Red Socks vs. Yankees. Michigan vs. Ohio State. Federer vs. Nadal.
Rivalries make sports. But what’s the point in only shining light on one per sport?
The Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry in men’s tennis is exhausting. That’s why this week in the Australian Open, I was cheering for Novak Djokovic.
Unfortunately he was ousted in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, but I’m still rooting for him.
A few things about the Serbian who captured the Australian title in 2008: at age four he proclaimed he wanted to be the world’s No. 1 tennis player. He’s won 16 titles, including six Masters Series events and the aforementioned grand slam.
Stocked with this sweet resume, it’s surprising most look at his name and have no clue how to pronounce the mouthful, much less know he’s been the world’s No. 3 tennis player for nearly three straight years.
But Djokovic has remained an anomaly, because come every tournament, sportscasters can’t help but repeat the question: Is it going to be Rafa or the Fed?
Sure, Nadal’s got the customized shoes and muscles. But his spell of injuries in the last year has proven he is not invincible.
Holding the No. 1 ranking, Federer is doing pretty well for age 28. But tennis careers are generally equivalent to those of models – it’s unlikely he can keep it up as he reaches what’s considered “old.”
Before going on, it must be acknowledged that the top two are sickeningly talented. But that doesn’t mean tennis should revolve around their lopsided rivalry (Nadal leads 13 to 7).
Tennis has 14 major tournaments: four grand slams, nine Masters Series events and a Masters Series Cup.
In 2009, Nadal and Federer each won four of these. While this 57 percent combined-wins f is impressively high, there are clearly other hungry players out there.
This is especially true considering Federer didn’t win any smaller titles and Nadal only captured one.
As a competitor and fan of the sport, I do feel lucky to have witnessed the pair’s enviable play.
However, even John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg only met 14 times. Maybe I’ve seen Federer and Nadal face off too much in too few years. Perhaps I’d be more intrigued if one of them had the fire (or fake hair) Andre Agassi brought to his rivalry with Pete Sampras.
Something’s just missing. And it’s making the game a little boring.
Tennis needs someone to step up and inject some life into it – someone else to hold a top-two spot for the first time in four and a half years (except for a period of less than a month last year when Nadal fell to No. 3 when he couldn’t play because of injury).
With Nadal out of the running for the Australian title this weekend, let’s hope it’s an omen that 2010 will be a year to include more than two names in conversation.
The person who needs to do it is Djokovic. Here’s to hoping this happens sooner rather than later.
Emily Regenold is a senior journalism major from Cincinnati. She is the Scout managing editor.
Direct questions, comments and other responses to firstname.lastname@example.org