Djokovic vs Federer: A lesson in tennis rivalry

Tennis, as John McEnroe had said, is a very lonely game. The players are out there in the middle without any teammates to share their joys and sorrows with. Tennis is thus similar to boxing. It's fighting mano-a-mano, only with racquets in hand and a court separating the prize fighters.

And rivalries in this most primal (Yes, I said primal) of sports in gentleman's clothing are essential to take the game forward.

Fans get hooked on the game through great rivalries. Two people who fell in love with the game thanks to that aspect were Roger Federer and I. Yes, Federer and I have something in common. Both of us were attracted to the game of tennis thanks to the rivalry between Messrs Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. I remember watching the two battle it out on the greens of Wimbledon and, like Federer, cheering for 'Boom Boom' Becker against the graceful Edberg.

Federer, Djokovic
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will renew their rivalry today on the grass-courts of Wimbledon. Pic/AFP

Every generation has seen great rivalries and they have contributed to not only the game, but the legend of the players. The rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic is the latest in this never-ending saga.

Djokovic has said that his rivalry with Rafael Nadal that is currently dominating tennis can only be good for the game. And that is true, even though I cannot empirically prove it. The artistry that both players bring to the court is sure to create another Roger Federer.

Since 2011, Djokovic has usurped the position of Federer as Rafa's arch nemesis.

Djokovic and Federer will meet on Friday in a delectable Wimbledon semi-final. And the shock elimination of Nadal in the second round means that the Centre Court match will become the ‘de facto final’.

Both are Wimbledon heavyweights, with Djokovic being the defending champion and Federer a six-time winner at the All England Club. Federer's last Wimbledon title came in 2009 and he will be looking to claim his seventh to tie with Pete Sampras.

Though Federer has a 14-12 head-to-head record against Djokovic, the Serbian has been unstoppable in recent times. He has lost just once in the last seven encounters between the two.

This is the second time they are meeting in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam in the space of a month, having faced-off at the French Open last month. That encounter saw Djokovic defeating Federer in straight sets. Also, the World No 1 has lost just one set in the tournament till now.

Ultimately, Djokovic-Nadal-Federer are the three musketeers of modern tennis and their on-court rivalry bodes well for the game.

 Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker

* Friday's semi-final will be Djokovic and Federer's 27th encounter.


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