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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer: Rivalry and respect

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- The best thing about the Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer tennis rivalry?

The shot-making is wonderful with the contrasting styles -- Federer so cool and silent, while Nadal gives us the grunts of his effort and the fist pumps of his exuberance. The tennis that results keeps you in your seat, and maybe even awake and in front of your television at 4 a.m.

But another part of this rivalry’s appeal is the respect between the two men.

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Federer was brought to tears on the court Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena after Nadal had beaten him 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 in the finals of the Australian Open.

And there stood Nadal, who could have been celebrating in front of his vanquished opponent, could have been smiling and oblivious, and had almost earned the right to be that way. Instead Nadal ducked his head, waited for Federer to gather his emotions and then said he absolutely expected Federer to win other major tournaments this year and seemed happy about that.

It was the way Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi behaved toward each other during the last great men’s tennis rivalry. They had contrasting styles and personalities and later, no matter who won or lost, Sampras and Agassi praised each other, hoped to meet again, expected to meet again.

Same with Federer and Nadal. They give us great tennis and they show us it matters.

-- Diane Pucin


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