The greatest, most consistent rivalry in recent tennis history will be revived in 2013.
The matchups will likely be more frequent as the year progresses, judging by comments Nadal made in a recent story by The Guardian. Nadal indicates that he'll likely not feel his absolute physical and competitive best until April or so.
I want to be 100% in Monte Carlo and then prepare well for Roland Garros. I will hopefully be ready for Australia but I am only looking at tomorrow and continuing my recovery.
I have the goal of returning in Abu Dhabi but neither Abu Dhabi nor Australia are the end of the world for me. I will only come back when I am fit. I won't come back worrying about my knee.
However, Nadal has recently changed his tune, saying he is going to certainly be ready for Abu Dhabi for his first action since a partial tear in his left patella tendon back in June that resulted in a stunning second-round loss at Wimbledon.
With the dominance Nadal has had in the rivalry, and Federer not having won a Grand Slam since 2010, it seemed as though they were going in opposite directions. That is, until last summer at the All England Club, where everything changed.
Federer suddenly ascended back to No. 1 when no one thought it was possible, and Nadal embarked on an extended hiatus once again.
Due to that absence, Nadal has fallen all the way down to fourth in the rankings, behind Summer Games gold medalist Andy Murray.
The strong ascent by current top-ranked player Novak Djokovic put a wrench in the rivalry. The Djoker's combination of physical fitness and sheer power was like a perfect combination of both Federer and Nadal, but he hasn't proven to be able to sustain it for as long as the two rivals have.
The timing of Nadal's improvement in health and play will set up a captivating Grand Slam season. By then, he will have likely leapfrogged Murray for No. 3. Federer will likely still be second to Djokovic, although he is a bit of a wild card.
That will set up clashes between the two in major event semifinals, and will kick each player's game into another gear, rekindling the magic of previous years.
Federer's finesse is unparalleled, and Nadal has always been the perfect counter to his style of play. The Spaniard's more imposing physique, unconventional left-handed grip and unprecedented topspin have given him the upper hand more often than not, as he sports a 17-9 career mark against the Fed (h/t The Telegraph).
That reckless abandon style that Nadal exudes every time he takes the court, though, has been at least partially to blame for his injury woes, and is a testament to Federer's steadiness and longevity.
This may sound bold, but I predict that Nadal and Federer will make one final push and reestablish themselves as the top two players in the world, with several tuneup matches in semifinals setting up a crescendo to the tune of at least one pulse-pounding Grand Slam final match in 2013.
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