Indian tennis star Sania Mirza believes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two legends not just because of their fierce rivalry but also because of the mutual admiration and respect they have for each other.
Mirza, who has been a teammate for the legends in the past at International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), recently talked about the pure nature of the legendary rivalry.
“The way they talk about each other on and off the camera is pretty incredible and I’ve seen that being a part of IPTL where I was on Rafa’s team and I was on the same team as Roger in the following or the year before that. They speak so highly about each other," Mirza said on the sidelines of premier of ‘Strokes of Genius’, a documentary currently streaming on Discovery Plus.
“On the courts, of course, everybody knows that they’ve had some incredible matches and have some incredible history, but I think off the court are the moments that make them very special. The respect they have for each other and when they play, you can see that there is so much respect and mutual admiration for each other as well. They bring so much to the game and such different things that our sport really needs both of them," she added.
Meanwhile, ace Indian shuttler PV Sindhu believes the iconic rivalry between Federer and Nadal is the “greatest" not just in tennis but across sports as it has inspired athletes across various sports.
“I believe both Roger and Rafael are legends in their own way and definitely love to see both of them play. I can’t just choose one from both but I think each of them has a different style of play and different game so I would say, both are legends," Sindhu said.
“I think it’s the greatest rivalry not only in tennis but also globally because they are true champions and they have always inspired us in many ways and I would say it is always a treat for us to watch them play," she added.
The Olympic silver medallist also reminisced a moment from the initial days of the Federer-Nadal rivalry that inspired her in her career.
“I was really young then in 2004 in Miami when Nadal won against the then no 1 Federer. When I saw that it inspired me a lot in 2004 when Nadal won against the then world no 1. So, the closest of that for me would be when I won against the Olympic champion Li Xuerui in China Masters in 2012. So yeah, that was the closest for me."
Somdev Devvarman also talked about his greatest career rivalries remembering his time in college.
“For me, my earliest rivalry began in college. I went through the NCAA system and the couple of players that I had played against were John Isner, University of Georgia and Kevin Anderson, University of Illinois and I played for the University of Virginia. So when we were in college we spend a lot of time playing each other and sometimes we got the better of each other. Those matches pushed me a lot personally because we wanted our team to beat their team but also knowing they were the best players in the country and I had a chance to play them and beat them," he said.
The 2008 Wimbledon final which forms the centrepiece of “Strokes of Genius", also happens to be Devvarman’s most memorable piece from the ‘Fedal’ rivalry. He said, “2008 Wimbledon, for me, was one of the craziest and memorable tennis matches. The rivalry still continues in 2020 more than decades from then. These guys are playing at such a high level for such a long time. In our sport, if you look at Roger and Rafa, I think they have been crazy good examples of how to have mutual respect for each other. The way they have handled their rivalry, their competitiveness on and off the court and that has never affected their relationship. I think it is absolutely incredible and something pretty much all of us can learn from them. Tennis is lucky to have them."