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Rediff.com  » Sports » Rafa vs Nole: Engrossing rivalry... and a new world record

Rafa vs Nole: Engrossing rivalry... and a new world record

September 11, 2013 07:53 IST

Rafa vs Nole: Engrossing rivalry... and a new world record

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Rivalries are essential to keep the entertainment quotient alive in any sport.

Tennis is no different.

Rafael Nadal's win over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final not only earned the Spaniard a 13th major but also helped take the rivalry between the two to an altogether new level.

The match was the 37th encounter between the Spaniard and the Serb, a new world record.

Nadal now leads the series 22-15 and his triumph in New York helped him draw level (at 3-3) in major final meetings.

Bikash Mohapatra looks at other major rivalries over the years in men's tennis.


Image: Rafael Nadal of Spain shakes hands at the net with Novak Djokovic of Serbia after their men's singles final at US Open
Photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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Lendl played McEnroe 36 times

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Ivan Lendl - John McEnroe

The two legendary players faced each other on 36 occasions between 1980 and 1992, with Ivan Lendl having a 21-15 edge.

The most significant of those meetings came in the final of the French Open in 1984.

Lendl recovered from a two-set deficit to win his first major title.

That match also remained the lone instance when McEnroe reached the final at Roland Garros.

The players also split two US Open titles, McEnroe winning in 1984 and Lendl the following year.


Image: John McEnroe (left) and Ivan Lendl
Photographs: Steve Powell/Getty Images

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A rivalry that inspired Federer

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Boris Becker - Stefan Edberg

Easily one of the most memorable rivalries in modern tennis.

Boris Becker was a far superior player, but Stefan Edberg was more consistent.

They played each other on 35 occasions, with the German holding a comfortable 25-10 lead. More importantly, though, the Swede won three of their four Grand Slam meetings, including two of the three successive finals they played at Wimbledon.

Edberg also won the lone time they faced each other in a World Championships final (1989). Also, Becker won the last eight times the two met, with Edberg's career on the decline.

For the record, Roger Federer cited this rivalry as the reason why he chose to play tennis ahead of football.


Image: Stefan Edberg of Sweden (left) and Boris Becker of Germany
Photographs: Phil Cole/Getty Images

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Connors won both the US Open finals

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Ivan Lendl - Jimmy Connors

Ivan Lendl's rivalry with another legendary American, Jimmy Connors, was equally great.

On the Tour, they met on 35 occasions, with Lendl enjoying a 22-13 advantage.

The two won eight major titles apiece and faced each other seven times at the Grand Slams, with Connors winning the first three - and Lendl the final four.

However, it was Connors who came up trumps in both Grand Slam finals the two featured in, winning the US Open titles in 1982 and 1983.


Image: Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl
Photographs: Getty Images

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Two Wimbledon finals, one win apiece

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John McEnroe - Jimmy Connors

One of the biggest rivalries of the 1970s that spread well into the late 1980s.

In fact, they last met in 1991 (Basel).

John McEnroe played Jimmy Connors on 34 occasions, ending with a 20-14 record.

The Americans, more importantly, squared up in two Wimbledon finals, with Connors winning in five in 1982 and McEnroe easing through in three in 1984.


Image: Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe of the USA
Photographs: Tom Shaw /Allsport

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Sampras had the clear edge

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Andre Agassi - Pete Sampras

It was akin to the Becker-Edberg rivalry, only that Sampras won more matches and Agassi always hung in.

The Americans faced-off on 34 occasions, with Sampras winning 20 of those matches.

Sampras also had a clear edge in major tournaments, winning six of their nine matches, including four of the five finals.

In fact, Sampras first came into prominence in 1990, beating Agassi to win the US Open. And he ended his career in 2002, after having beaten his friend in the final of the US Open.

The 1995 Australian Open was the lone instance when Agassi got the better of Sampras in a major final.

However, Agassi had the upper hand in Masters Series events.


Image: Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi pose at the net before their US Open match
Photographs: Al Bello/Getty Images
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Nadal withstood the Federer era

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Rafael Nadal - Roger Federer

Rafael Nadal was arguably the lone player capable of upsetting Roger Federer at his peak.

The two have so far met on 31 occasions, with the Spaniard holding a 21-10 lead.

They played each other in a record eight Grand Slam finals, with the Spaniard holding a 6-2 edge - including on all the four occasions at the French Open.

However, Federer has won all their four meetings in the ATP World Tour finals.

Their most recent meeting came in Cincinnati last month, with the Spaniard winning a tough three-setter. In fact, Nadal has won four of their last five meeting as Federer’s career is clearly on the wane.


Image: Roger Federer of Switzerland congratulates Rafael Nadal of Spain
Photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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