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Is Roger Hiding from Rafa?
Tuesday, 04/24/2018
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The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal has been tennis’ finest and most fiercely fought. These two giants of tennis share 36 grand slams between them and, when then the time comes for the two to retire, they will go down as the greatest male tennis players of any era.

Which order, number one and two, will be is yet to be decided and talk of the rivalry intensifying in the twilight of their careers has picked up again with the news the Fed Express won’t be stopping at any clay court this season. It wouldn’t be the first time the Rolex Monte Carlo-Masters has got underway at the start of the clay court season and Federer hasn't been there.

Federer skips the clay season again
This is the second year running that Federer has decided to skip the clay court season. The Swiss legend will turn 37 in August 2018 and the decision to preserve his body for the tournaments he is favorite for should be seen as a shrewd move. The tennis world has interpreted his decision in many different ways and one question in particular remains, is Federer avoiding Nadal on clay?

Federer may not be avoiding Nadal as much as he is clay, which is a surface he has enjoyed the least amount of his success on. Which prompts further inquiries as to why Federer hasn’t been able to dominate on clay and the only answer that springs up is because one Rafael Nadal hasn’t let him. In fact, Nadal hasn’t let anyone else dominate on this surface which has earned him the title as the King of Clay.

Nadal's clay mastery
Nadal has won ten French Opens and has 52 titles on clay to his name. The Spaniard once went on an 81 game winning streak on clay but ironically was stopped by Federer at the Hamburg Masters in 2007. That was one of the few times Federer has enjoyed success on clay against Nadal. Nadal has yet to be beaten by Federer at Roland Garros and, in general, has been the far superior player on clay.

The head to head record of these two players shows how big the gap on clay is between them. Throughout their careers, Federer and Nadal have come up against each other 38 times. Nadal’s record on clay against Federer reads 13-2 in favor of Nadal but, on grass and hard surfaces, Federer has the edge. The Fed Express has the advantage of 2-1 on grass against Nadal and 11-9 on hard courts against the Spaniard.

In total, out of the 38 times they have played each other, Nadal has won 23 times and Federer 15. The wide discrepancy on the clay surfaces between the two is the reason why Nadal holds a commanding and probably unassailable lead over Federer in their head to head encounters.

Going into the French Open in 2018, Nadal will be favorite to claim another grand slam. There are other players to watch out for at Roland Garros but the Spaniard’s experience will make him the man to beat. If he should win that, the grand slam count between Federer and Nadal will then be down to only three.

How will 2018 play out for Federer and Nadal
That leaves the rest of the season ahead with two grand slams to play. As of the 20th of April 2018, Betway has Federer as favorite to win Wimbledon at 9/5 and second favorite to win the US Open at 4/1. If the Swiss maestro is able to win at least one, then Federer’s grand slam lead will be restored should Nadal win the French Open. Nadal won the US Open last year so there can’t be any ruling him out of even adding two grand slams to his tally this year. It’s safe to say that this famed rivalry is as intense as it has ever been.

The debate over who is the greatest of all time between Nadal and Federer rages on and only once their respective careers come to an end will there be a clearer picture. One thing is for sure is that neither of these two has finished adding silverware to their cabinets. They are remarkable athletes that have been able to perform at the highest level over a long time under intense pressure. They are the masters at coping under pressure and playing the best tennis when it counts. It's all to play for going forward as this acclaimed rivalry enters its final stage.

Is Federer hiding or boxing smart?
There are a few things worth noting that Federer's withdrawal on clay this season have made a lot more evident. To start with, Nadal is going through a remarkable resurgence that has Federer conceding he isn’t going to beat him this late on in his career on clay.

At 31, Nadal would appear to have a few more years in him yet at the top level. If the Spaniard were to win only Roland Garros for the next four years in a row, he would tie Federer’s grand slam record. That is providing Federer doesn’t win another grand slam, which, in all honesty, seems unlikely even at 36 and that may be the reason Federer will go down as the greatest.

During the back end of 2017, Nadal was rightfully lauded for being the man to fly the flag for tennis’ golden oldies but, in February 2018 and at the age of 36, Federer was the man to return to number one in the world. Will Nadal have the same longevity that Federer has had to help him win grand slams late into his career? Federer isn’t hiding from Nadal but simply ensuring there will be enough left in the tank over the years to come to consolidate his position at the top.