The world of sport has conceived a variety of memorable rivalries throughout history and it would simply be an organised bore without them. I’m sure everyone can roll off their personal favourites (no doubt you are mentally indulging now)…boxing – Ali vs Frazier, tennis – Borg vs McEnroe, golf – Palmer vs Nicklaus, formula one – Prost vs Senna, tennis again – Navratilova vs Evert, athletics – Usain Bolt vs the clock, and the list continues.
But one of the most fascinating rivalries ever to grace the planet frustratingly doesn’t actually exist…Ali vs Tyson, two of the greatest boxers of all time. One remembered for his innovative skill, outstanding speed of foot and hand, and political endeavour. The other remembered for his brutal power, devastating hand speed and flawless accuracy. The perfect formula for a perfect rivalry and the world of sport is a lesser place not to have had the two bullish gladiators in the same era.
Enter stage right, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The two best tennis players on the planet and both playing an equal part in redefining the physics of tennis. Federer has bagged an unprecedented sixteen grand slam titles, surpassing the great Pete Sampras and cruising past almost every other record available. His gazelle-like footwork, effortless grace and ability to hit any shot in the book sets him apart from the field. His speed and athleticism are criminally underrated simply because the rest of his game is unequivocally perfect.
And then there is Rafael Nadal, the Yang to Federer’s Yin. Nadal, five years Federer’s junior won his ninth grand slam title in September, his third in a row in a glittering 2010. At this point it may be worth noting that at the same stage in Federer’s career he had won six grand slam titles. Nadal’s ground strokes posses the most brutal top spin the game has seen, he is the most destructive counter puncher and his court coverage almost encroaches on PG-15 violence.
Nadal is a raging bull blessed with magnificent artistry. Federer is an elegant matador blessed with the ruthless instincts of an assassin. Ali vs Tyson is a loss for the world of boxing, but Federer vs Nadal is a gain for the world of sport. Every sports fan out there must not take for granted that these two careers have cross-weaved one another, as there may not be many more times these legends do battle.
Federer vs Nadal, using racquets for gloves and arguably the greatest rivalry to top the best of the best.
Til next week,