Every sport has its classic rivalries, Celtics vs. Lakers, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Packers vs. Bears, the list goes on for ages. But there is something unique about tennis rivalries. In singles, the match-ups are one-on-one, showcasing the technical skills and physical finesse of the players with a healthy dose of personality. It is hard to whittle a list down to manageable size, considering how many times the best players in the world meet in high stakes events like Grand Slams. With that said, as the first Slam of the year, the Australian Open, races toward us, we take a look at 11 rivalries that brought out the best, and worst, in some of the greatest tennis players of all time.
1. Ken Rosewall vs. Rod Laver
This pair of Aussies dominated tennis in the pre-open era. A different schedule and pace of tennis existed while the two men were active, leading to a staggering 143 face-offs. Laver notched 80 wins against his countryman, during the 14 years they were both playing professional tennis.
The two met in the finals of the World Championship Tennis finals in Dallas, in what some consider to be the greatest match of all time. Millions watched on television as the three and a half hour match unfolded 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-7(3-7), 7-6, (7-5), in Rosewell’s favor. In his memoir, The Education of a Tennis Player, Laver said that, “I think if one match can be said to have made tennis in the United States, this was it.”