'Third wheel': Nadal, Federer accused of snubbing major rival

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are pictured after the French Open final in 2020.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer's rivalry and relationship has seemed to omit the presence of fellow 'big three' rival Novak Djokovic. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s friendly rivalry has been hailed by tennis fans for years, and the love-in only intensified in the wake of the Spaniard’s record 13th French Open victory.

The 34-year-old’s latest Grand Slam victory saw him equal Federer’s all-time mark of 20 Grand Slam victories, prompting the Swiss superstar to send his great rival a message on social media congratulating him on his feat.

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Nadal and Federer stand as two of modern tennis’ ‘big three’ alongside Novak Djokovic, but some commentators feel the Serbian’s distance from his rivals is becoming all the more noticeable.

Djokovic was notably not mentioned when Federer discussed he and Nadal’s impact in the congratulatory social media video - and the Serbian’s outsider status was simply affirmed by the message.

Federer said Nadal was his ‘greatest rival’ in the video, and tennis broadcaster Catherine Whitaker said Djokovic was consistently overlooked in a rivalry that was increasingly focused on the former pair.

“It does make me feel a bit for Novak Djokovic because even on the day that was supposed to be about Djokovic and Nadal, their 56th meeting in the most prolific rivalry in men’s tennis, it still ended up being about Nadal and Federer,” she said on The Tennis Podcast.

“He was still the third wheel even on a day when Federer wasn’t playing.”

Co-host David Law, a commentator for BBC Tennis, said Federer’s failure to mention Djokovic was notable.

“Federer didn’t mention him in the note, which I must admit I did look down and I thought, ‘Oh, no, can’t see that’. Maybe that’s just an oversight,” he said.

“I thought he might have done, just to say ‘unlucky’, but here we are.”

Roger Federer congratulates long-time rival Rafa Nadal

Federer, who has endured one of the greatest sporting rivalries ever with his friend Nadal, showed why he is loved around the world and graciously took to Twitter to congratulate the Spaniard.

"I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion," Federer, who already owned four grand slam titles when Nadal won his maiden French Open title in 2005, said on Twitter.

"As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players.

"Therefore it is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory."

"It is especially amazing that he has won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport. I also congratulate his team because nobody can do this alone," added Federer.

Rafael Nadal cruised past Novak Djokovic to win his 13th French Open title earlier this month. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal cruised past Novak Djokovic to win his 13th French Open title earlier this month. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

While fans were ready for a French Open classic in the final, Nadal showed why Roland Garros is considered his home.

Nadal inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on his great rival, which had Djokovic looking bemused under the closed roof of Court Philippe Chatrier.

Nadal, 34, has lost only two matches at the French Open, racking up his 100th in the process.

Federer turned 39 in August and missed the US and French Opens while recovering from an injury, but he has vowed to be back at the Australian Open next year.

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