SO MUCH can change in 11 years but for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, some things change and some things remain. It’s mind-boggling to think that 11 years after their epic Wimbledon final, the two would meet again, though this time in the semifinal, which was played last night.
Eleven years ago, where were you? What were you doing? During Wimbledon 2008, I was still single, we didn’t get the news as often as we do know through social media and Rody Duterte was just a brash mayor from Mindanao.
Eleven years. How do you put that in perspective? Some tennis players have turned pro and retired during that span, while the two are still at it. And that’s just in one tournament.
For comparison, the great rivals in the 1990s, Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi, first met in a grand slam in the US Open final in 1990 and last faced each other in the final of the same tournament 12 years later in 2002. Andre and Pete first faced each other in Rome in 1989 and in their 13-year rivalry, they played 34 times with Pete winning 20 of the matches, including in eight finals.
Nadal and Federer first met in 2004, and in 15 years have faced each other 39 times with the Spaniard winning 24 of the matches, including in all their French Open match-ups and in that 2008 Wimbledon final.
Fifteen years of great tennis action that seems to see no end in sight and no one’s complaining. Unless, of course, you are unfortunately part of that group who’s always on the outside looking in grand slam tournaments.
Djokovic, the other member of the Big 3, was just a first-year pro when Nadal and Federer first met, while Andy Murray turned pro two years into the Nadal vs. Federer rivalry, retired briefly at the start of the 15th year and has made a comeback of sorts.
I remember watching one of the greatest matches of all time, that quarterfinal match between Sampras and Agassi in the US Open that saw Pistol Pete winning, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5.) That one didn’t have a single break of serve and the commentators were saying that we won’t be seeing a rivarly like that in years to come. And I think all who saw that match agreed with such assessment.
We were all wrong as in the same decade, we would see a rivalry that would eclipse even that of Sampras’ and Agassi’s.
Fifteen years into their story, they are still at the top of the men’s game. Here’s to five years more, to make it an even decade. I think it’s safe to say that we won’t see a rivalry like this in our lifetime.
But if we would be proven wrong, that would still be a win for tennis.