In March 2004, the 17-year-old Rafael Nadal defeated newly-promoted world no. 1 Roger Federer in the third round in Miami in straight sets. It was the first chapter of their incredible rivalry that has been going on for more than 15 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 a 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 Roger in the GOAT race. At Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal won 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 says he has had an excellent relationship with Roger over the years, fighting for the most prominent crowns but always respecting each other.
After the quarter-final loss at the Australian Open and withdrawal from the US Open, Nadal had one shot at that 20th Major at his beloved Roland Garros, beating all the opponents and the conditions to lift the 13th Parisian trophy.
In the title match, Nadal outplayed Novak Djokovic 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 in two hours and 41 minutes, playing on a high level and leaving world no. 1 far behind. Novak grabbed only one break and suffered seven, unable to find his A-game and pushing Rafa to the limits only in the third set.
Nadal stayed calm and sealed the deal with a late break, catching Roger Federer's record and looking good to pass the Swiss in 2021. "Roger Federer and I have had an excellent relationship for many years; we have great admiration for one another.
We've shared many of the most important moments of our careers, competing against each other 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 means a lot; it's a great honor and a beautiful thing. As always, you have to put things into perspective a little. We're 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.