Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s rivalry and impact on tennis peerless, says former world No 12

Shahida Jacobs
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the end of a match
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal post-match handshake

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s incredible rivalry as well as the affection and love that people have for them are unsurpassed, according to former world No 12 Feliciano Lopez.

Federer and Nadal along with Novak Djokovic have dominated men’s tennis over the past two decades as they have formed the Big Three, winning 65 Grand Slams between them and setting numerous other records along the way.

Fedal, as Federer and Nadal are affectionately known, initially took tennis to a new level as the duo were at the forefront of the sport for several years before Djokovic joined the party.

Although Djokovic is now the leader of the pack when it comes majors, time spent at No 1 in the ATP Rankings and several other milestones, Federer and Nadal receive more affection from the public and media with Djokovic often portrayed as the villain.

In an interview with Claytenis.com, it was put to Lopez that Federer and Nadal appear to be more loved than Djokovic and probably changed tennis, he replied: “I think so. There is a lot of talk about who is the best ever.

“One is the titles. Another is those who consider who is better based on the emotions the player has been able to bring, what people have experienced while watching the player’s matches on television, the way he inspired future generations.

“I find it difficult to surpass what Federer and Nadal have done for tennis. It is something out of the ordinary. Surely it has been the most incredible rivalry, the most enduring, the one that has been able to inspire the greatest number of people in the world.

“That’s one thing. Another thing is the numbers, the tournaments won, the weeks as number one in the world. That’s a different debate. The affection and love that people have in the world for Rafa and Federer are unsurpassed.”

That does not mean that Lopez does not respect what 23-time Grand Slam Djokovic has done for the sport.

“Djokovic has contributed a lot to tennis. I can tell you that he has always treated me with a lot of respect,” he said.

Nadal has dominated Spanish tennis since he made his breakthrough as a 19-year-old in 2005 with many of his compatriots playing second fiddle.

While some felt overshadowed, Lopez – who made his debut in 1997 – saw Nadal as an inspiration.

“I consider him an inspiration for me and for many others,” he said. “When I started, he didn’t exist. I was lucky to always have one or two Spanish tennis players who were triumphing as an example to follow.

“Then, since Rafa appeared, I have been lucky to know him personally, to live and train with him, to share his triumphs. For me it has been a good fortune to have him so close, to share generation with him.”

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic named the GOAT because of his incredible numbers and caring nature