Sunday, November 28, 2010

Who's "The Greatest"? History's best rivalries elevate the sport. . .

On November 28, 2010, Roger Federer defeated Rafael Nadal at the prestigious season-ending 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. It was Federer's fifth World Tour Finals title.

The match pitted the 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer against the World Number One and winner of 3 of the 4 Grand Slam titles this year Nadal. It proved to be an epic battle showcasing once again the Swiss Maestro's tennis brilliance against the Spanish Swashbuckler's relentless drive.

Federer and Nadal are widely regarded as two of the game's greatest players ever. And their rivalry has become probably the premiere individual sports rivalry of our time. Indeed, their matches have arguably become tennis's version of the timeless battles of Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier in the 70s.

Boxing fans may remember that Ali and Frazier dueled in 3 epic boxing matches in the 70s, splitting the first two fights. Ali, then Heavyweight Champion, won the third and final fight in the trilogy: the "Thrilla in Manila".

Federer and Nadal meanwhile have met in 6 Grand Slam finals, with Nadal leading 4-2, and 22 head-to-head matches, with Nadal leading 14-8. Their duels have generated world-wide interest, even from non-tennis sports fans. And they have never disappointed.

Like Ali v. Frazier, or Larry Bird v. Magic Johnson, or Ted Williams v. Joe DiMaggio, or Jack Nicklaus v. Arnold Palmer, Federer and Nadal carry on a grand tradition in sports - great and riveting rivalries.

This tradition is especially rich in tennis history: Ken Rosewall v. Rod Laver, John McEnroe v. Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras v. Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova v. Chris Evert, Steffi Graf v. Monica Seles.

Great rivalries such as these elevate our sport - they inspire each player to a higher level of performance and purpose. They often generate new levels of world-wide interest, even from non-tennis and non-sports fans. And the performance and style of players in such rivalries typically serve as models in their sport for the next generation of athletes.

Meanwhile, there's more to come for fans of Federer and Nadal. These two ambassadors for tennis have agreed to play two exhibition matches on December 21 and 22, 2010, in Zurich and Madrid, all for charity - proving that great rivalries can also help great causes.

Best, Gary

Federer v. Nadal: The Greatest Rivalry in Sport

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