Top 5 matches of Roger Federer – Rafael Nadal
In terms of rivalries, they have done it all. Federer and Nadal have competed on clay, grass, and hard courts. Their contests have determined the sport’s most prestigious awards, and their most memorable contests have sparked Greatest Of All Time discussions that will linger for decades.
The buildup and tension between the two all-time greats have always been worthy of primetime entertainment. But which of their struggles is the most important? Which contests have been the most memorable in one of the sport’s biggest rivalries?
Considering the significance of history, the calibre of the game, and what was at stake, here are the top five matches between two greats.
NASDAQ-1OO Open final (2005), Miami, hard, Federer d. Nadal 2-6 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1
At this point in history, they had only met once, but Nadal had already shown that he would be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years and would have no trouble challenging the Swiss champion. In under 70 minutes, the Spaniard defeated Federer 6-3, 6-3 in their 2004 match in Miami.
One year later, Federer was ready for retribution. Nadal had won three ATP World Tour championships in the preceding year and was vying for his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. He entered Miami with just one defeat of the year (against Marat Safin in the Australian Open semi-finals) and a victory in Indian Wells under his belt (d. Hewitt).
Nadal’s explosive topspin groundstrokes sent balls flying toward Federer, and the Spaniard chased down everything. Federer was down 3/5 in the third set tie-break and two points from elimination before he realized it. However, he fought back, scoring four consecutive points to force a fourth set. Throughout the last two sets, the Swiss would not need heroics. He overcame a two-set deficit against Nadal to win the Indian Wells-Miami “Sunshine Double” for the first time in his career.
Melbourne, Australian Open final, 2009, difficult Nadal d. Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2
The victor would go down in history. Federer had the opportunity to tie Pete Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam championships and surpass Rod Laver, who completed the calendar year Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969. It was a chance for Nadal to become Spain’s first Australian Open champion in the tournament’s 104-year history.
On Friday night, Nadal defeated Fernando Verdasco in the longest-ever Australian Open match, lasting five hours and fourteen minutes, while Federer had 24 hours to recuperate from his semi-final. The issue was whether Nadal could psychologically and physically recover in time for the final and win his maiden Grand Slam title on hard court.
Two sets to one up, Nadal had five chances to break serve at 3-2 in the fourth set. However, he was unable to convert any of them, and Federer levelled the match at two sets each. Many onlookers believed the tide would shift, but Federer’s mental exhaustion prevented him from putting up any opposition as Nadal cruised through the final set for the victory.
During the award ceremony, Federer was consoled by Nadal, who persuaded him to return to the microphone and address the audience. Nadal then told the Swiss, “I apologize for today. I get how you feel. But remember, you are one of the greatest players in history, and you will surpass Sampras’ 14.”
Nadal was the first player since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 to win a Grand Slam tournament with a semi-final and final victory in five sets. Nadal, at 22 years and seven months, was the second youngest player to win six Grand Slam championships, following Bjorn Borg at 1978 Wimbledon (22 years and one month).
The 2017 Australian Open final in Melbourne was a difficult contest. Federer d. Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Many tennis fans believed for years that Federer and Nadal would never again meet in a Grand Slam final. The fans and experts were also not pessimistic. Three years have passed since Nadal won the 2014 Roland Garros and almost five years after Federer lifted the 2012 Wimbledon trophy. However, the all-time greats and their allies stood, proving the sceptics wrong again.
Federer had even shocked himself by advancing to the Melbourne final. After missing the second half of 2016 due to a nagging knee injury, he competed in his first tour-level competition in more than six months. Nadal also skipped the last five weeks of the 2016 season to rest his left wrist. In contrast, in Melbourne, the standard of tennis was excellent from the beginning of their final.
During the first four sets, Federer and Nadal reached their respective peaks at separate periods, with Federer beginning the match on a high note and Nadal responding. In the fifth set, though, both luminaries reached their zenith, and it seemed like Nadal would win this 35th FedEx ATP Head2Head match when he broke serve to begin the deciding game. Federer, 35 years old, would make his return even more remarkable.
In three hours and 38 minutes, the Swiss defeated Nadal and won his fifth Australian Open and 18th Grand Slam championship after falling 1-3 in the fifth set. The right-hander won with his serve, 20 aces, and his backhand, consistent throughout the tournament and held up against Nadal’s topspin forehand better than ever. Federer flattened his one-handed backhand and produced multiple cross-court winners against Nadal, forcing the Spaniard to remain at home and limiting his ability to run around his backhand.
Together, they have won 32 Grand Slam championships. Federer, aged 35 years and 174 days, became the oldest Grand Slam winner since Ken Rosewall, who won three major championships after his 35th birthday in 1970 and 1971.
2006 Internazionali BNL d’Italia final, Rome, clay, Nadal d. Federer 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5)
Three weeks after Nadal’s victory in their four-set Monte Carlo final, he and Federer were at it again. Federer rested between the two events, whilst Nadal continued his winning streak in Barcelona (d. Robredo).
The Rome final lasted 5 hours and 5 minutes and was their finest performance. Federer pushed the action, repeatedly approaching the net with success. However, Nadal once again earned the major points. Federer had two match point opportunities with Nadal serving at 5-6, 15/40 in the deciding set. But he missed both chances with forehands.
With the triumph, Nadal equalled Guillermo Vilas’ Open Era record of 53 consecutive clay-court victories. Additionally, he improved his career finals record to 16-2, the highest victory % in Open Era history. Federer had an astounding 39-3 record in 2006, with all three defeats coming at the hands of Nadal.
Wimbledon final, London, grass, 2008. Nadal d. Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7
Federer was attempting to win his thirteenth Grand Slam title and sixth consecutive Wimbledon championship. Nadal was hoping to become the first man to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double since Bjorn Borg in 1980 and emulate Manuel Santana, the 1966 champion at the All England Club.
In one of their most anticipated rivalry matches, both players displayed some of their finest play. Nadal began with determination, sprinting to a two-sets-to-love lead and silencing the Federer-supporting Centre Court crowd.
However, Federer fought back and won the third set after a rain delay heightened the intensity. In the fourth and fifth sets, the right-hander then denied Nadal three championship match points. But on his fourth attempt, when serving for his first Wimbledon championship, Nadal secured the triumph after four hours, forty-eight minutes, and in the dark.
Federer and Nadal have met 35 matches in the FedEx ATP Head2Head competition. Twenty-two of these matches have included a trophy, and 19 of those 22 have determined a Big Title, like as a Grand Slam, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, or the ATP Finals.