Roger Federer’s retirement from professional tennis was greeted with sadness by sports fans around the world, but none more so than his friend and fellow legend Rafael Nadal.
Federer and Nadal spent the best part of 20 years competing for titles and taking the game to new heights – how does their story compare with some of the other greatest sporting rivalries of all time?
Federer vs Nadal
Federer and Nadal – winners of 42 grand slam titles between them – have met 40 times in singles matches, with the Spanish left-hander edging the head-to-head 24-16.
The two rivals dominated the men’s game between 2005 and 2010, winning 21 of 24 grand slam events and finishing all six years ranked as world numbers one and two.
The following year (2011) belonged to Novak Djokovic and since then all three players have been involved in a battle to be considered the most successful male player of all time.
During their peak years, Federer and Nadal were near unbeatable on their favoured surfaces – grass and clay respectively.
In 2006 and 2007, Nadal defeated Federer in the French Open final before losing to him at Wimbledon a month later.
Nadal broke this sequence in 2008 with victory over five sets in the Wimbledon final; a match that is widely lauded as the greatest of all-time.
Federer, however, was still playing as well as ever and he went on to repeat Nadal’s feat of a French Open-Wimbledon double in the following year (2009). By reclaiming the Wimbledon title and winning his 15th major, the Swiss surpassed Pete Sampras’ grand slam record.
Their dominance waned in the 2010s as Djokovic came to the fore, but there was to be a glorious resurgence of their rivalry in 2017, when both men were coming back from injuries sustained in the previous year.
Federer and Nadal reached the Australian Open final against the odds, with the Swiss coming out on top at the age of 35 in what proved to be their final meeting in a grand slam showpiece.
Evert vs Navratilova
While commentating on Federer playing doubles with Nadal, Martina Navratilova admitted that she would have liked to have retired playing alongside Chris Evert.
Evert and Navratilova played each other a staggering 80 times between 1973 and 1988, with 60 of their matches being finals.
They collectively held the world number one spot for 592 of the first 615 weeks of the WTA rankings, and ended their careers with 18 majors apiece – within a combined total of more than 300 tour-level titles.
Messi vs Ronaldo
For over a decade, football fans have been able to enjoy two of the game’s greatest-ever players battling for supremacy.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s moves to Manchester United and then Real Madrid saw him develop from a tricky winger into one of the most complete forwards, while Real’s rivals Barcelona boasted Lionel Messi’s technical ability and speed of thought, which made him the attacking talisman of their all-conquering side.
Despite being a few years younger, Messi has won more individual trophies and has claimed the Ballon d’Or – the annual award for the world’s best player – more often.
While Ronaldo has been the more prolific goalscorer for club and country combined, Messi has fared better when they have met on the pitch.
There have been 36 matches between sides featuring these two, with Messi’s team winning 16 times to Ronaldo’s 11.
Prost vs Senna
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna – two of Formula One’s all-time leading drivers – had a fierce rivalry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
During the 10 years in which they were both active, Prost won four championships to Senna’s three.
The intensity of their rivalry peaked in the 1988 and 1989 seasons, when they were team-mates at McLaren. The pair dominated the field, winning 25 of 32 races and one world championship each.
Despite their success, Prost and Senna had contrasting styles on and off the track which led to multiple confrontations, with Prost deciding to leave the team and join Ferrari in 1990.
Ali vs Frazier
Boxing can naturally boast some of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time and the feud between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier defined a golden era of heavyweight action.
The two fighters clashed in three legendary bouts between 1971 and 1975, with Frazier winning the first one before Ali edged the next two.
Ali and Frazier were world champions for a combined 12-and-a-half years, winning 32 title fights between them.
The rivalry ran so deep that it continued into the next generation, with their daughters Laila Ali and Jacqui Frazier-Lyde facing each other in a pay-per-view match in June 2001.
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