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Rediff.com  » Sports » Nadal poised to topple Federer

Nadal poised to topple Federer

July 08, 2008 09:54 IST

Rafael Nadal stands on the verge of becoming the best player in the world, even if Monday's rankings showed that he was still number two.

- Nadal, Venus at Champions Dinner

Regardless of the computer reading, Nadal stamped his supremacy over Roger Federer when he ended his Swiss rival's five-year Wimbledon reign on Sunday in a heart-stopping five-set thriller.

In addition to snatching the All England Club crown, the Spaniard also snapped Federer's record streak of 65 wins on grass.

"Whoever wins the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year for me is the number one in the world," said three-times champion Boris Becker.

"The computer just didn't get it yet."

Lest anyone should doubt just how difficult it is to achieve the French Open-Wimbledon double in the same year, Nadal became the first man to pull off the feat since Bjorn Borg in 1980.

With the All England Club defeat coming quickly on the back of his humiliating loss in the French Open final, where a rampaging Nadal allowed Federer to pocket just four games, the Swiss's hold on the top ranking looks extremely precarious.

Federer has led the rankings for a record 232 consecutive weeks, and Nadal has been second for a record 155.

If the computer does not reflect what everyone else can see, its authenticity could soon be questioned, especially since Nadal's haul of six titles in 2008 includes two grand slams and two Masters Series events.

Federer in comparison has won two low-key events but still leads his Spanish tormentor by 545 points in the ATP standings.

SERIOUS SETBACKS

For a man who had won 12 Grand Slam titles in the space of just five years, Federer has had to contend with some serious setbacks in 2008.

Recovering from a bout of glandular fever, he was forced to relinquish his Australian Open crown to Serbia's Novak Djokovic in January and then suffered his Paris nightmare. But nothing will hurt him as much as losing his cherished Wimbledon crown.

"In tennis, unfortunately sometimes there have to be winners and losers, there's no draws" said the 26-year-old, who had been hoping to set a modern-era record of winning six successive titles at the All England Club.

"This is my hardest loss, by far. This is a disaster, Paris was nothing in comparison," added Federer, who will now be looking to salvage his season with victory at the Beijing Olympics and at the US Open next month.

Being part of a match described by John McEnroe as "the greatest we have ever seen" provided little consolation as the Federer-Nadal rivalry came of age.

They had met 17 times before but none of their previous encounters could match the drama, intensity and cliff-hanger ending of the four-hour 48-minute theatre witnessed by almost 15,000 fans lucky enough to hold Centre Court tickets.

Their rivalry has already surpassed that between Borg and McEnroe. The ice cool Swede and fiery American's paths crossed only 14 times before Borg quit.

With Nadal still only 22 and Federer a month shy of his 27th birthday, they have plenty more meetings ahead of them.

BIG OCCASIONS

Sunday's showpiece was their sixth Grand Slam final, already more than between any other pair of men since tennis turned professional in 1968.

On the eve of the final, Federer had said: "I think it's quite incredible actually that we've played each other so many times on big occasions.

"We want a piece of each world, you know, but the other person hasn't given in yet. I think it's a great rivalry."

After Sunday, the Swiss might have had a re-think.

"Probably later on in life, I'll go, 'That was a great match,' shrugged Federer, who now trails their head-to-head 6-12. "Right now it's not much of a feel good thing, or a positive thing...I'm happy we lived up to the expectations."

Source:
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