Every competitive sport in human history has had famous rivalries that have attracted fans to the sport simply on their own merit. Baseball has the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. American football has the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. European football is littered with rivalries, Manchester United and Liverpool, Inter Milan and AC Milan, Celtic and Rangers, just to name a few.
The sport of tennis is no different. In the past we’ve seen Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Even the current generation of tennis superstars has produced great rivalries, most notably Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
But many have probably overlooked one of the hottest rivalries in the world of tennis:
Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Roger Federer, from Switzerland, has felled some of the greatest tennis records around. He is tied with Pete Sampras for the most titles at tennis’ most prestigious Grand Slam event, Wimbledon. Federer has more Grand Slam titles than any other player with 17, surpassing Sampras’ 14.
On the other side is Andy Murray. The Scot is often considered a member of the “Top 4” as tennis fans refer to Murray, Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokavic. The four men are consistently vying with one another for the #1 ranking on the ATP Tour. Murray’s tale is one of near misses. His career is full of heartbreak with several Grand Slam finals appearances, but no victories to his name.
These two men have clashed a total of 17 times since 2005 and have developed one of the more memorable rivalries in tennis along the way. Neither man has the fire or edgy nature of John McEnroe; nor do they represent a monopoly on Grand Slam victories like Federer and Nadal do together. What they do bring to the table is a set of 17 clashes that have enthralled us all and seen swings in dominance between the two players.
Over the course of 17 meetings, Andy Murray holds a one win lead over Federer at 9-8. Their very first meeting came at the final of the 2005 Thailand Bangkok Open. Federer emerged victorious in straight sets, 6-3 and 7-5. Over the course of their first eight meetings however, it was Murray that would establish a pattern of dominance in the budding rivalry.
Murray jumped out to a 6-2 lead in victories, thanks in large part to a four match winning streak against Federer that ran from late 2008 into early 2009. The next eight meetings between the two stars would see dominance take a swing in favor of Federer who managed two different three match win streaks on either side of back-to-back defeats against Murray.
The latest meeting between the two men saw Murray finally defeat Federer on a big stage. The two men reached the final of the single’s competition at the 2012 London Olympics. Murray, the hometown favorite representing Team Great Britain, defeated Federer 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 for a three set win and a gold medal.
Murray’s victory exercised recent demons in the rivalry and helped him exact some revenge on Federer. The gold medal game was played at the historic courts of Wimbledon, where just weeks earlier Federer had defeated Murray in the Grand Slam final. In beating Federer in the Olympics, Murray not only managed a rare victory over his rival on the big stage, but also denied Federer the career golden slam (winning an Olympic gold as well as all four Grand Slam tournaments).
Murray has dominated Federer when the two have met on the ATP circuit, leading Federer 5-1 in ATP 1000 tournament meetings. Federer maintains the upper hand when it matters though. Federer is 3-0 against Murray in Grand Slam finals having defeated the Scot at the 2008 US Open, 2010 Australian Open, and 2012 Wimbledon.
What makes each clash between the two intriguing is their differing approach to tennis. Federer is an elite and supremely gifted athlete that many fans, critics, and current and former players believe to be the best tennis player of all time. Murray’s style of play relies upon patience and the ability to pounce when a competitor makes a mistake. Murray’s victories over Federer all required him to wait for Federer to make a mistake, something he is prone to, and taking advantage to strike for victory.
In the future, it could be Murray who ascends above his rival in terms of victories. His victory at the 2012 Olympics put the world on notice. Federer, though still a potent player and Grand Slam winner, appears to be losing his touch. Between 2005 and 2009 Federer won 11 Grand Slam titles, with appearances in the finals of all four Grand Slam events in 2006, 2007, and 2009.
Since then, Federer has appeared in just three finals over two years winning two and finishing runner-up in the third. Federer consistently has proven an ability to beat opponents on the ATP Tour, but his dominance on the big stage is in question after his defeat against Murray. The future may be the time for Murray to reach new heights against his old rival.
This guest post brought to you by Charles Smith for http://howlongsinceabritwonwimbledon.com/. Charles is a freelance sports writer with a penchant for tennis. His articles appear on various online sports publications.