There’s something about Fedal… something that goes beyond any rivalry in the tennis world and transcends the game itself.
The 40th instalment of the Federer/Nadal (Fedal) rivalry, played in the semifinals of Wimbledon, had me thinking: has there ever been a more intense rivalry than this one?
Of course, that between Björn Borg and John McEnroe comes to my mind, but when they played that famous Wimbledon final, in 1980, I was a big girl of not yet six months old. Then again, it definitely was quite the rivalry, judging by videos of their matches.
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, then, perhaps? After all, it was the rivalry of my tweens and teens, and definitely a great one, this time with all the marketing that came with it.
Then again, however great the two rivalries mentioned are, I still believe that none of them is equal to that of Federer and Nadal. There is something about it that makes it the rivalry of rivalries.
Trying to pinpoint the Fedal appeal
Trying to pinpoint its appeal may have as many answers as there are people and I am sure that you might agree or disagree with one, several, or even all my points.
Vying for greatness
For starters, both players are going for greatness and are, since the arrival of the Spaniard, on the run for the “GOAT” title, even though for the moment, Federer has the advantage, with the impressive amount of records and Grand Slam titles that he has to his name. Then again, Nadal is the indisputable clay GOAT, and his greatness on the red dust is likely what prevented the Swiss from winning more than the one French Open.
Nadal like Kryptonite
Secondly, Nadal has been, until 2017, the Kryptonite to Federer’s Superman court powers. His heavy lift, generally aiming to his archrival’s backhand, was causing a lot of damage and many an error from the Swiss, to a point where the rivalry quickly became lopsided in favour of the Spaniard.
Thus, the question quickly became: will Federer win it, this time? Will he catch up? It took a racquet change to get things started back up in his favour, and this only came in 2017. Since then, the Swiss has won six of the seven matches they contested, including this year’s Wimbledon semifinal showdown, limiting Nadal to that short, one-sided semifinal win at the French Open earlier in 2019. And one of Federer’s wins has been a walkover.
Still, Federer’s downfall has been Nadal for a long, long time.
THAT Wimbledon final
Labelled “the greatest match of all time”, the 2008 Wimbledon final is one that still marks the imagination of many a tennis fan. I have no doubt that a huge amount of Federer fans still have shudders when they think about that epic encounter, or that quite a few Nadal enthusiasts still remember this final with the broadest of smiles.
Yet, it was the culminating point of their rivalry, and the last time they faced on the Centre Court grass until this year’s semifinal.
Ballet dancer vs Trailblazer
There is no other way to describe the contrast of the two players. Fedal is the opposition of a ballet dancer with a trailblazer, the grace and seemly effortlessness versus the fight and the relentless pounding.
Thus the opposition in fandoms, I suppose.
Fedal is less than Nadalovic, but more to the imagination
Strictly in terms of matchups, the 40 Fedal encounters are less in number than the 54 Nadalovic (Nadal/Djokovic) ones. However, they seem to be much more in the imagination of the tennis afficionados.
A good example is, without a doubt, all the ink that ran before, during, and after this year’s Wimbledon semifinal. The same as the amount of ink that relentlessly flows before, during, and after all of the matches between Federer and Nadal.
A part of me is starting to wonder if, since 2017, it is because we feel that there is a shorter and shorter amount of time left until we will not see those matches again.
Regardless, this Wimbledon semifinal match really showed us why the Fedal rivalry really transcends everything in tennis.