Rafael Nadal has featured in two of the all-time great rivalries. His matches against Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have yielded unthinkable tennis. While the Rafa-Fed duel has seen its best days, each Nadal/Djokovic encounter still holds the promise of something special. Each man continues to wrest the initiative from the other just when one appears to have gained irreversible momentum.
The current world numbers 1 and 2 have played an Open Era record 39 times against each other. When the “Big 4” hang up their rackets, it will likely be the most storied rivalry we’ll ever witness. Still, there has been great tennis and meaningful match-ups all around. Below is a list of the “Big 4’s” record against each other:
Nadal vs. Djokovic 22-17
Nadal vs. Federer 22-10
Federer vs. Djokovic 16-15
Djokovic vs Murray 11-8
Murray vs. Federer 11-9
Nadal vs. Murray 13-5
In terms of raw wins and losses, Nadal vs. Federer and Nadal vs. Murray are the most lopsided. However, Nadal and Federer have played thrilling tennis, and the overall win-loss record doesn’t reflect the quality or closeness of the matches. It is the Nadal vs. Murray match-up that is the glaring weak spot amongst the “Big 4.”
When the two contested the semis of the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in 2011, it appeared Murray had finally arrived and was getting closer to solving his Rafa conundrum. Yet, since that U.S. Open match, they have met only twice with one result being a walkover in favour of Murray. TWICE!!! In spite of all the great tennis we’ve seen over the last two years, this is a big loss for tennis fans.
Both men have managed periods of supreme excellence during that time. However, injuries have robbed us of the two playing each other at their best. Murray ruled Wimbledon and the Olympics while Rafa was injured, and Murray was M.I.A for the latter half of this year while Rafa tore through the hardcourt season.
Djokovic is the man who has had to deal with Nadal and Murray as they excelled at separate times. He bore the brunt of the losses that halted what appeared to be a Federer-esque stranglehold on the game heading into 2012.
2014 could be the year that Murray and Nadal finally cultivate a meaningful rivalry. It’s likely too late for theirs to develop into something akin to what we’ve seen with Rafa-Fed and Rafa-Nole, but it’s one that will enrich the ATP Tour and add to the already insane depth and quality of matches on display.