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Federer-Nadal rivalry is greatest ever: Safin

sports Updated: Jul 05, 2008 18:30 IST

Marat Safin, one of the few current players to have tasted Grand Slam success, believes the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will go down as the greatest in the history of tennis.

The Russian's shock run to the Wimbledon semi-finals ended in a straight sets defeat to five-time champion Federer, but even that failed to dampen his enthusiasm for a sport many people believed had left him behind.

The 28-year-old, a former world number one and Australian and US Open winner, insists that the Federer-Nadal story is an intriguing blockbuster, more gripping even than the acclaimed rivalry between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

"It's interesting to see because everything depends on the tactics," said Safin.

"Clay courts are just too tough for Federer because Nadal is playing open stance, backhand and forehand, so he can't really make him stretch.

"He can't do anything. He can't go to the volley because Nadal is just too fast and he's using the open stance. But here he will try to push him, and maybe he has more chance. It's more fun than Sampras-Agassi."

In his time on tour, Safin has seen contenders come and go.

But Federer and Nadal, who will collide in a third successive Wimbledon final on Sunday and for the 18th time in their careers, have earned the respect of their peers, both inside and outside the locker room.

"I hope that this will be one of the greatest rivalries. They will be the greatest tennis players in the history," said Safin.

" Nadal didn't lose a match on clay since, I don't know, he was 10 maybe! And Federer, he's going for his sixth Wimbledon. He's going to pass the 14 Grand Slams (Sampras's record). I guess I can say to my kids that I played against him.

"They are just two great guys. Really down to earth. Federer is quite funny. Nadal is also. It's good to be with them in the same locker room."

Safin, whose ranking should improve from 75 to a place in the top 40 on Monday, wants to build on his performances here so that he can be one of the 32 seeded players by the time the US Open draw is made.

He certainly showed he's still a player to be fears as he reached his first Wimbledon semi-final, knocking out third seed Novak Djokovic along the way.

"I never lost my passion for the sport," said the Russian.

"We just love the game. We love to go on the court. We love to play great matches. We love to suffer and we love to win. After tennis you're going to miss that adrenaline."