With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer absent from this year’s US Open, it will be the first slam not to feature one of the duo since 1999. We thought you might miss them, so here are five of their best encounters on the ATP Tour.
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5. Miami 2005 Final
A year ago, a 17-year-old called Rafael Nadal had announced himself on the world stage at Miami with a dominant 6-3 6-3 defeat of the world number one, Roger Federer. Now, unbeaten in 15 matches and on the cusp of one of the most prolific seasons of his career, the Spaniard could test his mettle in a final against the man who never lost them.
In 2004, Federer had played eleven finals and won them all. The Swiss was on a 21-match win-streak of his own and had only tasted defeat once in his past 48 encounters. But Nadal was a different proposition: Federer knew it, even then. Yet neither of them could have anticipated what an epic beginning this would be to one of the most storied rivalries in sport.
4. Hamburg 2008 Final
Federer had humbled Nadal in the 2007 final at Rothenbaum. Nadal was out for revenge – and the final clay court Masters title to complete the set. By now, the pair knew each other’s games inside out, and they would play a staggering six finals in 12 months. This was a taste of what was to come at Wimbledon a few months later: a classic full of quality and grit.
3. Monte Carlo 2006 Final
Rome was not built in a day, but Nadal – incredibly – had become Federer’s undisputed arch-rival within a year. He had won his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo the year before and was the outstanding favourite to defend the title. The Spaniard had not lost a clay court match since April 2005. Federer was playing even better in 2006: he had just completed the Sunshine Double and had lost only one match all year (beaten by Nadal in the final of Dubai). His form had continued on the clay, having dropped just one set all week – in the first round, in fact, to a certain Novak Djokovic, ranked 67 in the world. All eyes were on Court Rainier III and the world’s best two players.
2. Basel 2015 Final
Nine years and 28 matches since that final in Monte Carlo, a lot had changed in the careers of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Their rivalry had become legendary, but gone were the days when they shared the spoils on the men’s tour. By his lofty standards, Nadal was going through the toughest period of his career: he was seven in the world and already tied for the most defeats in a season in his career (17, which he last racked up in 2004). Federer had recovered to number three but was hardly at his very best. In fact, the pair had not met since the 2014 Australian Open, and not in a final since Rome 2013. This proved to be an enthralling renewal of their rivalry in front of Federer’s home crowd.
1. Rome 2006 Final
Perhaps even better than their fabled 2008 Wimbledon final, this is an all-time classic that truly cemented the pair’s rivalry. Never had their styles meshed so perfectly together: Federer was playing aggressive tennis, regularly rushing the net, while Nadal was defending the corners as if his life depended on it. Who would emerge victorious in this five-hour epic?