Tennis has always been one of my favorite sports to watch.  It may not be as exciting to some, but once you really get into the game, understand the history and get to know the players and follow the rivalries, then it’s easy to get passionate about it.

I started watching during the time of Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl.  I rooted for Becker.  Then came the Pete Sampras-Andre Agassi rivalry.  I followed every Grand Slam, willing Sampras to break the all-time record for the most number of Slams won.  And he did!  Fittingly, against Agassi at the 2002 US Open.  Sampras retired after that and I no longer followed the tournaments regularly.  Then came Rafael Nadal and his rivalry with Roger Federer.

Their rivalry is very interesting since they are such fierce competitors on-court, yet are very good friends off-court.  It was something that never happened with Sampras and Agassi, considering that they’re compatriots.  What I like about the Federer-Nadal rivalry is the great respect they have for each other, for the game, for their fellow players.  But when they go on court, all that respect goes flying out the window – in a good way.  Especially in the case of Nadal.  As we say in the vernacular, “walang sinasanto“.  He doesn’t care who’s facing him across the net.  His mission is always to demolish, and you can see it in his every move.  Federer’s mission is the same, but he does it in such a contrasting style.  He’s all about grace and elegance; Nadal is all about brute strength.  It’s like watching a match between a ballet dancer and a slugger.

Rafa is now the world number 1.  He won last year’s French Open (demolishing Fed), Wimbledon (against Fed in 5 sets; one of the greatest matches ever), the Olympics, and this year’s Australian Open, again beating Fed in 5 sets – after coming from a 5-hour 5-set match less that 48 hours before!  The next Slam is the French Open, where he’ll most likely win again.  The guy is practically unbeatable on clay, but it’s almost unbelievable how he could also have won Grand Slams on grass and hardcourt.  That’s where he’s one-up on Fed, who has never won the claycourt French Open, just like Pete Sampras.  That’s the barrier to either of them being acknowledged as unarguably the greatest-ever.  Also, how could Fed be the greatest-ever when he has a losing record against the number two guy (well, back then) and he has never won the French Open.  Hmm…I have a feeling that Nadal may even beat him to winning all four Slams.  All he needs now is the US Open, and it’s not impossible, since he has already proven that he could win a hardcourt Slam.

So, on whose side am I on this rivalry?  Rafa!  However, I must say that I have nothing against Fed.  I also love watching him play, I just don’t want him to beat Rafa, hehe!  He can beat everyone else, but not Rafa.  I thoroughly enjoyed their Aussie Open match, and I just wanted to hug them both, especially during the trophy presentation.  They have my vote for the greatest and most ideal rivalries of all-time.