We have watched some wonderful talents and great players over the last decade. But there are only three men who were ranked No.1 in the world Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Whereas there were ten different men in the previous decade. Same domination was evident in the majors as well. Such is the immense competition at the top of the game. Today I look at the rivalries at the elite of the men’s tennis over the last decade.
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
The rivalry of Roger-Rafa, undoubtedly one of the best things happened to the game in the modern era. Although it lost the glory in the recent past, many experts and fans still believe it as one of the greatest rivalries the sport has ever seen. The sole reason behind is their contrasting styles of play and numerous memorable battles on court.
According to me, a rivalry has to be considered the best only for a certain period of time when both players are at the peak of their powers in their respective careers. Apart from that, there are few more factors such as age, fitness and surfaces contested on.
Roger-Rafa was highly competitive and equally poised between 2004 and 2007. Those four years are supposedly the best phase of the rivalry. Rafa kept surprising Roger right from their first match in Miami. Then again Roger found the way to tackle Rafa except on clay. After the 2007 season, their head-to-head was 8-6 in Rafa’s favor. From 2008, the Spaniard started his domination over the Swiss maestro winning 15 of the next 19 matches till date. Be it the mono virus that struck Federer in 2008 which impacted his game largely or Nadal’s indomitable spirit when facing the Swiss. For whatever the reasons, the plot in their storied rivalry was never the same again.
Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic
These days, we are accustomed to hear these two names competing against each other almost on all the big stages of tennis. Even though, this famous rivalry started way back in 2006.
With almost a similar kind of baseline grinding display and Nadal being just one year older than Djokovic, it’s a most fancied rivalry in the modern era. But the battle was not so closer between them until 2010 with occasional tight matches like 2009 Madrid semis. In the initial years, Novak was not at his best of the fitness and often used to retire from the matches including two of them against Rafa in 2007 and 2008 in Paris and Wimbledon respectively. By the end of 2009, Rafa comfortably held the advantage over Nole in the head-to-head at 14-7.
Then came the glorious patch of this spectacular match up in the game when Novak played Rafa in the US Open final in 2010. Though Djoker couldn’t hurt the Spaniard in achieving the career golden slam, it was the moment he realized that he can displace the Rafa-Roger pair at the summit of men’s game. After changing to the gluten free diet, he dictated the tour in the following year dispatching whoever came at his way including six straight championship matches against Nadal. He continued the same dominance and was never out of top two in the rankings since then.
When the tennis world thought that Rafa would rule the game for at least five more years to follow after what he achieved at the age of 24, Djokovic’s emergence proved to be historic. From 2010, their rivalry stood at 10-8 in Novak’s favor including seven straight victories in the finals, marking how well the Serb took it to Nadal and conquered which looked as a mission impossible for every other guy on tour.
Despite the fact that there were memorable matches played all through their years, it’s a justified measurement of the rivalries only over a certain period of time.
I conclude my obsession with the following as the greatest rivalries of the last decade.
8-6 H2H Nadal-Federer in 2004-07
10-8 H2H Djokovic-Nadal in 2010-13
Here is my list of top ten rivalries of the decade overall, in the order of quality of the tennis played between them. How do you rate them? What are your picks?
*Players who are ranked at least No.3 in the world are only considered in the above list.