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Biggest Rivalries in Tennis

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe had a particularly tense, if brief, rivalry in the late 1970s. 

The game of tennis has created some of the greatest rivalries in sport. Off the court, the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray are amicable colleagues - but on it, they are the deadliest of rivals; chasing serves, returns and, of course, Grand Slam titles.

We’ve seen plenty of greats form mouth-watering matchups in recent years. But how does that compare to rivalries gone by? We take a look at five of the biggest head-to-heads in tennis.

Evert Navratilova Rivalry


Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova
It was perhaps the biggest rivalry in women’s sports. Spanning over 16 years and 80 matches, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova defined what tennis was all about. The pair had a close relationship that continues today, but their rivalry on the court was one of the most fascinating on the circuit.

Before a young Navratilova burst onto the scene in the mid-1970s, Evert was virtually unbeatable. The Ice Maiden was deadly with the racket, picking off major after major. In fact, she took 21 of their first 25 meetings, although it was the legendary Czech who took 30 of the last 39.

Federer Nadal Rivalry


Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer
Competing against each other for over a decade, Nadal and Federer have become poster boys for the Golden Age of tennis. Their stardom hasn’t been restricted to the court, both heading up some of the biggest brands in the world; Federer being the face of Gillette and Rafael Nadal an ambassador for PokerStars.

But when it comes to their head-to-head battles, there’s only one man holding the aces. The Spaniard has won 23 of the 33 matches between the pair, including nine Grand Slams titles with the 2008 Wimbledon final being lauded as the one of the best matches of all time.

Bjorn Borg on Grass


Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe
Federer and Nadal have maintained an intense, but polite rivalry, unlike John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. They arrived on the scene from entirely different backgrounds - one a cool, calm Swede, the other an aggressive, confrontational New Yorker - and produced some of the most magical moments in tennis.

All of their matches came between 1978-81, and they split their 14 career meetings. Perhaps their most memorable was the 1980 Wimbledon Championships where McEnroe saved seven match points in the fourth set before Borg regained the momentum and won the match in five.

Sampras Agassi Rivalry


Andre Agassi vs Pete Sampras
Not only did Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras have an intense rivalry during their careers, but things also got personal in their retirement at a charity tennis match back in 2010. In their prime, however, these two played each other 34 times between 1989 and 2002, with Sampras winning 20, the last triumph being the 2002 US Open final where he would claim his 14th and last Grand Slam.

Sampras announced his retirement shortly after, ending their incredible battles dating all the way back to junior play.

Seles Graf Rivalry


Steffi Graf vs Monica Seles 
During the early 1990s, there were two huge contenders in women’s tennis: Monica Seles and Steffi Graf. Graf held the No. 1 spot from 1987 to 1990 before Seles burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old, defeating Graf in the 1990 French Open, a title she would lift for the following two years. Three months after Seles’ three-set victory over Graf in the 1993 Australian Open final, it all changed.

During a quarterfinal match in Hamburg, Seles was stabbed in the back by Graf-obsessed fanatic Gunter Parche in an act which kept Seles out of the game for two years and ultimately cut her promising career short.

Which is your favorite tennis rivalry? Let us know in the comment section!


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