Rafael Nadal burst onto the tennis scene in the mid-2000s, crashing the one-man show starring Roger Federer. He frequently gave the Swiss maestro a hard time and started to get the better of him.
Many felt as if he had interfered in Federer's ascent to greatness, but Nadal offered a different take on the matter in his book, "Rafa". He stated that had it not been for the Swiss, he could've been the one ruling the game.
"People ask me sometimes whether I feel I’ve spoiled Federer’s party, whether my appearance on the tennis scene might have prevented him from setting more records. To which my answer is “How about looking at it another way? How about it’s me whose party he’s spoiled?” Had he not been around, maybe I could have been world number one three years in a row by 2008, instead of watching and waiting all that time as number two," Nadal wrote on his rivalry with Federer.
The 22-time Grand Slams champion feels that a single player dominating the field is good for the individual, but when there's a rivalry, it's better for the game itself.
"When it’s a procession, as we say in Spain, when one player wins time after time, it’s good for the player but not necessarily good for the game. And I think that, in the end, what is good for the game has to be good for the two of us," he added.
The Spaniard elaborated that his matches against Federer created a frenzy mainly because they ended up meeting in finals, that too of big tournaments like the Majors.
"There’s an excitement generated among the fans when we are about to meet, usually in finals because of our number one and two seedings, that touches us too. We’ve played so many games against each other, so many of them incredibly close and exciting, and crucial in our careers, because often they’ve been Grand Slam finals.” - Nadal stated.
Rafael Nadal had singled out Novak Djokovic as the player to watch out for
While Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer scooped up one big title after another, by the end of the 2000s, a string of new contenders had emerged. The Spaniard felt that among these new players, Novak Djokovic would be the one to defeat him and Federer quite often.
"All this is not to say that there aren’t plenty of other good players out there more than capable of beating us both, and who do beat us both. I’m thinking of Djokovic—especially Djokovic—but also Murray, Soderling, Del Potro, Berdych, Verdasco, David Ferrer, Davydenko," Nadal said on his new rivals.
But the Spaniard stated that he and Federer have stamped their authority on the tour since 2006 and their rivalry has left a huge impact on the fans.
"But the record since I became number two in 2006 shows that Federer and I have dominated the big tournaments, playing against each other in many of the big finals. This has meant, and I think we both sense it, that our rivalry has been acquiring an ever-greater magic in people’s minds,” he added.