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Analyzing two great modern day rivalries

In every sport there are, and always have been rivalries. These rivalries, however, become a wee bit legendary when it comes to sports like soccer and tennis. Although being completely different in the sense that one is a team game and the other is not, there is an intriguing similarity between masters who are at the zenith of these particular sports.

The human mind, given any two quantities, is one that always strives to compare, draw similarities and arrive at conclusions. This is pretty much the reason I couldn’t stop myself from comparing sports’ current and most well documented rivalries. The first concerning a certain Roger Federer and a Rafael Nadal. And the second between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It would be less than amateurish to state obvious facts and gasp in awe at the humongous number of records these four individuals share among them. As the cliché goes, records speak for themselves. There lies a deeper, much less apparent congruence here, which deals more with the persona of these famous protagonists.

Both the rivalries in a certain sense portray a battle between two very different warriors. On the one hand you’ve got the calm and graceful artwork of Federer, which in a lot of ways, is comparable to the magical runs Messi time and again conjures up. There is an aura of effortlessness with which a one handed Federer backhand seems to just catch the line from an improbable angle, much the same way as Messi leaves six defenders in the wake, without apparently doing anything moderately extravagant except gliding through the air. At times, they look like they have a gift from up above and nothing can stand in their way. Inhuman, alien and extra-terrestrial: such are the words that befit them. To top it all off, they also happen to be the most likeable and nicest gentlemen on and off the field, preferring to lay low and live whatever privacy are given with a great sense of dignity.

Let’s move on to the other pair now, two individuals, although being highly talented, somehow they give you the impression that they’ve had to work much harder. Two men, seemingly without any special gifts from above, although filled excessively with fighting spirit and determination. They appear mortal, more human, being more prone to errors, inconsistency and definitely sport louder attitudes. An analysis comparing Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal reveals that they share a similar somewhat cocky nature, a bull like aggression, apart from a well chiselled and jealousy inducing physique.

Perhaps favourable personalities are the main reason it’s easy to start respecting and backing a Federer, a Messi or a Tendulkar rather than acknowledging Nadal’s brute power or Cristiano’s bullet freekicks and eccentric temperament. The same goes with criticism too. A blip from Roger or Lionel would mean nothing more than an off day and that the Gods were taking a break, but when Cristiano would miss a sitter and squat on the surface in disbelief, over confidence would be the most popular hashtag on twitter.

Now the purpose of this exercise, if summed up rashly and insensitively in a couple of words, would point to the age old hero v/s villain rivalry. And this is something really unfair. For, Nadal and Ronaldo should be heralded as heroes themselves, standing up to the best and sometimes even bettering them. Nadal is widely regarded as Federer’s nemesis, and although the same cannot be said of Cristiano, he deserves his fair share of the spoils for beating Messi to the Pichichi and in the process, scoring an astounding 40 goals last season.

All said and done, at the end of the day, although comparisons are good and a part of human nature, one shouldn’t dwell excessively on the findings here. One must understand the fact that all four of these modern day marvels are well and truly head, shoulders and torso above the rest of the pack. Yup, that was the case until a couple of years ago. A joker then came along and altered a few things.

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