5. Rafael Nadal 3 – 0 Grigor Dimitrov
Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov met 3 times this season. Both players seemed to find their best tennis for large parts of the 3 matches. All 3 matches went into a deciding set. Unfortunately for Dimitrov, Nadal won all 3.
Their first meeting came in the semi-final of the Australian Open, a tournament that turned out to be a sort of resurgence for both. It was a 5 hour epic. After losing a disappointing first set, Dimitrov really picked up his game. And from there onwards, it was a spectacle of the highest order. Eventually, Nadal just edged it 6-3 5-7 7-6 6-7 6-4.
Their next meeting came in October in a semi-final matchup in Beijing. The match was full of breathtaking baseline exchanges, with both players constantly putting pressure on the opponent’s serve. Once again, Nadal edged it, 6-3 4-6 6-1. Despite the seemingly lopsided third set scoreline, it was arguably the most well-contested set of the match.
The final meeting was a similar matchup in the quarterfinal of Shanghai. Nadal was riding a wave of good form, and Dimitrov was also at his best. It was another high quality affair. Nadal edged it again in the final set, 6-4 6-7 6-3.
4. Grigor Dimitrov 4 – 1 David Goffin
Both Dimitrov and David Goffin had career best seasons in 2017. They met each other 5 times with Dimitrov coming out on top on 4 occasions.
The first of the 5 meetings was an Australian Open quarter-final. Dimitrov won in straight sets to reach his first ever semi-final at Melbourne Park. The next meeting was the final of Sofia. Spurred on by a partisan home crowd, Dimitrov once again dominated Goffin to win 7-5 6-4 and lift the trophy. Goffin beat Dimitrov for the first time in Rotterdam, winning 6-4 1-6 6-3.
The final 2 matches between these two took place in the final event of the season, the World Tour Finals. The first of the two matches was a group stage encounter, and Dimitrov well and truly walloped Goffin, 6-0 6-2. Eventually, both of them reached the final. In the final match of the season, these two would battle it out for the biggest trophy of their respective careers.
Coming into the match, many feared it would be another one-sided contest like in the group stage. That was not to be though. It was a match worthy of the year-end finale. The margins were small, and the outcome hinged on a few important points here and there. Goffin looked to have the first set under control, but a poor service game – including a couple of double faults – at an inopportune time gave Dimitrov the momentum. The Bulgarian went on to capture the first set 7-5. The second set was another tight affair, and went the way of Goffin 6-4. But Dimitrov was not to be denied, and he won the final set 6-3, capping off a great year with the biggest victory of his career to date.
3. Nick Kyrgios 3 – 1 Alexander Zverev
Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev are two of the most talented young players on tour. Zverev had a real breakthrough season in 2017, rising as high as No. 3 in the world eventually finishing as world no. 4. Meanwhile Kyrgios is still struggling to find that consistency required to break into the top 10. What has not been in doubt however, has been his penchant for the big matches.
Coming into the season, the pair had never met before. This season they met 4 times. And boy, are we glad they did! The meetings between the two have been vibrant, intense and extremely intriguing.
The first meeting was in Miami. Kyrgios seemed inspired right from the off. He brought out his full array of shots, and he has a significant array to choose from. Zverev fought hard, but the Aussie took it in straight sets 6-3 6-4. The next match was in the quarter-finals of the very next event in Miami. Both of them were looking to reach a first Masters 1000 semi-final. Once again, Kyrgios came out playing his best. This time Zverev made a better match of it too. It was a very intense and attractive match to watch. Kyrgios took the first set 6-4, Zverev equalled the match via a second set tiebreak. Kyrgios took the third 6-3 to clinch the match.
Their third match was in Montreal. Zverev was already a much more accomplished player since their last meeting, and this time he won in straight sets, 6-4 6-3. Zverev went on to lift the title, his second Masters 1000 trophy.
