Rafael Nadal

REVIEW: Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends by Sebastián Fest

Non-fiction book about the two men who have dominated men’s tennis since 2004: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Each player is legendary in his own right. The Spanish Nadal is the winner of fourteen Grand Slam titles, including five consecutive French Open singles titles from 2010 to 2014, and is the only player ever to win a Grand Slam for ten straight years. Federer, from Switzerland, has spent over three hundred weeks of his career ranked as the number-one player in the world and has won seventeen Grand Slam titles and two Olympic medals. But neither player’s career would have been nearly as successful without the decade-long rivalry that pushed them to excel to the peak of tennis excellence.

This book, being first published in 2015 is naturally a little out of date, Federer currently has twenty Grand Slam titles while Nadal won his nineteenth Grand Slam title earlier this month, but it does a good job covering ten years of their careers, how they intersect and gives you some background on their childhoods, families and philosophies. The edition I read was “revised and updated” and it did touch on 2017 and how it was a comeback year for both Federer and Nadal. They finished the year with two Grand Slams each and in the number one and two spots in the rankings – the first time they both had those rankings since 2010.

The book isn’t in any real chronological order which can be a bit confusing, instead each chapter is focused on a theme or an event and how that affects Federer or Nadal, or both of them. Some chapters are focused on one man and then they next few are on the other, while other chapters are about an event or theme that affects them both. As the chapters jump back and forth in time, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out where we are in terms of what year it is and what’s going on in the two men’s careers. As someone who has followed Federer and Nadal’s careers since 2008 but has never really known about the ins and outs of tennis politics, it was sometimes difficult to figure out the context of what was going on.

I did like how this book was a balanced account about both men – though that could be down to how much respect Nadal and Federer have for each other and the sport. That’s not to say they don’t have differences of opinion and the period in 2012 when they clashed on the players council is covered. Reading about how they had such differing opinions and strong feelings about different subjects then, makes the fact that Federer and Nadal have rejoined the ATP players council together this year all the more interesting and shows how their relationship has continued to evolve.

The sections where other tennis players from throughout history, people like Rod Laver and Martina Navratilova, offer an insight into the sport and the affects Federer and Nadal have had on it were very interesting. It was nice to hear how other tennis legends viewed them, and how their rivalry compared to rivalries of the past.

If you’re interested in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, their achievements and their rivalry, then this book is worth picking up. It might help to have more than a basic knowledge of tennis and the bureaucracy around it but for the most part the author does a good job at explaining who everyone is. Naturally there’s some chapters that aren’t as interesting as others, and a few are a little dry, but it’s nice to read a book where Federer and Nadal’s personalities shine through and the main thing you can take from it is how humble and respectful the two men are. 4/5.

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Why I love… Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

I love Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. They are two of the greatest tennis players who have ever lived and they are my favourite players. I am one of those people who likes and supports both of them, no matter who they are playing. When they end up playing each other I’m often torn because I love them both and never really know who I want to win, but I do know their matches will be incredible.

Theirs has been a rivalry that’s been going for thirteen years now. They’ve played each other 37 times so far, with Nadal leading with 23 wins to Federer’s 14 wins. Probably their most famous match is the Wimbledon 2008 final. It was pure magic and one of the first tennis matches I remember being riveted by, it was an example of phenomenal tennis. They’ve made each other improve their game and have set so many records individually and together. They’ve each had their problems and injuries and for them to come back in 2017, with Federer 36 years old and Nadal 31, and win the four major Grand Slams between them is incredible. This year Federer won Wimbledon for a record eighth time, and met Nadal in the Australian Open where he won in five sets. While Nadal won the US Open and he won his tenth French Open title (another record) and firmly cemented himself as the King of Clay.

Last month was the inaugural Laver Cup, a tournament organised by Roger Federer in the style of golf’s Ryder Cup, with Team Europe playing against Team World. It was an event that had its critics before it started as it doesn’t affects any players standings and was seen as more of an exhibition tournament more than something players want to win. Doubters were proved wrong as everyone involved was desperate to play their best and to win.

One of the highlights of the tournament was that Federer and Nadal, both playing for Team Europe, played a doubles match on the same time – the first time they’ve ever played together like that. It was a thrilling match and their opponents from Team World, Sam Querrey and Jack Sock, put up a fight, especially in the second set but Nadal and Federer went on to win the match, even if there were some slight mishaps where they were unused to playing together. Team Europe went on to win the tournament after Roger Federer defeated Nick Kyrgios, when in his excitement Rafa went and jumped into Roger’s arms!

The Laver Cup really highlighted how these two sportsmen not only respect each other, but how well they get along off the court. They are some of the fiercest rivals in sport ever but they have also become almost friends. It was wonderful seeing them on the same side, supporting each other and the younger players on the team. To be honest I don’t think I’d ever seen Rafa smile and laugh as much as he did that weakened, especially whenever he was with Roger. It was such a great tournament – and being able to watch their doubles match live was the best £6.99 I’ve ever spent (I got a Sky Sports 24 Hours Pass on Now TV).

They are both getting older, and they will have to retire at some point, but until then I’ll enjoy watching them play – both against one another, and against anyone else. I could write even more about Rafa and Roger and why I like them so much, but really it can be narrowed down to two things that applies to them both. 1. They are very talented tennis players and 2. They seem like generally nice, charismatic people. I could say so much about them, using their own quotes to describe each other, but I don’t want this post to be even longer than it already is.

I love them both and I’ll finish this post with a video from the Laver Cup someone highlighting Federer and Nadal’s friendship. Though I also have to mention this video, where Roger and Rafa are supposed to be filming an advert for a charity match and they cannot stop laughing – if I’m ever feeling down I watch this video and it always makes me feel better.