Rivalry With Djokovic Will Define Nadal's Career

Rivalry With Djokovic Will Define Nadal's Career

It's been pretty easy to feel for Rafael Nadal since the spring of this year, mainly because of the unexpected and savage way Novak Djokovic shattered the duopoly in men's tennis and, skipping steps that very few people might have deemed dispensable, ripped the world No. 1 ranking out of Rafa's hands.

You can almost envision Nadal standing hunched over in the midst of a howling windstorm, red clay-dust sanding his features and swirling madly all about him, blinking and asking, "What just happened?"

That's how quickly Djokovic established dominion over men's tennis.

But if you take the longer view, you could almost rationalize the course of the past 12 months as a fair example of the workings of fate, or karma. Truth be told, the arc of Nadal's career was a bit too smooth—a bit too nicely tilted in his favor and set-up for success. There's a simple reason for that—the difference in age between Nadal and his original rival, Roger Federer. It's almost exactly five years—just enough to keep them more-or-less within the same generation, but not enough to really put the men on equal career footing. In any number of ways, the Nadal vs. Federer rivalry is/was a straightforward saga of the hunter (Nadal) versus the hunted (Federer), or of the ambitious usurper plotting, scheming, and ultimately dethroning the aging king.

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