Gareth Messenger - @G_Messenger
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are two of the greatest tennis players to ever grace the game. Their intense rivalry on the court over nearly two decades has been mesmerising, with both outstanding skills and emotional rollercoasters.
Surprisingly the two have only faced off on 40 occasions, the first of those clashes being in Miami in 2004. The great debate amongst tennis fans is who is better?
Nadal has 24 wins to Federer’s 16, but Federer has 20 Grand Slam titles in contrast to Nadal’s 19. It’s an endless debate, like that one in the football world; Who is better? Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?
But what cannot be disputed is Nadal’s dominance on clay. The appointed “King of Clay”. The Spaniard has a staggering 12 titles at Roland Garros alone. 11 time-winner at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and nine at Rome.
It is at Rome, on this day, 14 years ago, where Nadal got the best of his nemesis and secured history in the process. The final of the Rome Masters was set to be a blockbuster, and it certainly delivered.
Federer was eager to avenge recent final losses to Nadal in Dubai and Monte Carlo, but the Spaniard defended his title 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 after a five hour and five-minute slugfest.
The win took Nadal to 53 straight wins on clay, matching Guillermo Vilas' Open Era record. It also put the then-19-year-old level with Bjorn Borg on 16 titles as a teenager.
Nadal continued his dominant run on clay to beat Federer in the French Open final just a month later.