4 of the Greatest Men’s Tennis Rivalries of the Last Decade

If you’ve seen Borg vs. McEnroe, you’d ask yourself: if this is not the greatest tennis rivalry, then what is? Nothing, but perhaps one of these modern rivalries is a forthcoming, movie-screen worthy the tennis world is waiting.

Men’s tennis rivalries are as intense as that of the women’s. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras, Andy Murray, and 2019 Wimbledon men’s singles champion, Novak Djokovic are some of the greatest players in recent history. The Golden Era of Tennis is all thanks to these men.

Each has their fair share of momentous rivalries, though. The majority of which are ongoing rivalries and are listed below.

Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray

Djokovic and Murray had a storied rivalry that started in 2006 with Djokovic’s 14 Grand Slam singles titles as opposed to Murray with only 3. They had seven Grand Slam finals meeting. In the Open era, the Serb and Brit were seeded to meet in the Australian Open finals for four times. 

Nonetheless, their 2012 US Open Grand Slam matchup has been one for the books. The game ended after almost 5 hours, with Murray winning his first major title. In 2013, they met again at Wimbledon that Murray had also won. He was the first Brit to win the London major for the first time since 1936.

Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer

Although Federer has more Grand Slam titles with 20 compared with Djokovic’s 13, Djokovic often prevailed during their head-to-head meetings. Djokovic and the Swiss had a total of 45 meetings.

Dubbed as the male version of the earlier rivalry between Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, the two are the Open era’s hardcourt players. They were the only ones to beat each other in Grand Slam tournaments. Djokovic prevailed over Federer, however, at the 2014, 2015, and 2019 Wimbledon as well as 2011 and 2015 US Open. Federer defeated Djokovic in 2007 US Open, and also in 2008 during the semifinals, which is considered as another classic.

Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal

Interestingly, Djokovic leads their head-to-head career meeting with 27 against Nadal’s 25. On the other end of the court, however, Nadal leads Grand Slam tournaments meetings with 9 to 5, finals with 4 to 3 and singles titles with 17 to 13. Their meetings have been the hardest to predict, experts agreed.

Nadal had 14 more faceoffs with Djokovic than with Federer. Djokovic and Nadal were the two top tennis players to meet in four Grand Slam finals. Nadal won nine of their 14 meetings and four in seven meetings on Grand Salm finals. Their 2012 Australian Open finals was considered as one of the greatest Grand Slam finals at almost 6 hours. Djokovic won in five sets.

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer

Two of the most respected tennis players in the Open era, Nadal and Federer rivalry is an even matchup. Nadal leads Grand Slam tournaments head-to-head meetings and finals with 9 and 3, respectively, against Federer’s 3 and 3. However, Federer has more Grand Slam titles with 20 compared with that of Nadal’s with 17. They had a total of 38 meetings.

Their most epic game was the 2008 Wimbledon final–their third consecutive year. Federer was looking to win his sixth consecutive Centre Court finals trophy, but Nadal won’t let him. Nadal got the better of Federer in a five-set win. Their most recent duel was the 2017 Australian Open final, with which Federer has also won.


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Historic Wimbledon 2019 Finals: Djokovic Defeats Federer

Despite doing everything he could, it turned out Roger Federer has no match against Novak Djokovic with 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3).

The All England Club geared up for an epic match, but it only takes a few minutes before the crowd turned raucous. Nevertheless, Wimbledon 2019 men’s singles final between Djokovic and Federer was the longest singles final in its history. 

The clock finally stopped at 4 hours and 57 minutes. The fifth set alone lasted for more than 2 hours.

‘An incredible opportunity missed’

Djokovic was able to build consistency early on in the first set. Federer, on the other hand, made errors in the third set and tie break. Djokovic was able to save the two championship points, break back and take it to 12-12 tie-break. Djokovic also matched the two tie-breaks earlier.

In the end, Federer failed to convert the two match points he earned during the fifth set. He was a shot away from winning his ninth Wimbledon and 21st Grand Slam title. He would have been the oldest male tennis player to win a major professionally.

Rafael Nadal has 18 and Djokovic, 16 against Federer’s record of 20 singles titles. The final was the Serbian’s fifth Wimbledon title, winning four of the last five of his titles. Also, Federer lost his past five matches against Djokovic in Grand Slams. The last time he defeated the Serbian was at 2012 Wimbledon.

Djokovic said that winning against Federer is “quite unreal.” On the other hand, Federer has this to say: “I will try to forget about this.”

Down in the stats

Winning the finals, Djokovic was the underdog. Federer has 79% first-serve points won against Djokovic’s 74%. He also had 25 aces and 94 winners compared with the Serbian’s 10 and 54, respectively. Finally, the new Wimbledon champion has 204 total points won and 29 total games won against Federer’s 218 and 36.

Spectators at the Centre Court gave Djokovic’s every serve error a standing ovation. He had 52 unforced errors and nine double faults. The crowd even booed him upon questioning a Hawk-Eye decision ruled in Federer’s favour.

Djokovic said that the Wimbledon championship was “the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match” he was ever part of. Not losing faith in his capabilities, he mentioned, “If you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps. When you don’t, then you have to find it within.”

Federer became the first man in recent history who failed to win the singles final after having match points. It is also his second-longest singles final. The first one was against Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon finals. He lost the match too.

However, this is not the first time he only needed a point from victory. He experienced the same against Kevin Anderson in Wimbledon 2018 quarter-finals and Djokovic in 2011 US Open semifinals. 

The one single win he needed didn’t come. True to his words two days before the finals, tennis can “sometimes be brutal” since there is no such thing as draw in tennis. 

Federer also announced that he would skip Montreal and move on with playing in Cincinnati and New York.