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ATP Heritage: A Great Rome Final, A Great Rivalry

2006 Rome Final Anniversary

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal celebrates winning his 53rd straight clay-court win in Rome.

This week marks the seventh anniversary of one of the greatest clay-court finals in ATP World Tour history. 

Any Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal clash is must-see television. But the 2006 Internazionali BNL d'Italia final must rank as one of the highs in their 29 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings to date.

Nadal, aged 19, underlined his aura of invincibility on clay, by recording his 53rd straight win on the surface, to tie Guillermo Vilas’ mark, and draw level with Bjorn Borg with 16 titles as a teenager.

Nadal, the defending champion in Rome, rallied on three occasions in the deciding set. From a 2-4 deficit; when he saved two championship points at 5-6, 15/40, and once again at 3-5 in the tie-break. 

His 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5) victory, which took five hours and five minutes, was his fifth win in six matches against Federer and ensured that it will live long in the memory. 

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Both players have since established a rivalry with current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Nadal leads Djokovic 19-15 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, while Federer leads Djokovic 16-13 overall.

Djokovic, Federer and Nadal are three of the 16 year-end No. 1s honoured in the ATP Heritage Programme, launched this year to celebrate the 40th year of the Emirates ATP Rankings.

Rivalries: Federer-Nadal | Nadal-Djokovic | Djokovic-Federer


The late 1970s and 1980s provided several great rivalries, which heightened global interest in tennis.

Between 1978 and 1981, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe played 14 matches, with each winning seven. Their 22-minute, 34-point fourth-set tie-break in the 1980 Wimbledon final is iconic. 

Ivan Lendl and McEnroe met on 37 occasions, which is an Open Era record. McEnroe won six of their seven clashes in 1984 - at the height of their rivalry, but Lendl finished with a 21-15 mark overall. 

Jimmy Connors compiled a 13-22 record against Lendl, was 14-20 against McEnroe and was 8-15 against Borg. 

Two great grass-court performers Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, who memorably contested the 1988-1990 Wimbledon finals, met 35 times (Becker 25-10), while 16 of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras34 contests came in title deciders between 1990 and 2002.   

In ATP World Tour history, Federer and Nadal have contested a record 19 finals, followed by Lendl and McEnroe with 18 championship matches and Becker-Edberg, Agassi-Sampras and Djokovic-Nadal on 16.

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