For the first time since Australian Open 2008, neither Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal is in a grand slam final. If that seems like an unbelievable stat, the fact that Federer and Nadal have won 21 of the last 23 grand slams, albeit a pretty well known stat, is just incredibly mind boggling. A lot has been said of their rivalry but lately it seems that most of their “rivalry” has been off-court; i.e. more in terms of statistics. They have met on court just once in 2009 and once in 2010. They seem to have great respect for each other and both of them are pretty open about their friendliness towards each other. This is a very nice article in The Hindu saying pretty much the same thing.

This made me think that this really isn’t quite like a rivalry. Sure, they play their best tennis against each other and produce some really high quality tennis matches. I, however, would like to think of it as a partnership; one in which they have won everything in sight for the last 6 years, save perhaps the Paris Masters in which neither of them has even made it to the finals. The way these two have been winning tournaments the last few years, they’ve almost made it seem simple! On one hand they seem to have an ostensibly intense rivalry but on the other hand over the years, both seem to have become more and more friendly and have also worked together and made significant contributions to the society through tennis. They played two exhibition matches last year for the charities that they run respectively and were also in a lot of ways responsible for ‘Rally for Relief’ and ‘Hit for Haiti’. The most striking thing about these two players however, is how they’ve been able to silence their critics. After Wimbledon 2008, people started saying Federer is at the end of his career but within the next one and a half years, he’d won the Olympic Doubles gold medal, one US Open, French Open, Wimbledon and an Australian Open, along with a bunch of other tournaments. One of my first posts on this blog was about Rafa and I wrote about how I thought that Rafa would return very strongly (this was around the time Rafa was defeated by Soderling in the French open). After losing in the quarter finals to Murray last year at the Australian Open, Nadal clean swept the clay court Masters 1000 tournaments and won the next three grand slams (this somehow reminds me of how Tendulkar has silenced his critics over and over again).

This “rivalry” has been so dominant that other good players like Djokovic and Murray have had almost no chance to prove that they are actually bloody good! A few people seem to think Murray is an over hyped player (quite a few of my Facebook friends think so). I’m sorry, but the guy has been in the top 5 for the last 3 years, has won 6 Masters 1000 tournaments, has been to 3 Grand Slam finals (including the current Australian Open) and has a 8-6 winning record against Federer – the only other top 10 player to have a positive winning record against Federer is Nadal. Saying Murray is anything but extremely good just doesn’t seem right, even though it is just somebody else’s opinion. Murray might not have won a grand slam but then again, not many people have, in the last few years! Just 4 Grand Slam champions since 2005 French Open, to be precise: Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Del Potro. As I said, I think a lot of this criticism Murray and Djokovic receive about not winning more Grand Slams could be attributed to the fact that Rafa and Federer seem to make winning Grand Slams so easy!

But I’ve just rambled off statistics in this post. What is most important to me is that the reason I like tennis as much as I do today is because of Federer and Nadal. A couple of years ago, I was the sort of Federer fan who got upset if he lost to Nadal. Then, after that superb Wimbledon final in 2008, I started liking Rafa’s game but still used to get pretty upset when Murray or Djokovic or anyone else defeated Federer. I was the sort of guy who thought Federer could win every tournament he played, as if he were invincible. Lately though, I guess I’ve grown up in the way I see tennis. Now that I see Federer and Nadal as just humans and not some super-human-player-beings, it somehow makes tennis just better.