Would you prefer if there was bad blood between Rafa and Roger?


By Scoop Malinowski

The rivalry of Federer vs Nadal is one of the greatest in tennis and perhaps sports history. These two titans have had dozens of epic duels on all surfaces in just about all of the biggest arenas of tennis.

Yet not once has there ever existed even a hint of any dislike, resentment, personal grudge or anger between the two. Their battles have always been the utmost displays of fine sportsmanship meshed with violent, beautiful tennis pitting a bloodthirsty bull against the greatest matador of all time.


But how much more interesting, more intriguing would this rivalry have been if the two detested each other? What if there was a healthy grudge and tension between these two ultimate champions?

Wouldn’t it have been so cool to see Federer try to lecture Nadal on the court about taking too much time or grunting too loud, pointing his finger inches from his face?

Wouldn’t it have been thrilling to hear Federer call Nadal a pusher with a bunt backhand?

But no, there has been no psychological drama at all between Roger and Rafa.

They will both try to meet each other again this week in London at the World Tour Finals, and Nadal once again spoke kindly about his friendly nemesis. “No I don’t need to beat Roger for good confidence,” Nadal said. “I’ve won enough to be confident. If I play him here it would be great to finish the year playing him again to give me another chance (to win the WTF for the first time).”

“We cannot forget that we played all the times (in 2017) on surfaces that he likes more than me. I just accept that and find different ways to approach the match and if that happens (in London), I’m healthy enough so I hope I have my chances.”

It all makes you wonder how different tennis would have been in the previous era if McEnroe, Connors and Lendl all adored each other like Fed and Rafa.

Borg and McEnroe was a superb rivalry based on clash of styles and deep mutual respect. We can only wonder when, of if, there ever will be another era where the top guns dislike each other to the point that it makes the matches additionally fascinating to watch.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · November 11, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I like the rivalry the way it is but it would be an added bonus if they did have a spat or a verbal clash every now and then, and then patched up their differences. :)

  • Hartt · November 11, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    You just want drama. :) I think there is tons of drama in the matches themselves, and the enjoyment of watching these two amazing players being pushed to play their best against each other.

    Each of these two players can appreciate how great the other is in a way that no one else truly can. I think that the genuine respect and liking they show for one another adds to the story, not detracts from it. There is enough antagonism in other areas of our world, so I am more than happy to have an escape from that when watching tennis.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Hartt – So agree :)
    Scoop – people are what they are, no point in wishing they were something different. Just appreciate what’s there.
    Sometimes I feel you want tennis to be like boxing, with all those staged and fabricated, and now and again genuine, antagonisms.
    But it isn’t, thank heavens.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 2:39 am

    Off topic but this is newest thread.

    I noticed Pat Cash with Coco in Fed Cup. Is it usual for personal coaches to be around at Davis/Fed Cup ? I’ve never seen them before but maybe I wasn’t looking.

    If every player’s coach turned up you’d have pretty big teams I imagine :)

  • Hartt · November 12, 2017 at 7:31 am

    They sometimes have personal coaches at Davis Cup, so suppose that is true for Fed Cup as well. The US team probably figures they need Cash to help keep Coco in check, mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately, from my point of view, Coco just eked out a win in the first set TB and is doing well in the 2nd set.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Yes – I wanted Belarus to win but that is a big ask without Azarenka.

    I was interested to read CoCos comments about her first match – she said she was ‘using the emotion of the crowd’ or something similar. I think CoCo listened to Julia Goerges and figured out she could do the same thing. She wouldn’t have thought that up on her own :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Nice points. Tennis greats today show the world how to be.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I remember when Billie Jean King didn't want her Fed Cup players to have their personal coaches around and it caused a big commotion with Capriati and her dad and Jennifer had a big fued with King that weak and spoke some very harsh words at King. Times have apparently changed.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Capriati talking back to BJK ? Tut tut.

  • Hartt · November 12, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Doubles news: An upset at the WTF. Harrison/Venus just won over Kontinen/Peers in SS, 6-4 and 7-6 (10-8). The US/New Zealand team has been doing very well. Maybe Ryan Harrison has a future in doubles.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    She said F u to BJK. Major feud. Just read it in an old Tennis Week issue.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; Harrison also has a future in singles! He won Memphis this year and got his ranking back up to the top 50. He can go higher next year.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

    While everyone was watching Sock/Federer, in Belarus Stephens loses for the 2nd time and it’s a decider. Belarus have done very well.

  • Hartt · November 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Lol, did not mean to put down Harrison. Meant he could do well in doubles along with his singles.

