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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are one match away from meeting for the 34th time in Rome, which would be amazing.

#TBT: Troicki's Epic Rome Meltdown

Speaking of amazing, how about this point, circa 2006, from Roger and Rafa? People tend to forget just how beautiful the tennis was when Federer and Nadal used to meet. Why is that? Well, because Nadal took over the rivalry and that has taken some of the shine away, even for Nadal fans. Nadal has won the last five against Federer, including 12 of the last 13 sets.

There is also the emergence of the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry, plus the Federer-Djokovic rivalry, which people tend to look forward to a bit more these days, because matchups lead to close matches.

But back in 2006, even on clay, Federer and Nadal was the hottest ticket in town. And this final in Rome, won in dramatic fashion by Nadal 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5), lasted over five hours and was one of their best ever.

The victory marked Nadal’s 53rd consecutive victory on clay. He would stretch that remarkable streak to 81.

With Omar Sharif amongst the rowdy throngs of Rome partisans, Federer took a 4-1 lead and later had two match points, but Nadal would not be stopped.

Clearly, the victory meant a lot to Nadal, as he rolled in the clay after match point, before shaking Federer’s hand (see video below). Nadal extended his arm in Federer’s direction after his celebration and urged the crowd to give him a hand—that was a super-cool, humble gesture, and helped lay the framework of the mutual respect and sportsmanship vibe that has always characterized Federer and Nadal’s rivalry.