LONDON: Roger Federer marked the 10th anniversary of his epic Wimbledon final loss to Rafael Nadal by claiming his rivalry with the Spaniard is the equal of the battle between football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Federer will start his bid for a ninth Wimbledon title against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic on Centre Court on Monday.
But, on the eve of the Swiss star’s 20th Wimbledon, the defending champion’s mind drifted back to the evening he was dethroned by Nadal in a classic final widely regarded as the greatest match ever played.
Federer had beaten Nadal in two previous Wimbledon finals before the Spaniard knocked him off his perch in 2008 with a five-set thriller lasting almost five hours and late into the evening in front of an enthralled global audience of millions.
It was the match that cemented Federer and Nadal as the giants of their generation and accelerated the sport’s resurgence as a multi-million pound industry.
Nadal’s triumph — his first at Wimbledon — fuelled an epic rivalry that reminds Federer of the way Barcelona striker Messi and Real Madrid forward Ronaldo have slugged it out for the top prizes in football.
“Sure, yeah. They have a long-standing rivalry. I have the same with Rafa,” Federer said when asked if he could see similarities between the rivalries.
“They’re very different from one another. I guess there’s some similarities there as well.
“As similar as we are, Rafa and myself, we’re still very different on many levels. I think it’s pretty much the same for them.
“Obviously in football, it’s different because you’re only as good as your team. The pitch is huge, with 11 of them running around.
“With us, we’re a little more in control, let’s be honest. I hope I can control it a bit better than they could.”
Like Messi and Ronaldo, both Federer and Nadal have showed astonishing longevity, splitting the last six Grand Slam titles with three each.
Federer now has 20 major titles to his name, while Nadal clinched his 17th by winning the recent French Open.