"If Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are still winning I think there’s something wrong," said former World No. 1 Marat Safin. Throwing light on the domination these two legends have had in the history of tennis. Let's roll back to the start of the 2017 season, where both Federer and Nadal were written off, forget getting to a Grand Slam final.
The Swiss maestro had taken a break in the mid of the 2016 season to give his body some rest and allow enough time to recover for the 2017 season. And Nadal's never-ending knee injuries saw him have an abysmal 2016. But the two bounced back and bounced back how!
Federer and Nadal split the Grand Slam titles, winning two each. The 37-year-old won as many as seven titles despite missing the whole of the clay court season. And it was a good decision by Federer to skip the clay season as the 'King of clay' was in sublime form, winning all the clay court tournaments -- but one-- in the calendar season.
It all began in the month of January where Federer, who started the year as World No. 16, went on to defeat Nadal at the Melbourne Park, his first Australian Open title since 2010. It was as if the evergreen Federer came out of his hiatus rolling back the years. His moments on the court was swift, agile and he was moving pain-free. Federer even defeated his biggest nemesis Nadal in all the finals they played in the 2017 season.
"I’m out of words and Rafa said so many great things. I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback. I don’t think either of us thought we’d be in the finals when we were at your academy four or five years ago. I’d just like to thank my team. It’s been a different last six months. I didn’t think I was going to make it here,” said Federer.
There it was, Federer won his 18th Grand Slam title, aged 35.
The stage then moved to Wimbledon. Considered as one the most prestigious of the Grand Slams, the stage was set for Federer to add to his tally of his 18 Grand Slam titles. Everyone tipped Federer to lift the Wimbledon, even the promos suggested the same. The road was not easy for the Swiss. But the wizard that he is, he streamed past a teary-eyed Marin Cilic, to be on seventh heaven, winning the 2017 edition of Wimbledon.
And then there was another Grand Slam title added to Federer, making it his 19th overall.
Then came the season of clay. And the 'King of clay' stood up and stamped his authority, instilling fears in his counterparts. So much so that, Federer opted to skip the whole of the clay season, including the French Open. The Spaniard went on to win all the clay titles, barring the Rome Masters.
Then came the French Open. A Grand Slam, that the southpaw had won for nine times before 2017. Going into the French Open, the 31-year-old was tipped to win the clay Grand Slam. Having won the event nine times, Nadal knew the courts and the conditions like the back of his palm. The beast came out roaring. He went on to win the French Open for an unprecedented 10th time, making him the only player ever to win a Grand Slam 10 times!
"I play my best in all events but the feeling I have here is impossible to describe and you can't compare it. The nerves and adrenaline I feel on this court is impossible to compare. It's the most important event in my career," said Nadal after lifting the La Coupe des Mousquetaires (The Musketeers' Trophy).
Nadal stamped the authority over the world as to who the true 'King of clay' really is.
Then came the US Open. The last Grand Slam of the season. Federer went down in the quarterfinal stage, losing to Juan Martin del Potro in a pulsating four-setter. While, Nadal defeated the Argentine, in four-setter to make the final of the 2017 edition of US Open. Nadal broke no sweat in defeating South Africa's Kevin Anderson to take his 16th Grand Slam title. With Federer winning two and Nadal just one, it was only poetic justice that Nadal won the fourth.
And there it was. Federer-2, Nadal-2.
Entering 2017, Federer had not won a Grand Slam in almost five years while Nadal had not won a Grand Slam in three years. 'Fedal' were considered essentially done as title contenders. And yet! And yet! As we come to the end of 2017, both roared back in style to redefine the prowess, the greatness that 'Fedal' are!
For all those who say, "Wine ages better with time." For once, just once, watch Federer-Nadal play. Watch them roll back the years, the rivalry and the drama. You will know for sure, "Nothing ages better than 'Fedal'! Not even wine!
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).