In a countdown of the greatest rivalries in tennis history, Tennis Channel slotted the legendary Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal rivalry at No. 2, with Martina Navratilova vs Chris Evert taking the top spot. Surprisingly though, the Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic rivalry was placed at a lowly No. 10.
Navratilova and Evert won 36 Major titles between them, and were dead even at 18 individually. The duo faced off a staggering 80 times in their illustrious careers, and their intense battles largely defined the late 70s and mid-80s in women's tennis.
"Huge contrasting styles. Obviously, you have Chrissy who loved to hang at the baseline and out-rally you. She was so mentally tough," recalled Tracy Austin, a former American player. "Then you have Navratilova who couldn't wait to get to the net. She wanted to serve and volley, she wanted to chip and charge."
What makes Navratilova vs Evert special enough to top Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal?
While many current tennis fans might consider the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry to be the best the sport has ever seen, the Evert-Navratilova conflict makes a solid case for itself.
In the 12 years following the inception of the WTA rankings, either of these two held the top spot for all but 23 weeks. They faced each other in 22 Grand Slam fixtures from 1975 to 1988.
Navratilova egded the overall H2H, with 43 wins to 37.
"When I played Chris, do I go just down the line or do I try to surprise her cross-court? It's the mental game you play with each other," Navratilova told Tennis Channel.
"All my antennas were up when I played Martina," added Evert. "My alert level was higher than ever. I knew that I had to be in top gear and bring out my A game."
3 current rivalries make it to the top 10, but did Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic deserve to be higher?
The Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal rivalry featuring near the top was a no-brainer. The two arch-rivals have forged several iconic battles over the years - most notably the Wimbledon 2008 final, which is widely considered the greatest match of all time.
Rafael Nadal leads the head-to-head 24-17, but their matches have often been of epic proportions. Many believe that the 'Fedal' rivalry was the definitive tennis story of the 2000s and early 2010s.
Among active players, Serena and Venus Williams come in at No. 6. The two sisters have made history by winning so many laurels for the family on the tennis court - Serena has won 23 Majors, Venus seven. Serena also leads the head-to-head by an 18-12 margin.
Perhaps the most surprising feature of the list was the position of the Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic rivalry. The two youngest members of the famed 'Big 3' trio have played each other as many as 55 times, with the Serb leading 29-26.
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal has produced as many epic matches as Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal, if not more; their 2012 Australian Open match was the longest Slam final of all time. Their rivalry is also closer than the Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal tussle, which is why many expected it to feature in the top 5 (or even top 3) of the list.
Another notable omission is the rivalry between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, which has seen several high-quality matches over the years. The Serb leads that battle too, 27-23, with three of those wins coming after Roger Federer held match point.
Here is the full list as decided by Tennis Channel's panel of experts:
9. Margaret Court vs Billie Jean King
8. John McEnroe vs Jimmy Connors
7. Rod Laver vs Ken Rosewall
6. Serena Williams vs Venus Williams
5. Pete Sampras vs Andre Agassi
4. Monica Seles vs Steffi Graf
3. Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe
2. Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
1. Chris Evert vs Martina NavratilovaPublished 21 May 2020, 15:38 IST