    Fed just had a fairly straightforward win over Sock. Jack did not play that badly, outside of too many DFs, and did get it to a TB in the 2nd set, but Fed was not really pushed in the match.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 12, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I think in America where everybody hates each other and prefers confrontation to contemplation, it would be better for them to hate each other – better in terms of ratings, attention, everything. In other parts of the world which seem to be more peaceful in nature, they like it the way it is.

  • Hartt · November 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    It looks like the US has a good chance at taking the Fed Cup. The American doubles team of Coco and Shelby Rogers won the first set. It is on serve in the 2nd. At least the doubles is not a dead rubber, as it so often is for Fed Cup.

  • catherine · November 12, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    US seems to be on track to win. But how much difference Azarenka would have made I’m not sure. The singles players did their stuff.

    Stephens should take a long rest and get fit. She’s done nothing since the Open.

  • GameSetAndMath · November 12, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Nope, I like the Roger-Rafa rivalry as is. There is no need for trash talking and bad mouthing. We have too many few examples of that. Having it the other way is rarer and so I like it, not to mention it sets a good example.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Duke, everybody does not hate each other here in USA but the media is constantly inciting racial division and hatred, constantly. It's their agenda. But there actually are nice stories like this one: Though the US media will probably ignore this in favor of trying to find and blow up another cop killing a thug story to incite more racial division. It is nice to see how tennis is so fair and cleanly contested nowadays and for my Facing Sampras book one player said he felt Pete was the one who changed the image of tennis and then Fed and Rafa follow Pete and Andre's example. I thought it was a very good point. The player who said this was Sammy Giammalva Jr, who played Pete in his very first pro match in Philadelphia in 1988.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Sloane looked heavy in the pre match photos I saw, as if she has not been training hard. Didn't see any video of her two Fed Cup losses though.

  • GameSetAndMath · November 12, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Andre was badmouthing about Pete (specifically his tipping habits) with mike on while playing exho. Pete and Ande cannot be called setting an example.

    Further, not trash talking is one thing and not talking anything meaningful at all is another thing. Pete is very boring and stoic personality.
    Rafa and Roger both talk to the press in an interesting manner, but without trash talking each other. That is why they are the new breed
    and not following the example of Pete/Andre.

  • Hartt · November 12, 2017 at 5:48 pm

    On a totally different topic, some time ago we were talking about players who hung in there, year after year, even when they weren’t getting good results. Filip Peliwo was mentioned. I have to admit I had totally given up on Peliwo, he was a very successful junior who seemed unable to make headway as a pro. But by beating Kudla in the Knoxville final today, Filip will finally make the top 200. He is now at No. 195 in the live rankings, just 1 spot ahead of fellow Canuck Brayden Schnur. Peliwo went up 84 spots, his ranking was so low he had to qualify for Knoxville.

    Peliwo is now 23, will turn 24 in February. I know not all successful juniors make it to the pros. (Filip won 2 junior Slams and made the final of the other 2 in his last year as a junior.) I could never understand why his pro career was so very poor, not even making the top 200. Now that he has finally achieved that, wonder if this is the start of moving up the rankings, or just an aberration.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Gamesetmath; Pete and Andre had no issues when playing and they did not take cheap shots at each other in the media, That exo incident at Indian Wells was an isolated incident, for the most part their entire rivalry was very clean. I disagree with the notion of saying Pete was boring. Greatness is never boring. Pete was low-key but he gave us some of the most incredible matches in history – the Corretja thriller at US Open, the Courier clash night match in Australia QF, the heroic Davis Cup weekend in Moscow where Pete won three matches and was struggling physically (unless he was faking those cramps?). McEnroe also said Pete said I love you to him during their Davis Cup doubles match vs Switzlerland in Texas in the Final. Pete was not boring at all, that is a myth. Borg, Laver, Federer, Evert are not smeared as "boring" today so it's unfair to call Pete boring. Pete did it his way and he was one of the greatest champs in history. I even got some quotes this past week from Lennox Lewis who had huge respect for Pete, they both ruled their sports at the same time, and said he followed Pete's career and "took notes." Some called Lennox boring too but that was just nonsense. Like I said, GREATNESS is never boring. BTW you will love my Facing Sampras book which will be published within weeks.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I saw Peliwo matches this week on the Livestream vs Fritz and an earlier round and he looked better than I expected, hitting hard, returning hard, more power than I expected from a smaller guy (has to be under 5-11). Definitely a huge, career changing win by Peliwo to win Knoxville unseeded out of nowhere.

  • GameSetAndMath · November 12, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Pete's game is not boring. It is just his personality (assuming we can claim he has one) that is boring.

