Before Wimbledon 2012, Nadal and Novak Djokovic had split the past nine majors, with Nadal winning five of them.
However, when Nadal bowed out of Wimbledon with an absolutely stunning second-round loss to then-World No. 100 Lukas Rosol, the window of opportunity opened wider for both Federer and Murray, then ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.
Freed of Nadal on his side of the draw, Murray was able to play other opponents at Wimbledon, where he had always played well, but lost in three consecutive semifinals (two to Nadal). He defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis to progress to his first Wimbledon final.
On the other side of the draw was Roger Federer, who, despite being widely considered the greatest tennis player ever, had not won a major since Australian Open 2010, perhaps due to his increasing age and the immense talent of his two main competitors.
However, Federer played a sublime match under the roof to defeat Djokovic and appeared in his eighth Wimbledon final, the first since 2009.
In the final, the Swiss Maestro kept up his excellent play, stopping the run of the home favorite Murray in four hard-fought sets.
Just a month later, on the same court, the tables had turned. Playing for a Gold Medal at the 2012 London Olympics, Murray provided a masterclass to defeat his exhausted rival. The victory may one day be seen as the turning point in the Scot's career.
At the next big tournament, the two seemed destined for another clash in the US Open semifinals. However, one round prior to the semis, Federer was surprisingly bounced by big-hitting Czech Tomas Berdych.
That meant that when Djokovic and Murray walked onto Arthur Ashe stadium on Monday, September 9, neither one of them had faced another big-four player: Federer or Nadal.
That made for a great match until finally, after four lost finals and five excruciating sets, Murray was crowned a Grand Slam Champion.
Once again, in Australia, and still without Nadal, Murray was once again drawn on Fed's side of the draw. This time around, Murray had the better of Roger, winning the five-set thriller and advancing to his third consecutive major final and his sixth overall.
This time, Djokovic bested a hobbled Murray to continue his reign down under. With Nole having solidified himself as the clear No. 1 and Nadal still fighting to get back into the picture, all this begs the question: who's better right now?
A look at the numbers in big tournaments tells you that Murray deserves the No. 2 ranking, which currently belongs to Federer.
However, going into the "small" tournaments, Federer's résumé is probably the best on tour. He won five minor tournaments in 2012, where Murray only won one. Murray also won the Brisbane title prior to this season's Australian Open.
Federer is looking to defend his title in Rotterdam this week.
Going into their respective games, things are pretty balanced out in terms of who has the edge.
Federer's serve continues to be one of the best in the world, as he makes up for his lack of speed with absolutely pinpoint accuracy. He is consistently among the tour's leaders in aces. Although Murray has very much improved his speed over the past 12 months, he still is not on the level of Federer.
The same can be said about the forehand, where Federer, simply put, possesses the best one in the game. Murray has improved off that wing, and his defensive forehand is very efficient, but as far as attacking off that wing, he has not quite caught up to King Roger.
The backhand, although still improving, has always been a kind of thorn in Federer's side. Opponents have been able to relentlessly attack the Federer backhand, as it has always been subject to breakdown over long stretches. However, Federer recently thanked his opponents for feeding him so many backhands, crediting them for his recent improvement.
The backhand has long been Murray's strength, and it is probably the best in tennis this side of Djokovic. As far as defensive play, Murray is among the best, as he retrieves ball after ball and can create winners from seemingly impossible angles.
The final factor to enter into this equation is the head-to-head mark. Murray currently leads this section, having defeated Federer in 11 of their 20 career meetings. In majors, however, Federer has defeated the Scot three out of four times.
Many of these Federer victories have come prior to Murray's breakout early last season.
Although both are playing very well right now, I think Murray's record speaks for itself. He has been playing too well lately not to obtain the No. 2 ranking, and come spring, I strongly believe he will have it.
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