In March 2004, the 17-year-old Rafael Nadal defeated the newly-promoted world no. 1 Roger Federer in straight sets in the Miami Masters. It was the first chapter of their incredible rivalry that has been going on for 17 years now, pushing each other to the limits and becoming better players throughout that battle.
Federer and Nadal had their first Major clash at Roland Garros 2005 when the Spaniard added his name to the list of immortals on his debut in Paris. Improving his game on the other two surfaces, Nadal became a legit contender for the GOAT honor, melting the deficit and catching Roger Federer in the previous couple of years.
The Swiss claimed his 20th and so far the last Major in Melbourne 2018, with Nadal and Djokovic winning almost every Major after that to move closer to him in the GOAT race and match his record in 2020 and 2021. At the last year's Roland Garros, Nadal claimed the 20th Major title to match Roger's achievement, standing on the same level with his great rival for the first time and feeling honored and privileged after another perfect run in Paris.
Rafael Nadal said it's an honor to match Roger Federer's 20 Major titles.
Nadal said he has had an excellent relationship with Roger over the years, fighting for the most prominent crowns but always respecting each other.
Nadal had one last shot at that 20th Major at his beloved Roland Garros last October, beating all the opponents and the conditions to lift the 13th Parisian trophy. Nadal outplayed Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes in the final, playing on a high level and leaving world no.
1 far behind. The Spaniard failed to pass Federer in the current season, struggling with injuries and hoping for a fresh start in 2022. Nadal and Federer have not played since Wimbledon 2019, facing each other twice within a couple of weeks at Majors that year and hoping for at least one more match once they both return to action.
"Roger Federer and I have had an excellent relationship for many years; we have great admiration for each other. We have shared many of the most important moments of our careers, competing to the point of creating a rivalry that has surpassed the boundaries of tennis.
We value it and appreciate it in a special way. Tying him at 20 Major titles means a lot; it's a great honor and something beautiful. As always, you have to put things into perspective a bit. We are playing tennis, nothing more.
Life is more pleasant when you have a good relationship with your rivals. Going into the locker room with a lively atmosphere, talking to others makes life more enjoyable at tournaments than extreme rivalries," Rafael Nadal said.