2013 was a pretty historic year for the rivalries between Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Mainly for three reasons:
– Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic became joint holders of a pretty special record: their rivalry now holds the Open era record for times two men have played each other. The previous duo to hold that distinction was the Lendl-McEnroe pairing with 36 matches. Nadal and Djokovic matched that number in Montreal, and played each other 3 more times since. Given that one is 27 years old and the other just 26, it’s quite difficult to even predict how many total matches these two gentlemen will play against each other before their careers wrap up.
– By meeting twice within four days at the very end of the 2013 season, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic took their rivalry past the 30 match threshold. Interestingly enough, that remains the closest head-to-head among the trio: Federer’s lead over Djokovic is now down to just one win (16-15).
– The most publicized rivalry in men’s tennis also went past the 30 match threshold: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer played each other 4 times this year, and their total is now the second highest among the three rivalries (32 matches).
It’s staggering to think that the total number of matches from these three very unique rivalries is now at 102. Fans of tennis have definitely been spoiled by this trio.
As far as the 2013 totals, it’s quite fitting that it’s Rafael Nadal who ends with the best record (after all, he’s the only member of the trio to have a positive head-to-head in both rivalries). Here is a little matrix of their results for the season:
Anyway, the point of this post is to showcase the nice work done by our reader Sivaram, who put together some neat charts that help visualize the how the rivalries among this famous triad of our sport have developed over time. So, without further ado, here they are:
Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic (Nadal leads the Head-to-Head 22 to 17)
It’s worth remembering that until Djokovic’s incredible 2011 season, Rafael Nadal had thoroughly dominated their rivalry (the head-to-head was 16-7 in favor of the Spaniard at the end of 2010). Not only that, but Djokovic had never beaten Nadal on clay until 2011, never beaten him in a final, and never beaten him in a Grand Slam.
However, since 2011, Djokovic has won 10 of the last 16 meetings against Nadal, including 3 wins on clay, 3 wins in Grand Slam finals, and most astounding of all, all 10 wins have been in finals (3 at Slams, 1 at the World Tour Finals, 5 at Masters 1000s, and 1 on an ATP 500). And, as some of you might remember, 7 of those 10 wins were in a row.
Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer (Roger Federer leads the Head-to-Head 16 to 15)
As in the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry, Roger Federer got off to a nice lead over Djokovic in their head-to-head: at the end of the 2010 season, the Swiss held a 13-6 advantage in their meetings. However, Djokovic had managed to beat Federer in two finals, and twice at Grand Slams.
But since the start of the 2011 season, Novak has won 9 of their past 12 matches.
Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer (Rafael Nadal leads the Head-to-Head 22-10)
Sivaram mentions the Federer-Nalbandián rivalry, which is rather fascinating: Nalby started by winning their first 5 matches, then Federer won 8 of the next 9, Nalbandián regrouped with two straight wins (during his magical stretch during the fall of 2007), and Federer finished things off with 3 straight wins. Federer reversed another horrible head-to-head during his career: he turned a 2-7 record against Lleyton Hewitt into a thumping 18-8 lead (winning 15 straight at one point).
Alas, like Sivaram said himself, this Federer-Nadal rivalry has been one-way traffic more or less since it began.