A little more than half a decade ago, there was only one rivalry in tennis that mattered: Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer. You couldn’t dream up two players more diametrically opposed. On one side was Rafa, an overwhelming fireball of aggression and power and Neanderthal grunts. On the other, Federer — smooth, collected, the tennis equivalent of that plastic bag floating in the wind from American Beauty. Their clashing styles, and barely-concealed distaste for one another, made for some of the most electric, unforgettable matches ever played.
Now, though? Now, these two iconic rivals, these titanic adversaries, are joining forces. Earlier today, it was announced that Federer and Nadal will play as a doubles team at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017, which aims to be tennis’s version of golf’s Ryder Cup.
Some of you out there might be excited by this prospect. What a moment for tennis! you think to yourself. Two of the all-time greats, playing side-by-side! Let us be the first to inform you of just how naively misguided a sentiment that is. This is not a great moment for tennis — this is two still-great legends giving up, shrugging, and deciding to hold hands and sing Kumbaya in a last-ditch reach for relevancy.
There’s no need for this. We don’t need Rafa and Fed to be the Avengers, getting along splendidly, just two dudes with rackets going up against the world. Sure, neither are quite what they used to be — in the last few years, they’ve ceded top-dog status to Djokovic and Murray. But we’d damn well rather watch ’em go at each other’s throats for the rest of time. Nobody wants to see Batman and the Joker crack a beer and be buds, do they?
Whatever little Federer and Nadal have in common — and as far as we can tell, the only thing is a shared love for tied-up Nike headbands — is vastly outweighed by all the things they still have to be bitter about. Nadal has crushed Federer 23-11 in head-to-head match-ups, which can’t sit well with the Swiss master. And despite all those victories, the media still talks about Federer glowingly as the greatest player ever to pick up a racket, which must keep Nadal up at night.
What we’re saying is: Give into your anger, you guys. Let your hate flow through you. We want the two of you on opposite sides of the court, hammering vicious forehands at each other until you’re old and grey.
We’ll still tune in next year, sure. But just know we’ll be sitting there praying to the tennis gods that one of you misses an easy volley, causing an inter-team brawl to break out in the middle of the match. Don’t lie, you know you both want it too.