Every time Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier came face to face in the ring, they would muster that extra ounce of boxing brilliance. India is a cricket crazy nation, but nothing can match up to the excitement of an India-Pakistan encounter. That is the beauty of sporting rivalries - they bring out the best in the athlete. They make you use those reserves of your energy that you didn't know existed. But in the end it's always the sport that wins.
High-intensity volleys, race towards dominance and crazy rivalries are not just restricted to men’s tennis. Even women’s tennis has had, and still has, its fair share epic rivalries which have not just resulted in craziness on field but has also lifted players towards tennis greatness. While some of these women shared a off-field camraderie to match their on-field fierceness, other preferred to 'keep the heat' on even after the match had ended.
Here is a roundup of some of the greatest rivalries that tennis has witnessed over the years.1. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova
The 2005 Australian Open semi final was arguably the best match played by these two so far – Williams came back from one set down to win the nerve wracking match 2-6, 7-5, 8-6
6. Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini
Some twenty years ago, this rivalry was red hot. Graf, from Germany, and Sabatini, from Argentina, faced each other 40 times over a decade. Out of these 40 encounters, 3 were Grand Slam finals. In fact, Sabatini has just one Grand Slam title in her kitty and she defeated Graf to get to it. This was the 1990 US Open.
At one time, the rivalry became so huge that armies of dedicated fans used to flock to their matches and sing songs to demotivate the rival. If Sabatini was underperforming, Graf’s fans would break into a chant that went “ Oh, Oh, Gaby’s dying” which was a parody of a famous Van Halen single.Their most fierce match, without a doubt, was 1991 Wimbledon final. Sabatini almost had the tournament in her kitty and was just two points away from a win. But Graf rose like the proverbial phoenix to win the match 8-6 in the deciding set.
What made each of their encounters worth watching was the contrast – both in personalities as well as the individual approach to the games. King was fiery and aggressive on court, while Evert was as cool and composed as they come.
Even though their final head to head tally suggests a decisive 19-7 lean in Evert’s favor, she won the last 11 matches, after King had turned 34.
Their 1982 Wimbledon semi-final could be their greatest yet – where King saved 4 match points before Evert closed the game, set and match.