Federer v Nadal, King v Court and the 15 greatest tennis rivalries of all time

A look at the best match-ups between male and female tennis players over the past five decades

On Friday, Roger Federer will face old rival and clay-court king Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-finals - the 39th meeting between two of the most successful players of all time.

It is considered by many the greatest rivalry in men's tennis of all time, but one former player has expressed a different opinion; one that can hardly be argued with.

"For sure Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic," Mats Wilander said on Wednesday. "I find that Roger and Rafa's, their rivalry has nearly been overshadowed by the two contrasts in style and the fact that they seem to be so completely different when they are on court."

The seven-time grand slam champion's contention is the Roger-Rafa rivalry has never been evenly matched, even though the players have gone on to have unprecedented individual success during their more than decade-long careers.

"At one point their rivalry was pretty one-sided, and it seems like it's been pretty one-sided on one side for a period and then the other side for a period," the Swede said. "Right now Roger is beating him every time, at least in the last two years.

"So I think that Nadal and Djokovic is probably the most interesting because it's so even and anything can happen on any surface."

Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won a jaw-dropping 52 grand slam singles titles between them, which is a combined tally far superior to what other generations of players have achieved - be it Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi in the 1990s, the Jimmy Connors-Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe triumvirate in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Even the Australian pair of Rod Laver and Roy Emerson did not reach those heights in 60s.

What is telling, and scary for the emerging generation of male tennis players, is how Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have continued to dominate the game into their 30s. The Swiss master is 37 and world No 3; the Spaniard is 32 and No 2; the Serb is 31 and world No 1.

Meanwhile, women's tennis has seen its share of rivalries dating back to the 1960s and 70s, starting with the one between Margaret Court and Billie Jean King. Other notable competitions have captured the imagination of fans, including the one between the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, and Justine Henin-Kim Clijsters.

But the greatest one has to be Chris Evert-Martina Navratilova.

Find out our 15 favourite rivalries and why by scrolling through the photo gallery above. To move on to the next position, click the arrows on the photo, or if using a mobile device simply swipe.

Updated: June 6, 2019 04:25 PM


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