  • Ricardo · November 12, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Fedal simply don't have the personality to insult each other. The harshest it has ever been is when Rafa publicly criticised Federer for not backing him up about the ranking system changes or something when they were both at the players council. Aside from that, nothing bad verbally ever came out no matter how heated their matches got.

    btw Sampras was low key but he did have a go at players other than the Agassi incident, like when asked by media about difference between him and Rafter and he said the difference was '10 majors'……Pat Rafter was the classiest of them all and never trashed anybody, in fact coming from poor family he donated all his USO prize money to charity, that is an unbelievable level of generosity.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 7:02 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Pete avoided controversy. His whole career is class. I have read a lot of his old transcripts of interviews through his career and he was not boring, he told it like it was. Like he said, he was there to play tennis on the court, "not be a stand up comedian."

  • Ricardo · November 12, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    well it isn't classy to insult Rafter, who is a real class.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 12, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Rafter was a class act too but I learned some inside info that he would pester Pete in the locker room trying to force him to talk when he didn't want to. Literally getting in his face. A top player told me this. It will be in Facing Sampras. So Pete had some hot words for Rafter, they had a good rivalry going there for a while. Thought Pete was too boring to say anything offensive? Fed yelled at Djokovic's parents to "SHUT UP" and he also yelled once at Uncle Toni "Is that good enough for you?" Fed was also a major racquet thrower.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 2:36 am

    We talk about various players being ‘boring’ etc but we’ve really no right to say this kind of thing – we don’t know them personally, in their private lives away from the court. They may be far from boring and just not extraverted or given to expressing their feelings to the press etc or wearing their hearts on their sleeves and being otherwise accessible to everyone.

    Players who are outgoing to the media are always popular; same with those who scream and yell and smash their rackets.

  • Thomas Tung · November 13, 2017 at 3:34 am

    Facing Sampras? I’m definitely looking forward to that one, Scoop! Sampras wasn’t my favorite player when I started getting into tennis (Edberg and Becker were my picks), but Pete grew on me over the years, and I was solidly in the Sampras camp by 1998. Kafelnikov was, and still is, my favorite player of all time, though. Hard for me to explain, but I just enjoyed watching him play.

    As for the media, I was very impressed by how Shapovalov conducted himself in the press room after his loss to PCB at the US Open; very smart, calm, and has this magnetic charisma about him, not too unlike a certain R.Federer (I watched the entire Q&A). Apparently Fed fans need not fear, since Denis the Menace is here.

  • Ricardo · November 13, 2017 at 5:54 am

    The unspoken rule, what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. There is no way one can justify that as classy when you insult in public. Fed yelled at Djokovic's parents for a reason, maybe they yelled too loud or whatever, but it's fair and square as it's all on court. Racquet thrower he was, long time ago, but i can't see that it's really unclassy as it's not the least bit mean-spiriited. But to directly trash another's career with such verbal venom is very mean spirited, simple as that.

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 6:26 am

    I think it is a bonus for the media and fans when a player has that “it” factor that makes him or her especially appealing, like when Thomas Tung says Shapo has “magnetic charisma.” But at the same time, players need to be themselves, and not put on a fake persona to try to be “interesting.” I liked Sampras a lot as a player and was never bothered by the fact he was not a colourful character. His superb tennis was more than enough.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Hartt – yes, from what I saw of Sampras I liked him too. I admired his style and his total concentration on what he was doing.

    You can usually tell when people are acting up on purpose. Eg, I noticed Kerber smashed her racquet in Zhuhai, a unique occurrence for her. That was a genuine moment of frustration and not a performance put on in order to seem more ‘interesting’.
    Serena’s smashed a few but I’m pretty sure she knows smashing racquets is expected of her :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Pete was no more boring in interviews than Rafa, Fed, Murray or anyone really. He just came in and gave you straight answers. On the court he played to win. How could anyone be bored by the courage of his incredible serving under pressure, relentless forward thrusts, and his natural elegance? Pete had the will and the game to win seven Wimbledons. How could anybody even dare to call that boring? If I was police I'd give you a summons for slander!

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 8:10 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Thanks Thomas, pretty sure you will enjoy Facing Sampras, hope you got Facing Federer in mail for winning that contest. Kafelnikov was a great player who I felt should have done better and won more majors. I guess winning two was quite impressive in the era he did but with a little more burning desire like Nadal or Hewitt I think Kafelnikov could have won a lot more. But there was always a sense he didn't always care about winning the big tiles, with the Russians you wonder if $ is/was the higher priority?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Ricardo it was not an insult it was the truth, Pete was far more accomplished and decorated a champion than Rafter. All great champions have some arrogance, some more than others, and Pete's arrogance was visible in that heat of the battle, slight putdown of Rafter.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; Pete patterned his competitive style and court demeanor after the great Aussies, Laver and Rosewall. So if anyone wants to criticize Pete as boring then you have to put the blame on Laver and Rosewall because that's who he emulated and respected the most.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Serena smashes racquets sometimes because her rage gets out of control and she simply has to vent. She doesn't do it to live up to fans expectations :) Believe, me, as a guy who has cracked about a dozen or two frames in my life, I KNOW :)

  • EquineAnn · November 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

    If you want to talk about the biggest arguers in tennis you need to talk about John McEnroe. We always used to watch him play. He was always arguing with the umpire. His main catchphrases were "You cannot be serious." & "That wasn't out. That was in." He always used to throw his racquet too. I used to find his arguments almost as entertaining as his game.

