Career head-to-head: Nadal leads 23-15
Grand slam tournaments head-to-head: Nadal leads 9-3
Grand slam finals: Nadal leads 6-3
Grand slam titles: Federer 20, Nadal 17
Arguably the two greatest tennis players ever, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have reigned atop the game for more than a decade and given fans countless memories during their 38 head-to-head matchups. Imagine if the Borg-McEnroe rivalry had gone on for 15 years instead of three. That gives you an idea of what these two champions have brought to the sport with their sustained excellence.
Their rivalry likely also featured the greatest Grand Slam final in history — greater even than Borg and McEnroe’s 1980 classic. The storyline heading into the 2008 Wimbledon final made one wonder if these two champions could live up to the billing, but somehow they did that and more.
The two already had won 14 of the past 16 Grand Slams and were meeting for the Wimbledon title for the third consecutive year, with Federer looking to top Borg and become the first man ever to hoist the trophy on Centre Court for the sixth consecutive year. After nearly five hours of play that was interrupted by rain delays, Nadal prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7.
What makes the rivalry all the more astounding is that a decade after the Wimbledon classic, they are still staging nail-biting duels, including the 2017 Australian Open final in which Federer prevailed in five sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, despite being down two games in the final set.
We can only hope that Federer and Nadal will continue to defy Father Time for a few more years.