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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Famous Tennis Rivalries

The game of tennis has seen some memorable rivalries over the years. Here we take a look at nine such rivalries beginning with the one beatween Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. Laver had a long-running rivalry with Rosewall between 1963, when he started out as a pro, and 1976, when both were semi-retired from the main tour. The duo played over 130 matches, all of them as professionals, with some results from the barnstorming pro tours lost or badly recorded. According to "Total Tennis", Laver won 62 of their matches while losing 49. Except the first year (1963) and the last year they played (1976), Laver always had a positive record against Rosewall.

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe met 14 times during their careers with their on-court rivalry highlighted by their contrasting temperaments and styles. Borg was known for his cool emotionless demeanour on court, while McEnroe was famed for his court side tantrums. Their rivalry extended between 1978 and 1981 with the score at 7-7. Because of their contrasting personalities, their rivalry is also known as "Fire and Ice".

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova's 15-year rivalry through the late 1970s and the 1980s is considered to be one of the greatest in tennis history. Navratilova leads their head-to-head 43–37. Evert dominated the early part of this rivalry, but Navratilova slimmed down and improved her game to switch places with Evert in the latter years of this magnificent on-court rivalry. Though Evert re-worked her game to match that of Navratilova's, she never could find the domination that she enjoyed over the southpaw in the initial years of their rivalry.

Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker

Boris Becker (Germany) and Stefan Edberg (Sweden) met 35 times during their careers. Although Becker led their overall head-to-head series 25–10, Edberg won three of their four meetings in Grand Slams. Following his win in the 2009 Wimbledon final, Roger Federer paid the ultimate tribute to this rivarly when he
cited the Edberg-Becker rivalry in Wimbledon finals as his inspiration for choosing to play tennis over soccer.

Steffi Graf and Monica Seles

Steffi Graf and Monica Seles enthralled tennis fans all around the world with their rivalry, which saw the pair square off 15 times with Graf winning 10 of those matches. Selesr played with a two-fisted forehand and backhand and steamrolled her opponents with precise shot making. Graf in contrast had a formidable forehand, which is called as the greatest shot in the history of women's tennis and a sliced backhand in addition to her penetrating serve. The personal relationship between the players suffered after a crazed fan of Graf stabbed Seles in the back. Seles though was able to return to professional tennis following a lay-off after the incident.

Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi

With contrasting styles and temperaments, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi played each other 34 times from 1989 through 2002, with Sampras winning 20 of their matches. In Grand Slam tournaments, they played in five finals, with Sampras winning four. The last match in their rivalry came at the 2002 US Open final. It was their first meeting in the final since Sampras won in 1995. Sampras went on to win the match in four sets and shortly after announced his retirement from the game. Agassi retired in 2006 after 20 years on the tour.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin

Belgian tennis players Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, who are both icons in their country, played each other 22 times on the WTA tour, with Henin having a marginal 12-10 lead. Henin also won all the three times that she and Clijsters met in Grand Slam finals -- French Open (2003), US Open (2003) and Australian Open (2004).

Serena and Venus Williams

Venus Williams has played her sister Serena 21 times in professional women's tennis. Their head-to-head series is at 10–11 to Serena. They are the only women during the open era to have played each other in four consecutive Grand Slam singles finals. They have met in a total of seven Grand Slam finals, equal to the number of finals played by Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and by Helen Wills Moody and Helen Jacobs, but behind the record of 14 finals set by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is considered by many to be among the greatest in tennis history. Nadal leads their overall head-to-head series 13–7. As tournament seedings are based on rankings, 16 of their matches have been in tournament finals, including an all-time record 7 Grand Slam finals.

From 2006 to 2008 they played in every French Open and Wimbledon final, and then they met in the 2009 Australian Open final. Nadal won five of the seven, losing the first two Wimbledons. Three of these matches were five set-matches (2007 and 2008 Wimbledon, 2009 Australian). The 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal has been lauded as the greatest match ever by many long-time tennis analysts. They have also played in a record 8 Masters Series finals, including their lone five-hour match at the 2006 Rome Masters which Nadal won in a fifth-set tiebreak.


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