Peter Bodo recently posted an interesting article on the evolution of the Federer/Nadal rivalry (if it can still be called that.)
I suggest you check out the entire thing (click here) to follow Bodo‘s train of thought all the way from Pancho Gonzalez and Rod Laver, through the eras of Bjorn Borg/McEnroe, Sampras/Agassi and, finally, to Rafa and Roger. It’s a great read.
Bodo’s theory in a nutshell: Roger and Rafa aren’t engaged in a rivalry as much as they’re two ships passing in the night. One is sailing onto unprecedented fame and fortune – towards the promise and spoils, let’s say, of a still undiscovered New World, while the other is heading back to safe harbor after a more traditional adventure – loaded with treasure, its crew weary and battle scarred. At the moment the vessels pass, it’s easy to compare the two, but only because we can’t guess at the eventual feats that the new ship will accomplish.
Now on to Bodo:
Up to this point, I haven’t thought of Federer vs.Nadal as a rivalry as much as a chase – the saga of the upstart Nadal trying to lift his game sufficiently to catch Federer. It only became a rivalry last summer, when Nadal proved that he could take the measure of Federer on a surface other than clay. Those last two majors in which the men met in the finals represented major no. 14 and 15 for Federer. Is there a more telling fact when it comes to the dynamics of this rivalry? I hope this isn’t the case, but this rivalry might be less about two stars on a parallel track than two trajectories – one rising, one falling – that happen to coincide for a few brief and glorious Grand Slam moments.
So what do you think, tennis fans? Will Federer-Nadal be remembered as a true rivalry or a mere coincidence of timing?
Bonus reading! Tom Tebutt of Canada’s Globe and Mail has an interesting take on Federer’s most recent loss to Djokovic in Rome, and a refreshingly rosy view of Roger’s future (click here for the article.) Perhaps there is more booty in store for the SS Federer Express:
Following a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 semi-final loss to Djokovic in Rome last Saturday, he was less morose than after other recent disappointments. A locker room source told The Globe and Mail that he was actually in a playful mood.
That is a positive sign, as was his postmatch analysis of Djokovic’s performance. “I thought he came through with a bit more energy after the rain delay [in the second set],” Federer said. “Before that, he was pretty flat.”
Frank, realistic appraisal of his main rivals, and giving credit where it is due, could be significant steps in his finally coming to grips with his new (non-dominant) status in the game. . .A player of his singular talent and accomplishments is surely destined, at some point, to rise again.
I hope he’s right – but will it be smooth sailing or stormy seas ahead?