Tennis

The Five Greatest Matches From The Federer-Nadal Rivalry

The Five Greatest Matches From The Federer-Nadal Rivalry

On Sunday Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer go head-to-head in the Australian Open final, bringing together two of the greatest sportsmen in the modern era for what may well be the (unexpected) culmination of an incredible rivalry.

To whet the appetite, here are five classics the two have fought out over the years.

Wimbledon final 2008 (Nadal wins 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7)

It was called the "greatest ever seen" by John McEnroe, and few would disagree. Nadal came in trying to avenge defeat in the previous year's final; Federer was aiming to bury the memory of embarrassment in the French Open earlier in the year (when Nadal won in straight sets). The result was an incredible battle over nearly 5 hours, Federer resurrecting himself countless times when defeat seemed inevitable - whether at 4-5 down in the fourth set, 0-30 behind on his serve and coming back to hold; whether hitting a ridiculous backhand pass to come back from 2-5 down in the tiebreaker shortly afterwards. It went on until it was nearly dark, Nadal lifting the trophy after 9pm.

2007 Wimbledon final (Federer wins 7-6 4-6 7-6 2-6 6-2)

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Nadal has described being emotionally broken after losing this match, but both men were out on their feet physically after this war over three hours, forty-five minutes. Nadal forced Federer into his first five-set match in six years after a fourth set in which Federer looked rattled. But the Swiss completely turned things around, like great players do, and claimed the final set 6-2 to equal Bjorn Borg's record of five straight Wimbledon titles.

2009 Australian Open final (Nadal wins 7-5 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-2)

The sporting anoraks were all over this one as Rafa sought his first hard court title while Roger sought to equal Pete Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slams. Each would break the other's serve and seem certain to surge to a set victory, only for the other to defy all logic and come roaring back into contention. Federer seemed slightly unsure of himself at points in the first set and even double faulted for Nadal to win the third set in a tie-break. Somehow, he pulled himself together to break Nadal in the fourth, only for the Spaniard to break back. Federer incredibly managed to force another break out of Nadal to bring it to a fifth set, where Nadal's power proved too much.

This was just one of many incredible rallies (this particular one occurring in the fourth set):

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ATP Masters Series Miami Final, 2005 (Federer wins 2-6 6-7 7-6 6-3 6-1)

The young pretender against the world number 1. 18-year-old Nadal looking for a first career hard-court title coming up against a man who hadn't tasted defeat in 21 matches. What's more, Nadal comes into the game having beaten Federer a year previously in the Miami Masters, when he was ranked 34 in the world and felled Federer in straight sets. Halfway into the third set tiebreak it looks like Nadal has Federer beaten. He has taken the first set 6-2 and has won the second set by a tiebreak after being 5-2 behind. Now he has his opponent 5-3 down and looking vulnerable. But what does Federer do? He suddenly seems to wake into his game and goes on the rampage, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the third set and battering Nadal in the final two sets, 6-3 6-1.

ATP Masters Series final, Rome, 2006 (Nadal wins 6-7 7-6 6-4 2-6 7-6)

It was around this time that Nadal was asserting utter dominance on clay. He won all four tournaments he entered on the surface and in the middle of that run was his defeat of Federer in Rome. It is almost hard to believe that Federer pushed him so hard here, given how Nadal would beat him with relative ease in the French Open final shortly afterwards. Needless to say, with three tie break sets and Nadal having to save two match points, this one was a humdinger.

SEE ALSO: Watch: Nadal And Djokovic Produce A Point Of Jaw-Dropping Quality

Conall Cahill

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