to-head series 17-9.
2004-2005: It was in March 2004, when Nadal and Federer played their maiden duel against each other in a third-round of the Miami Masters. Many people were aware about Nadal’s talent and capabilities but only a few would have thought that he could test the surging Roger Federer, who came off fresh from winning his first two Grand Slams and firmly placed at No. 1 position in ATP Rankings. Nadal who was only 17 years old then stunned Federer in straight sets with a 6-3 6-3 scoreline and caused a sort of unrest among FedX fans – as it took a while for them to comprehend the fact that Federer lost in straight sets to feisty Mallorca native, who looked absolutely unstoppable during the match that lasted for 70 minutes – only.
Interestingly, both contenders met again one year later at the same venue in Miami, but this time in the title match. Federer had been ruling the roost again, but Nadal pushed him to limits in that best-of-five sets title match by winning the first two sets. Federer played his best tennis to recover from the damage by winning the third-set in a stiff tie-breaker and then claimed the next two sets easily to avenge his maiden loss to Nadal with a 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 scoreline. By winning this match, Federer extended his winning streak to 18 in tournament finals. Nadal made a fine start to the match, but his inexperience showed in the last two sets, where he was blown away by Federer’s precision-oriented shot-making.
After getting even on hard-courts, Nadal and Federer took on each other for the first time on clay in the semi-final of the 2005 French Open. The Spaniard had improved multi-fold in one year and now placed at No. 5 position in ATP Rankings and Federer was aware about the Spaniard’s prominence on red-soil so he looked absolutely prepared for this encounter. In fact, Federer needed to win the French Open to complete his Career Grand Slam then, as he had already claimed other three Majors. Nadal had earned five titles on clay in 2005 and he was enjoying a 22 matches winning streak going into this highly anticipated encounter. Nadal made quick in-roads into the match and won the first set comprehensively with a 6-3 score but Federer came up with a fitting reply in the second-set and won it with a 4-6 to earn the equalizer. Next two sets saw Nadal’s pure brilliance on red-soil as he won them convincingly to his en route to maiden Grand Slam title – it was a dawn of new era as Nadal’s French affair continued afterwards and consequently earned him “King of the Clay” title.
2006-2007: After hurting Federer at French Open, Nadal grew up as a potent force in the world of tennis and their rivalry caught the attention of everyone. Consequently, the year 2006 saw six encounters between them. They met earlier in 2006 Dubai Final, where Nadal came back from a set deficit to deny Federer another title and won the match with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 scoreline. Federer tasted his first defeat of the new season and Nadal also snapped his Open era record of winning 56 consecutive matches on hard-court. After edging past Federer on hard-courts, Nadal proved too good for the Swiss once again on clay and won 2006 Monte-Carlo Masters final in four gruelling sets with a 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(5) scoreline. They met again same year in the Rome Masters final, where Nadal defied the strong challenge of wounded Federer by winning the title match with a 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5) scoreline. As expected by the ever-growing following of Rafa-Roger rivalry and as suggested by the draw, the top two ATP ranked player took on each other again in the final of the 2006 Roland Garros, where Nadal badly lost the first set with a 1-6, but raised the level of his game instantly and won the next three sets with 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) – to prove yet again that who was the boss on red-soil.
Things were looking a bit bleak for Federer, as his progress was halted by Nadal – every now and then and the Spaniard looked like a thorn in the flesh for the Swiss Ace, who was inexorable against others, but failed to got his act together against Nadal, who had been pricking the Swiss with all sorts of probing questions with his devastating forehand and swiftness on court. In his typical demeanour Federer continued working on his game. They faced each other one month later in the finals of the 2006 Wimbledon, which was their first encounter on grass. Nadal had surprised many to come this far in this tournament as many believed that he was only a clay-court specialist, but this performance proved that Nadal was all set to replace Federer as the top ranked player in ATP. Federer looked sublime in the title match as he ran away with the first set with 6-0, but Nadal earned the equalizer by winning the second-set in a testing tie-breaker 7-6(5) and a sheer sense of nervousness sent the FedX camp into jitters as they looked sullen – and the capacity crowd at Wimbledon Centre-Court expected a mighty setback. But, Federer looked as calm as ever and got on with the proceedings – without looking much at the scoreboard. The Swiss ace did not repeat the silly mistakes in the next two sets and finally won the match with a 6-0, 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 scoreline and snapped his five-match losing streak against the Spaniard. They met again in the year-ending Masters Cup final in Shanghai, where Federer blew away Nadal and won the title match with 6-4 7-5 scoreline. With this win, Federer claimed his third Masters Cup title in four years and ended the year on a high note – especially against Nadal, but the Spaniard was leading the head-to-head then with 6-3.
After meeting six times in 2006, both contenders once again dominated the men’s tour; as both shared all four Grand Slams and held on to top two rankings – throughout the next season. It would not be an exaggeration to say that both looked way ahead of other contenders on tour during the entire season. They met in the 2007 Monte Carlo Masters final and that time Nadal was crushing favourite to clinch the title. The Spaniard did not disappoint his fans, as he won the title match in straight sets 6-4, 6-4. Woes continued for Federer on clay, as he lost Hamburg Masters final 6-2, 2-6, 0-6 to Nadal and then another French Open final. Once again Nadal denied the Career Slam to Federer as he won the French Open with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 scoreline. Federer did not look perturbed after losing another final on clay to Nadal and came out all guns blazing in 2007 Wimbledon final, where he beat Nadal 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-2. Though, Federer could not solve Nadal-riddle on clay, but ended the season on a high note yet again by winning the 2007 Masters Cup by beating the Spaniard comprehensively in the final 6-4 6-1. In fact, this was Federer’s best year on tour, as he claimed 12 titles, including three Majors, four ATP Masters title and the year ending Masters Cup. Federer finished the year with startling stats by winning 92 of 97 matches, where four of his losses came against Nadal, who did not lose a single match on clay in 2007.
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