When will we see the next Federer vs Nadal clash?
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were supposed to meet in this year's Indian Wells semifinal, but Nadal pulled out of the match due to injury. Ever since then, the fans have been wondering when we'll get to see the next installment of the legendary rivalry.
Scheduling, strengths and priorities
One factor that seriously comes into play is the carefully thought out scheduling by Federer and his support team. The Swiss may have decided to play the clay-court season, but his light scheduling - he is only playing the Mutua Madrid Open to prepare for the French Open - limits his chances of meeting the King of Clay.
Assuming they don’t meet on clay, Federer’s priorities will shift to his strengths - which is undoubtedly the grasscourt season. While he plays in Halle and possibly Stuttgart depending on his level of fatigue at that stage of the season, it is safe to say Nadal will only play Wimbledon and no warmup events.
Nadal will put his heart and soul into the claycourt season, and the grasscourt season will always be of secondary importance in that respect. That makes the chances of a grasscourt encounter very slim, although fans would love to see it happen.
A meeting on the US hardcourts could well be a huge possibility. Both players are very skilled on that surface, so a potential Cincinnati Masters showdown could be possible.
As for the US Open, Federer and Nadal have never faced off in New York. The closest they came was the 2017 US Open where Federer was defeated in the quarterfinals by Juan Martin Del Potro, thus denying fans the dream semi-final that they all craved.
There could certainly be opportunities at the close of the year in either Shanghai, Basel or London. That remains a distinct possibility, especially with a smaller field in the knockout competition for both players to overcome.
Nadal's fitness issues
Another factor which will affect whether Nadal and Federer can face off again, is the niggling injuries which continue to plague the Spaniard.
It was his knee that let him down in the Californian dessert recently, but other issues such as hip, back, thigh and abdominal strains have all prevented Nadal from competing non-stop in the past two seasons.
If Nadal were to take a leaf out of Federer’s book and begin to cut back his schedule, or if he simply has to due to injury, the chances of another Fedal encounter may be severely limited.
The twilight years
The Swiss is still going strong at 37, but it is difficult to know if this season or the next will be his last. He still maintains the hunger and motivation to keep on playing, which can only bring smiles to his fans.
Nadal is 32, but as long as Federer is around, he too seems motivated to close the gap on the 20-time Grand Slam champion and add to his astonishing haul of 17 Grand Slam titles.
So although age is a factor, as long as there is hunger and desire, we can expect both to have a say in producing another potential match-up.
Will next season see a Fedal clash?
It’s very difficult to predict what both players’ plans are for the 2020 season. But the two players have predominantly met on hardcourts of late, rather than their strong preferences of clay (Nadal) and grass (Federer) respectively.
Considering how good both are on hardcourts, the surface certainly levels the playing field between the two legends of the sport.
The new ATP Cup may be a chance to face off, but the Australian Open next year could be a genuine possibility. The 2017 Australian Open final between the two was a 5-set classic, so that would be some match if they meet again in Melbourne.
After that there’s Indian Wells or Miami, where the two have enjoyed two 2017 tussles.
Besides the grass or claycourt possibilities, imagine if Federer and Nadal were to meet at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! That would be simply unmissable as it could be Federer’s swansong and his final chance at winning a singles Olympic gold.
Federer may well be enjoying a five-match winning streak against his friend and long-time rival, but it is Nadal who owns the head to head 23-15. In terms of their latest statistics most of them favour Federer, but that will only make the Spaniard fight more to finally have another crack at the Swiss.
Personally, I can see them enjoying a couple more clashes in the near future. But having not played each other for 18 months, every drop of their rivalry must be cherished, as we never know when it will be their last.Published 12 Apr 2019, 21:02 IST