Friday, January 30, 2009

The Phantom Rivalry


There are eight weeks out of the year that are incredibly special to me. As much as I love the college football season, and the NFL, and baseball, and college basketball, and soccer...well you get the point...there is just something special about four, two-week periods that I pay special attention to. I'm talking about the grand slams of tennis.

It was my first love. I remember watching hours and hours of Wimbledon coverage during summer breaks. I used to stay up all night cheering on Roddick and Sharapova at the Auusie during college. I slide on the court, emulating the stars at the French Open. And there is nothing quite like the atmosphere on Arthur Ashe Court at the US Open when a match goes late into the night.

Tennis players fascinate me. They can play four hour long matches in 110 degree heat, and be ready for another potential marathon just hours later. Anyone who thinks that it's a sport for the fainthearted is sadly mistaken.

I was watching the end of a five hour marathon between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco this morning, and with Nadal eventually winning I realized we were in for another potential gem of a final at the Aussie Open. Why? It's Federer and Nadal one more time.

It's Yankees/Red Sox, Celts/Lakers, Duke/North Carolina, Ohio State/Michigan...well, when Michigan was good. It's a rivalry that many take for granted. Two men, at the top of their game, at the top of their Sport...and two men that have played some of the greatest matches of all-time.

When Federer won 65 straight matches on grass, Nadal was the one who ended the streak. When Nadal raked off 81 straight on clay, Federer was there to take him down. And of course, Nadal was the one who ended Federer's 56 match streak on the hard surface. One or the other is always ready to play the spoiler. Not to mention that Feder has yet to beat Nadal at the French, while the Spnaiard finally snuck past Roger at Wimbledon last year...which some say was the greatest tennins match of all-time.

How dominant have they been? Well, look at it this way, either Federer or Nadal have won 14 of the last 15 grand slam titles. This will also be the first time either have played one another in the Australian Open..and it just happens to be the final.

I'm surprised this rivalry doesn't get more attention. Maybe it's because it's an individual sport. Maybe it's the fact that we are talking about tennis. Maybe for the fact that two are friendly with one another. Or that neither is an American. Whatever the reason, it's not enough to keep them out of the conversation.

Two at the top of their game, with an incredible history that continues to be written year in and year out. And, once again, it's not just a match, it's for a grand slam title. I'll be watching, will you?

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