In men's tennis these days there are the big four and only the big four.
Since the 2005 Australian Open, only one man not named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray has taken home the hardware at a Grand Slam, and while that trend could be in jeopardy this week with both Murray and Djokovic getting bounced early, it is the semifinal match that should be circled on every sports calendar around the world.
Nadal and Federer is what we deserve. It is what they deserve. The two could go down as arguably the two best male tennis players ever and this rivalry has the chance to be one of the best ever in professional tennis so why wouldn't you be excited to watch them in a semifinal of a Grand Slam they both need?
Why is it so important? Because after 2013 it looked like we might never see another meaningful match between these two late in the second week of a Grand Slam. Federer spent last season struggling mightily with his game while Nadal was coming back from injury.
Last year was the first time since 2002 that Federer failed to make a Grand Slam final, going out in the second round of Wimbledon, a tournament he has won seven times, and getting bounced in the fourth round of the U.S. Open, his first exit from New York before the quarterfinals since '03.
But Federer said he wasn't done with the game, and at 32-years-old we all had to smile politely at the 17-time Grand Slam winner while internally we were sarcastically thinking, "Sure you aren't."
This matchup is a chance to see two titans of the games, living legends in professional tennis, go at it with whomever comes out victorious becoming the obvious favorite in the finals against Stanislas Wawrinka.
The history between these two leans heavily in Nadal's favor, with the Spaniard holding a 22-10 record against Federer over the course of his career including a five-set semifinal win on this same court back in 2012. Nadal has won the last four meetings between these two and is 2-0 all-time at the Australian Open playing against Federer.
The reason this match is so important isn't as much Nadal as it is Federer. When Roger was lifting that Wimbledon trophy up in 2012 a lot of us thought it would be the last time we saw this great champion win a Grand Slam, and as Father Time continues to beat up on Federer, it's his resilience that has been the most impressive as he continues to make changes to his game to keep up with the names listed above.
This will be a match that has historians rooting for Federer, hoping to see the once nearly unbeatable champion do what Pete Sampras did at the 2002 U.S. Open, but it is also a chance for Nadal to add to a resume that has just one Australian Open victory.
A win for Nadal on Friday and a win in the finals would put him just three Grand Slams behind Federer for most all-time and it would tie him with Sampras at 14 for his career. Along with that, a win in Melbourne would make Nadal just the third player ever to win every Grand Slam twice, something Federer has yet to do with that lone French Open title.
Basically this match is everything that we love about sports, about tennis and about the players we root for. If you set your alarm early for one tennis match this year, Federer-Nadal in Melbourne should be it.
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