If you were tasked to name every male tennis player who won a major tournament in the last three years, the list would likely have gone Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, then you’d start trying to make up Eastern European names in hopes of lucking into a right answer (sorry, but there’s nobody in the WTA named “Dverjevicbliczic“). Like it or not, that’s the scope of public knowledge about modern men’s tennis, and Nadal’s recent ownership of Federer has even pushed that rivalry to the sidelines.
So when Federer and Nadal met today in the Madrid Open on clay, Nadal’s most dominant surface, it was pretty much assumed that Nadal would roll. Nadal is still hitting his prime, after all, while Federer seems to have been fading as of late. Not so much, however; Federer rolled, 6-4, 6-4.
Naturally, Nadal downplayed the loss:
“To me, this tournament has nothing to do with Paris. This tournament is practically another surface compared to Paris,” said Nadal, who was troubled with the odd bounces and faster pace brought on by higher altitude. “The conditions favored him more than me.”
But at the same time, the frustration was palpable:
“There are no positives, there is little to analyze,” said Nadal, the 2005 champion. “He broke and broke and I went home.”
If this means the rivalry is back on, this is excellent news for the sport, as Federer and Nadal are pretty much the only two evocative players on the tour. So in a one-on-one sport like tennis (unlike, say, golf), when you only have one evocative player, you might as well have zero. It’s clear that tennis either needs another new superstar or, more reliably, have Federer be declared “back.”
That determination will probably have to wait for the French Open, though.