The Greatest Rivalry in Sports

By Becker, Boris | Newsweek International, June 22, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Greatest Rivalry in Sports


Becker, Boris, Newsweek International


There have been some extraordinary rivalries in the annals of men's tennis. Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras--although -every player including me knew that on their best day Sampras would be at least 10 percent better. Roger Federer was like that, too, for a while. Tall and stylish, fluent in five languages, he cuts an elegant figure and plays to match--with a picture-perfect technique, perhaps the best of any player in history. But then came the Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, a favorite with the young, with his long hair, sleeveless shirts, strong left-handed stroke and his agile, sometimes astonishing footwork. On the court, the two men are the perfect foils for one another--Mr. Perfect vs. the Young Rebel. Result: over the past several years, tennis fans have been treated to what in my mind is the greatest rivalry the sport has ever seen.

The two men have played one another in 20 tournament finals, of which Nadal has won 13. But there was perhaps no better matchup than at last year's Wimbledon, an all-day affair with a rain delay, in which both fought hard until Nadal ultimately prevailed in five sets. …

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