Cawley: Federer-Nadal rivalry is back in full swing

Switzerland's Roger Federer and Spain's Rafael Nadal. (AP)

I’m not really sure exactly how I started to get into watching tennis, but it was clear early on who was going to be my favorite player.

Rafael Nadal came onto the scene at a time when Roger Federer was winning everything and was actually able to beat him. Most notably at the time, Nadal, as just a teenager, was able to beat Federer in the French Open in 2005.

Flash forward 13 years and Nadal just won his 11th French Open title and 17th Grand Slam title overall.

For me, I was always drawn to how he played, fighting for every point and never giving up even when he appeared exhausted. It was a real grinding style, outworking his opponent. In contrast, Federer always made things look too easy.

It also helped that Nadal was the only player able to consistently beat Federer in his prime, who had become someone who was a constant foil to Andy Roddick’s chances of winning multiple Grand Slam titles.

Roddick was the best hope for American men’s tennis to be taken seriously again. There hasn’t been another American since who’s really challenged for major titles.

After watching Federer beat Roddick time and time again in Grand Slam finals, he definitely wasn’t someone I cheered for. Only later on in his career, after Federer started to lose to players other than Nadal, did I appreciate his recent resurgence. It’ll probably be a long time before a men’s tennis player has 20 Grand Slam titles again.

At the same time, Nadal has experienced his own resurgence. For a couple of years there, it was frustrating to watch him continually come up short, going out in early rounds in big championships.

That’s what made this past couple of years so fun to watch. The Federer-Nadal rivalry is back in full swing, with both of them in their 30s, no less, which in tennis is typically the retirement age.

Their rivalry is good for tennis, and something that was missing a couple of years ago when both weren’t winning. As for that never-ending greatest of all time debate between the two of them, I may be biased, but I know who I’m picking.

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