  • Hartt · November 13, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Scoop, am more than happy that Pete based his play and demeanor on Laver and Rosewall. My tennis fandom goes in a straight line – Laver, Edberg, Sampras, and Federer. And now Raonic – obviously he is not in the same league as these great players, but he did model his game on Sampras, so he is a continuation of that line.

  • Joe Blow · November 13, 2017 at 10:05 am

    You can’t judge the pre internet, pre tennis channel eras. Nowadays, you can see every match, read every transcript from pressers. Tennis players are brands now, before, they were just Tennis players.
    A guy like Vitas G, would have been extremely popular in the internet era, he owned NYC nightlife, stylish game. The Swedes from Borg on,were grabbing Majors, they never threw rackets, argued with umps, or linesmen. Connors and MAC were not the norm, and the contrast with the well behaved grew Tennis in the late 70’s into the 80’s.

  • Busted · November 13, 2017 at 10:18 am

    No, I wouldn't prefer it if there were bad blood between Roger and Rafa. For one thing it says a lot about them as PEOPLE that they're able to be friends while being rivals. Isn't there enough animosity in sports – and life – in general? Isn't it great for tennis that the two biggest stars (4 if you count Murray and Djokovic) are gentlemen who conduct themselves with respect, honor and dignity (most of the time!) toward their opponents and peers? Sometimes it's just nice to know that nice guys do finish first. Would it really have been better if they'd had the combative attitudes of Lendl & McEnroe, Marcelo Rios, Conners, Nastase, Thomas Muster, Kyrgios, Tomic, etc. Tennis is already seen as a sport of rich, white elitists (like golf) so do they really need the top stars to be seen as entitled jerk multi-millionaires who can't get along? I'm sure Federer and Nadal have had their disagreements (see the whole 2-year rankings that Nadal was pushing for and Federer disagreed about) but on the whole, and I'm no Nadal fan, it's nice to see grown men who aren't in a constant pissing contest because their egos are out of control.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Joe – The main difference is that today we’ve got more information, too much, saturation level. And Vitas was a brand, believe me – so was Connors, so was McEnroe. Borg – what was Bjorn if he wasn’t a brand ? So was Chris Evert come to that.

    In the days before information overload players stood out more.
    Yes, you can read every transcipt but so what ? Read too many and you’ll find your brain going numb.
    Fame, in all areas, means something else now. And as I’ve said before here a while back – maybe Andy Warhol was right.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Agree EquineAnn, McEnroe had great talent and his colorful tantrums and rage at officials and certain opponents added value to the theater. I think if Fed and Rafa had some tension it would also add value and enjoyment to the theater.

  • Busted · November 13, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I remember hearing about this back in the day. Capriati, as we all know, had some substance abuse and anger issues. Remember when she and Serena Williams would get into it? I used to scream at the tv, "HOT DAMN! GIRL FIGHT!" LOL! :lol6: (SInce I'm a woman this was ok. But…for the record? It's NOT ok if a guy does it! LOL!) Anyway…CapriatiSerena was an interesting matchup to say the least. Back in the day when Serena had actual rivals who could beat her and not all of these mediocre players who couldn't even tie Justine Henin's shoes. Sadly the current state of women's tennis is the future of men's tennis without the Big 4. Lots of average players playing average, boring tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt; thanks for mentioning Raonic, so he does not fall completely off the tennis scene radar. You have to wonder if Raonic has lost his belief and will fade into a Hanescu, Karlovic level player. Or can he hang in there and be a Berdych, Isner level threat?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Joe; Controversy sells and today in the ATP there is a severe shortage of controversy. The incredible talent and characters in ATP have grown the sport and are sustaining the sport now. Imagine if the ATP had 3-4 controversial stars?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 13, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Busted, are you saying you would not like to see a fiery, rebellious, me against the world, COME ON screaming teenager like Hewitt bursting on the scene? You don't think a villain such as the young Hewitt would be fantastic for tennis? I would love for a young gun rebel like the young Hewitt to bust through the door and show little respect ON COURT for Fed Rafa and the elites. Just like how Hewitt did it. Tennis needs that kind of revolutionary force right now IMO.

  • catherine · November 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

    Busted – they’re not all boring, or mediocre. It wasn’t all a Golden Age back in the day either. And Serena’s got better over the last few years. The others haven’t got worse.

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