Monday, 13 December 2010

The Tale of Two Forehands - Rafa & Roger

With one hand,you can grasp but with two you can rule.

This best describes the influence that right handed Roger Federer and left handed Rafa has had on the sport.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been the most prominent figure to date in the sport of tennis for the past five years and arguably the most dominant duo that the sport has ever seen.

Their ambidextrous chokehold on the sport is definitely undeniable with both of them dominating the top two spots in professional tennis and wresting away 24 Slams out of the past 28 Grand Slam titles.However in doing so these pair of rivals have done more than just win titles.They have revolutionized the sport in total.

Roger Federer leads the pair with 16 Grand Slam titles with Rafael Nadal rapidly catching up with nine Grand Slam titles.Both individual are potential wielders of the infamous title "The GOAT".The title of GOAT between these two has been a widely debated topic among the avid fans of both sides.Some citing Federer's graceful play and Nadal's breathtaking endeavours on the tennis court.But to some extent,our personal differences have blinded us from actually acknowledging the Greatness of each player in the own right .

Roger Federer is probably the greatest right handed player to ever pick up a racquet.Being the most successful player among other right handers like Sampras ,Agassi or Borg.Federer has amassed the most titles as a right handed player with 65  titles and counting.3rd only to soutpaws Jimmy Connors and Johnny Mac.Currently Federer does hold the title Greatest righty of All Time.His 23 consecutive semifinal at the Slam is also a record that won't be broken for a very long time.

Rafael Nadal is also building up a reputation as the most powerful lefty that tennis has ever seen.With unparalleled dominance on the red clay of Roland Garros and consistent results on other surfaces,Rafa has already passed fellow lefties John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in regards of Grand Slam tally.If he continues his amazing run at the Slams and wins the Australian Open this coming January.We will see him come one step closer to surpassing the great 'Rocket Rod" and eventually be known as the greatest lefty ever.

The Roger-Rafa rivalry has given tennis new significance and to fully understand,let us go deeper into this rivalry with more intricate detail.

Their first meeting was during 2004  where a recently crowned world No.1  Roger Federer would meet a young 17 year-old Rafael Nadal in the third round of the Miami Masters.Federer was outclassed in straight sets by Spaniard.Nadal exclaimed that it was one of the best matches he had ever played in his career with respect to Federer.

Roger spoke  admirably of the young Majorcan predicting that "He's gonna be the most powerful lefty in tennis in a few years."

His prophecy didn't miss by far.

The following year Nadal would go on to beat Federer at the 2005 Roland Garros semi-finals and claim his maiden Grand Slam.In that same year ,he would ascend to the No.2 spot that he would go on to hold for 160 consecutive weeks before finally snapping Federer's 237 consecutive weeks at No.1

That match gave us the opportunity to bear witness the birth of the best Right Handed-Left Handed rivalry since McEnroe and Borg during the 80's.

Up until now they have met 22 times with Rafa leading by 14-8 in head to head against Roger.

Most of us would see this H2H and assume that this seemingly lopsided rivalry is not worth mentioning.

However the stats are alarmingly incredible.

These two men have solely been the obstacles in each other career and simultaneously been the main factor of each other's success.

-Rafa has prevented Roger from achieving a Career Slam and the coveted Grand Slam for four consecutive years from 05-08.

-Roger snapped Rafa's 81-match winning streak on clay when he beat Rafa on clay in the 07 Hamburg final.

 -Federer and Nadal are the only No. 1 and 2 pair in the open era to contest the French Open and  Wimbledon men's finals back to back in a calendar year. They are also the only pair in the history of  tennis to contest both of these finals back to back for three consecutive years (2006–08).

-In the history of tennis, Federer and Nadal are the second pair to face each other in seven Grand Slam  singles finals (2006–08 Wimbledon, 2006–08 French Open, 2009 Australian Open) in the span of 4  years, after Bill Tilden and William Johnston (1919–25 US Open), who did it in the span of 7 years.

-Federer and Nadal are the only No. 1 and 2 pair to win at least 11 consecutive Grand Slam singles  tournaments between them (2005 French Open – 2007 US Open). In this period, Federer won 3  consecutive titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open and 2 consecutive titles at the Australian  Open, while Nadal won 3 consecutive French Open titles.

-Federer and Nadal are the only pair to win at least four consecutive finals at three different Grand Slams during the same period (2005–08 French Open for Nadal, 2003–07 Wimbledon and 2004–08 US Open for Federer).

-From 2008 French Open to 2010 US Open, the pair won 10 of 11 Grand Slams (except 2009 US Open).

-Federer and Nadal have won 8 consecutive Wimbledon (2003–10) and 6 consecutive French Open (2005–10).

-Federer and Nadal have won the Wimbledon and French Open duo for 6 consecutive years (2005–10).

-Federer and Nadal have won the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open trio for 4 consecutive years(2005–08)

I think we get the point.This article would be a Wikipedia page if this list goes on.

However the main difference between these men is the distinction is:

Federer  is a right handed plays an orthodox game and is benchmark for the most basic yet graceful form of play.The classical game of tennis is embodied in the flesh of this man

In contrast,Nadal is the symbol and inspiration of unorthodox play with his extreme grip on his forehand,beastly movement and energetic play.Nadal has led the way to the modernization of this sport.

In the past,experts have sighted Roger Federer as the perfect model for the game.

Through some extent this is true. Federer's game is anything but complex.He weaves his shots from the bare essence of tennis.The full tennis textbook is present in the Federer repertoire.

But on the contrary,I believe that Federer alone is not the model that we seek but Federer-Nadal is the most complete model for every aspiring tennis player.


A Federer-Nadal match is the most complete tennis module that a coach can use.In their matches,every element is present.Orthodox,unorthodox,left,right,topspin,backspin,slice ,drive ,lobs and dropshots.

Both these players are the best shotmakers in history and they can hit every shot in the book.From banana curve shot to the  infamous tweener.They can do it all.

It's not just the shots that makes their matches worthwhile,it's the strategy.Federer and Nadal are arguably the smartest tennis players alive.In their matches we can see how a lefty has an advantage to the righty's backhand and how to overcome it.It's not just entertaining ,it's educational.

The great thing about Roger and Rafa is not that they have won lots of titles but it's the legacy that they leave behind.Think about it!People in the next twenty and thirty years can benefit from them

This is why Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will undoubtedly go down as the greatest pair to ever play the game.


Courtesy: Bleacher Report

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