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French Open: Every Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal match is a gift

06/07/2019
Danny Small

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have a long and storied history together and Friday marks another Grand Slam matchup between the two legends.

It’s one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sports—Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The greatest of all time and his kryptonite. Federer holds the all-time record with 20 Grand Slam wins, but Nadal is only three Slams behind.

The two greatest men to ever play tennis have spent the majority of their careers battling one another. Tennis fans are lucky to have had the opportunity to watch Federer and Nadal trade blows and they’ll meet for the 39th time on Tuesday. Every match between Fed and Rafa feels like it could be the last, but the big matches carry that feeling even more.

In head-to-head matchups, Nadal has enjoyed the upper hand against Federer for much of their careers. Although Nadal has a 23-15 record against Federer for his career, he has not found much success against Fed in recent years. The Swiss-born star has won their last six matches dating all the way back to 2015.

The last time these two met in a major, Federer served up a stunning defeat to Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open Final. The Spaniard collapsed in the fifth and final set and let a precious Grand Slam slip through his grasp. Had Nadal pulled out that victory in 2017, he would currently be one Grand Slam behind Federer. It’s a loss that will haunt Nadal fans until the end of time.

However, despite Federer’s recent success against Nadal, he’s entering the lion’s den on Tuesday. The left-handed Spaniard is the best clay court player, male or female, in the history of tennis. His dominance on the red clay of Roland Garros is hard to fathom. Nadal has won 11 of the last 14 French Opens. Bjorn Borg has six French Open victories, but no other player during the Open Era has more than three.

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Federer has faced his arch-nemesis five times at Roland Garros, losing every match. In fact, Federer has yet to even force a fifth set against Nadal in a French Open match, let alone beat him.

Nadal’s invincibility during the French Open will certainly be a part of his defining legacy. However, Nadal will be remembered most for his memorable rivalry with Federer.

Every time these two share the court, something memorable happens. Their match in the final at Wimbledon in 2008 could have been the greatest match of all-time. If it’s not the best, it’s certainly in the conversation.

That’s why Friday marks a significant day for tennis fans. Will it be the last time Nadal and Federer square off? Surely not. But the Grand Slam matches these two will play are numbered. It’s almost a miracle that these two are still playing at such a high level at this stage in their careers.

Another semifinal match in a Grand Slam is anything but certain. In the meantime, fans should cherish at least one more opportunity to watch a Nadal-Federer grudge match.

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