The rivalry of Federer and Nadal, which will see another episode tomorrow at Centre Court, has unanimously been declared to be the greatest of our times. Jabberwock calls it the “Channel Slam” as the Federer v Nadal has now graced the French Open and the Wimbledon Open for three consecutive years.
I was going back in my memory bank to recall other such great rivalries between two individuals. In tennis itself there have been many, in recent times Sampras v Agassi, Becker v Edberg, Graf v Seles, Borg v McEnroe, McEnroe v Connors, etc.
In other sports, two that come to mind immediately (given that I am not a big sports junkie) – Kasparov v Karpov at the World Chess Championships in the eighties and Prost v Senna in Formula 1 again in the eighties onto the early nineties.
I went on the web to check for details. From 1984 to 1990, Kasparov and Karpov played five Championship matches, a total of 144 games. The score: Kasparov 21; Karpov 19; Draws 104.
More importantly, Kasparov won four of them, with the first one in 1984 abandoned after 48 games with Karpov leading 5-3 (as per the rules, the first to win six games was the champion, draws do not count. These rules were later altered next match onwards). From chess point of view, these games have had immense interest. However, under the shadow of the old Soviet Union, there wasn’t too much media interest as we have seen in the tennis situation.
Kasparov today is a vocal opponent of Putin
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna came together in 1988 when Senna joined the McLaren Honda team. That year proved to be a comple washout with McLaren winning 15 out of 16 races. Senna became world champion over Prost, the two-time reigning champion. The rivalry was on the race track. The 1988 Portuguese GP saw Senna blocking Prost and almost making him drive into the pitwall. Prost managed to pull out and pull away staying in the lead.
This was followed by the famous collision at Suzuka in 1989, the next year which led to Senna’s licence being suspended. Prost won the championship that year. 1990 Prost switched to Ferrari but the rivalry continued. At Suzuka, the collision was repeated, this time intentionally by Senna. Both were out of the race but Senna who was leading the championship became world champion. He said later
“Why did I cause it?” Senna responded. “If you get f***** every time you try to do your job cleanly, within the system, what do you do? Stand back, and say thank you? No way. You should fight for what you think is right.”
Prost joined Williams and put a clause in his contract that forbade Williams from signing Senna, even for free. The contract clause ended in 1994 and rather than race with Senna as his teammate, Prost preferred to retire.
It all ended in San Marino in 1994. Alain Prost was one of the pall bearers at Senna’s funeral.
So we come back to Federer v Nadal. There are people trying to figure what’s going to happen – who’s got the game, the form, the court, etc. I think it is irrevelant. At the level that they are playing, I don’t think anyone has the least comprehension of what it will take to win. The only people who know how the game is going to go are the two players and they will let us know only tomorrow. So till then, let’s just wait.