Chase Rubin: Top 3 Tennis Rivalries in History

Chase Rubin is a real estate development professional who spends his free time on the hard court practicing his backhand. Today he talks about some of the greatest rivalries the sport of tennis has witnessed.

With Roger Federer clinching his 18th Slam at the Australian Open, he may have just effectively renewed fans’ interest in his rivalry with the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal. To be honest, any rivalry that involves Roger Federer is worth watching, so let’s take a look at other rivalries in history that are equally worth highlighting.

#1: Venus vs. Serena – Definitely one for the books! The Williams sisters’ rivalry spawned a whole new level of popularity for tennis that even got non-fans talking. There was the Serena Slam in 2002, when Serena had won all Grand Slam titles that year, defeating her sister Venus in the finals. The sisters themselves admit to being uncomfortable and uneasy whenever they had to face each other—that’s happened 26 times, 8 of which were in Grand Slam finals. Their hot rivalry may have fizzled over the years, with Venus struggling with her autoimmune disease (she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome in 2011), but fans will always remember the sibling rivalry as one of the greatest in all sports, and not just in tennis.

#2: Agassi vs. Sampras – Before there was Roger Federer vs. everyone else e.g. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray etc., there was Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras. Agassi is one of only seven men to have won Grand Slams on all court types, and is credited to have helped boost the popularity of tennis in the 1990s. Plus he’s got an Olympic medal to boot. Sampras, on the other hand, has more career titles to his name, including seven Wimbledon titles and 5 US Open titles. “The Punisher” and “Pistol Pete” faced each other a total of 34 times, 16 of which were in the finals. Their rivalry deserves a mention because of their contrasting styles, which made their matches quite unpredictable and hence, more exciting. Agassi is known as the greatest service returner in history while Sampras was renowned for his killer attack-serve.

#3: Navratilova vs. Evert – The greatest rivalry in women’s tennis pre-Williams era spanning 16 years, Martina Navratilova vs. Chris Evert faced each other a record 80 times on the court, 60 of which were in the finals! “Chrissie” and “Martina” first met in 1973 in Ohio; Chris was 18 while Martina was only 16. As one might expect from young teenagers, the two became friends, though they were polar opposites in playing styles and personalities. In my opinion, what makes this rivalry different from the rest is the backdrop from which it was played on: the women’s and gay rights movement in the 80s. Chris Evert was the poster girl of women’s tennis—feminine, graceful, and apolitical—while Martina Navratilova was everything but. She became an activist for the LGBT community, several years after coming out as a lesbian herself.

Whose rivalries do you think deserve special mention? Let me know! I’m Chase Rubin and thanks for visiting my blog.