I remember the days when Federer and Nadal fans would argue for hours on end about which player deserved to hold that elusive and as yet hard to qualify or even quantify title, the G.O.A.T. Miss it? Not really. I always felt like it took away from the shear beauty that was… is their rivalry. And in a way their respective dips in championship form, has given tennis fans in both camps time to really reflect on what these two have given us over the years.
In the advent of Novak Djokovic’s rise as the next dominant champion, and Andy Murray’s newfound mastery of the grand slam tournament, Federer and Nadal have not clashed at tournament finals like they used to. To put it in perspective, the last time Federer and Nadal met at a tournament final, was Rome, in 2013. That’s a long time for these two. It’s also a long time for anyone who has been privileged to witness the sort of tennis they can produce when playing each other.
So what about today’s final was different? There definitely wasn’t as much at stake as some of the great finals these gladiators have given us over the years. Yes, Federer, was chasing his seventh title in Basel and Nadal, his first but it pales in comparison to Federer looking to essentially complete a grand slam or all but ensure a calendar slam. And Nadal winning a maiden title in Basel certainly falls short of the glory at stake when Nadal was trying to bag his first Wimbledon or usurp Federer’s spot as the number one player on the planet. What made today’s final different was the sense of nostalgia and appreciation it brought. Again, we had fire try to melt ice. We had the ballerina try to outmaneuver the bull rider. We had lefty versus righty and forehand versus backhand. Some of the rallies, shot making and intensity shown by these two, left spectators on the edge of their seat.
For once, the talk isn’t about who is the elusive G.O.A.T is. The talk is about the brilliant final that was played and the appreciation for their performance. In the end, Federer grabbed this one, but Nadal sent a clear message to the tennis world. His time is not yet up. They both sent a message with their performance tonight. It’s a performance we’ve seen so much of in the past. With the two lead actors entering their twilight, it’s a performance we may never see again. Let’s enjoy it while we can.