The Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal “Fedal Wars” are heating up once again. The animosity these two fan bases share with each other is quite stark compared to the friendship their heroes actually have. The fans, though, aren’t looking to make friends with the other side in this rivalry. This one digs deep and in the end there can only be one GOAT.
Last year Nadal’s fans took over this site and countless others I’m sure, and with good cause. With Federer floundering during one of his poorest stretches as pro, Nadal made an historic, if not miraculous comeback from a potentially career-threatening knee injury to finish No. 1. The Spaniard deserved all the acclaim and then some for that remarkable 2013 season.
But with Federer now healthy and growing more and more comfortable with his new, larger racquet and added adviser Stefan Edberg, there’s renewed hope for Federer fans.
And I can sense that’s making Rafa believers very uneasy once again, especially since their guy is now battling a back injury at a time when Roger’s flying high.
Heck, last night Nadal almost lost to a 35-year-old Radek Stepanek (though Nadal fandom tells me Stepanek is playing better than ever because he’s a doubles champion now! What?). And this year hasn’t been as smooth sailing as it was last summer when he tore up the tour.
Nadal is 17-1 in 2014 but his only Top 10 win thus far was against Federer and just one other in the Top 20 (Nishikori). And he struggled in several matches with Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Andujar and Gael Monfils. Even Peter Gojowycz and Tobias Kamke can claim set wins over Nadal this year.
So even though he dominated Roger in Melbourne, he doesn’t seem to be at that level where he was when he won the US Open. (Oh, injuries again?)
Meanwhile, despite the lopsided Nadal loss Federer has already scored four Top 10 wins beating Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray and JW Tsonga.
Of course Nadal hasn’t faced any of them, so it’s not fair comparison. But the fact remains, you could easily make the case that RIGHT NOW, Federer is playing better tennis than Nadal. And that’s something Federer fans haven’t been able to confidently say for quite a while and Nadal followers know it. They see it.
As for the GOAT debate, I won’t get fully into that here, however I maintain that until further notice that (17>13) > (23>10).
Nadal will turn 28 in a few months. We know about his chronic injury issues with his knees and now it’s his back. These ailments unfortunately are just not going to go away, and more than likely they will become more and more nagging as he gets older. That’s just life. But how much longer does he really have left?
In saying that, Nadal missed a golden opportunity at the Australian Open to win that SECOND career Slam. And in the GOAT debate that would have gone a long, long way (I think I called it a “matchpoint” at the time). He won’t have that chance again until next January when he’s a year older and who knows how that back will be or in what shape those darn knees will be in.
Point is, this has to make Nadal fans restless. And what happens if this back continues to bother Nadal during the clay, and Roger wins his second career Slam at the French Open!
I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen, what I’m saying is there is a real possibilty these “Fedal Wars” are only going to get more and more intense and vicious if this current arc continues. So the wars will rage on and battles will be fought. Let’s just try not to get too personal about it. Can we?
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