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Sports Then and Now



Repeating History: What Sampras-Rafter Can Teach Us About Nadal-Soderling 5

Posted on January 04, 2010 by Rob York
Could Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling develop the next great rivalry in tennis?

Could Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling develop the next great rivalry in tennis?

In 1997 Patrick Rafter won his first major at the US Open, thanks to his agile movement, big-kicking serve and unparalleled net coverage. Though this put him exactly nine majors behind Pete Sampras at that point in their careers, it was easy to begin wondering how the two would match up in future encounters.

Still, the two weren’t truly rivals yet; Sampras was 5-1 against the Australian at that point and would add three more lopsided victories over Rafter to his tally that fall. Plus, with the bulk of his accomplishments and the fact that he had a commanding lead in the race for No. 1, few could seriously claim that the two were players of equal stature.

To become a rival to Sampras, Rafter would have to beat the American, and take something he wanted.

That would come in 1998, when the Australian rallied from down a set to top Sampras at the Cincinnati Masters tourney. Sampras had already won Wimbledon that year, and Rafter’s successes for 1998 were just beginning; still, Sampras hungered for the points that event would bring him. He was pursuing the year-end ranking for the sixth consecutive year – a record – and Marcelo Rios was hot on his heels. Read the rest of this entry →

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