Federer and Nadal have been the two most prominent Tennis players of the past two decades and have been the main reason so many young fans have started following the beautiful sport of tennis. Their rivalry is regarded as the greatest in sports history by many professional athletes and journalists. Most of the tennis fans root for one of these two guys, creating an “El Clasico” feeling every time the two greats step onto the court to face off. It would be every tennis tournament organizer's dream to host another chapter of their rivalry as the fans will flock to see the action and history will be made.

How it all started

When Nadal stepped up to the game, Federer was enjoying a few years of dominance in Men's tennis and had already won a few slams. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's very first encounter at Miami 2004 was a shock to the tennis faithful. Interestingly, the match was played on hard courts and not on Nadal’s beloved clay. Federer was completely outclassed in the match, and although he got his revenge next year in the same tournament, it was clear to everyone that Nadal was not a one-match wonder. His game suited well against the world no.1 as he exposed him to a totally new challenge presented by the lefty forehand high to the backhand, great defensive retrieving, and counter punching.

He went on to win their next five encounters including the French Open 2005 semifinals.

Nadal enjoying the match-up against Federer

Nadal had Federer's number for a long period of time and was also helped by the fact that most of their matches were played on European clay courts, rather than on the hard courts which suited Federer's aggressive game much better.

Federer managed to beat Nadal on clay only twice and just once in a five-setter. According to stats on the ATP Tour website, before 2017, Federer had only two wins in grand slams against Nadal while he was on the losing end on nine occasions. Nadal was able to transfer the mental edge he created in the vast amount of clay court encounters to other surfaces.

Most prominently, the classic match at Wimbledon 2008 followed by the heartbreaking Australian Open 2009 clash were indicators that he was all over Federer’s game by then.

Federer's dominance in the last five encounters on hard courts

Roger Federer's H2H against Nadal was a very lopsided 23-10 until the ending days of 2015. It was a few years since he had switched to a bigger racquet in the hope of finding a bigger sweet spot, especially on the backhand side, but the results weren't there yet. Moreover, many journalists and fans had given up on his playing career and he was asked frequently about his retirement plans. Nadal, on the other side, looked on the downfall as well. His forehand was dropping short in the middle of the court and he had experienced some uncharacteristic losses including a beat-down in the French Open quarterfinals at the hands of Novak Djokovic.

When they met in Basel at the end of that year, neither of them were at the peak of their careers and the pressure was not high. As a result of that, the match had good quality. It was the first time fans saw Federer use his much-improved backhand with great consistency against Nadal. That match was the start of the U-turn in the rivalry. Fast forward to 2017, where they both found their form after a not brilliant year right on time to get to Australian Open final, Federer was at his aggressive best and defeated Nadal at a major tournament after 10 years.

He used the confidence boost to go on a roll of three consecutive straight-sets victories over Nadal. Those last three matches were extremely one-sided in favor of Federer and Nadal didn't even manage to get more than four games in any of the sets played.

The interesting point was that in 2017, Nadal wasn't playing a low level of tennis and was playing very well against anyone not named Federer. He even finished the year as World No.1 in that year which is one of the greatest achievements in tennis. But one thing he could not achieve was beating Federer. This was something that even Federer's die-hard fans could not imagine at the start of the year. Nadal, however, got back to winning ways at Roland Garros 2019. The New York Times reported that "Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, on a cool and windy Friday to reach his 12th French Open final."

The rivalry has been the greatest in the history of tennis and fans around the world are eagerly waiting for the next chapter to be written by the two greats.

In fact, both players are n each other's minds all the time. On June 21, Tennis World USA reported that Federer mentioned Nadal recently. Talking about his grass court play, he likened it to "how Rafael Nadal feels on the clay."