Their fourth and final meeting of the season was a semi-final affair in Beijing. Kyrgios produced a fine display to win this one in straight sets 6-3 7-5.
2. Roger Federer 4 – 0 Rafael Nadal
One of the all-time great sporting rivalries once again became one of the major talking points in the tennis world this season.
This season, the famed Fedal rivalry took on a new dynamic. Typically, this has been a matchup more favourable to the left-handed Spaniard, who has relentlessly attacked probably Federer’s only relatively passive strike-zone – high on the backhand side – with his heavy top spin forehands.
Nadal came into this season with a 23-11 win-loss record against Federer. This year’s head-to-head reads 4-0 in favour of the Swiss. This year Federer has turned the matchup on its head by attacking the backhand consistently and aggressively. Nadal has often been left bemused and helpless, even resorting to going more to the Federer forehand more at times. Federer has won 9 out of 11 sets between the two this year, including the last seven. He has not been broken by Nadal once in the last 6 sets they’ve played. It should be mentioned though that this season Federer decided to skip clay, the surface where Nadal has really dominated and scored most of his wins against Federer.
It all started with the epic Australian Open final. Both Federer and Nadal were coming back from injury layoffs. Neither of them really expected to be playing in the final, and they were pretty open about it. Federer came back from a break down in the 5th set to win a historic 18th major title, and complete one of the greatest fairy tale stories in the game’s history.
And yes, Fedal was back! Their next meeting was a round of 16 match up in Indian Wells. Federer produced a sublime display of attacking tennis and pounded Nadal into submission, 6-2 6-3.
Their next meeting was the final of Miami. In both Melbourne Park and Indian Wells, Federer’s backhand had really hurt Nadal. This time Nadal opted for a change of tactics and directed more play towards the Federer forehand than he usually had in the past. But going to the Federer forehand is always fraught with danger. Federer was again dominant, and won in 2 relatively straightforward sets, 6-3 6-4.
The final meeting was the final of Shanghai. Coming in to the match, Nadal and Federer once again occupied the top 2 positions of the ATP rankings. Nadal was carrying into the match a 19 match winning streak. Perhaps this time momentum would be with him. But it wasn’t to be. Federer once again dominated, just like he had the last couple of meetings, and ended up winning 6-4 6-3.
Despite the relatively one-sided competition this year, tennis fans were glad to see Federer and Nadal go at it once again.
1. Roger Federer 3 – 1 Juan Martin del Potro
The best rivalry of the 2017 season is another matchup that we’ve all seen many times before. Federer and del Potro have provided us many memorable matches in the past. We were lucky enough to witness a few more this year.
The first of 4 meetings was a second round encounter in Miami. Federer was in rampant form, and del Potro hadn’t yet hit his stride. Federer eased to a 6-3 6-4 victory.
The next 3 encounters were all crackers. The first of those came in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Both players were clearly dealing with physical issues. But both players clearly were fighters too. The New York crowd were treated to late night spectacle. It was a close match, where both players had their chances. But del Potro was better at taking his and went throught to the semi finals, 7-5 3-6 7-6 6-4.
The next meeting was an incredibly high quality semi-final affair at Shanghai. Del Potro came out all guns blazing, and took the first set 6-3. Federer knew he had to raise his level. And he did. He managed to take a hard-fought second set 6-3. The comeback was complete after he took the third 6-3.
Their final encounter of the season was the final of Federer’s hometown tournament in Basel. Del Potro had previously beaten Federer in 2 finals here – 2012 and 2013. Both of those were close matches. And this one went the distance as well. Federer had his fair share of chances in the first set. But a combination of inconsistent play, and del Potro raising his level for the big points led to him losing it in a tiebreak. The second set went on serve for 9 games, and Federer was getting visibly worried. However he managed to get the decisive break in the 10th game to take the set 6-4. Federer upped his game a notch in the third, and took it 6-3 to clinch his 8th Basel crown.