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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 →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Hall of Famer Tony Oliva
      July 17, 2022 | 2:15 pm
      Tony Oliva

      After waiting for 45 years after his retirement, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is finally taking his rightful place as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      Before injuries cut short his Hall of Fame worthy career, Tony Oliva was one of the best hitters in baseball and combined with Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmen Killebrew to make the Minnesota Twins a perennial American League contender during the late 1960s.

      Discovered on the baseball fields of Cuba by a Minnesota Twin scout, Oliva came to the United States in 1961 and within three years the American League Rookie of the Year. There have been many great MLB players from Cuba, including a new generation of stars today, but it is hard to argue that there has been a better player from the island in MLB than Oliva.

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