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Nadal, Federer: 5 other great sporting clashes

Nadal and Federer last played at Roland Garros when the Spaniard won the 2011 final © AFP/File / JACQUES DEMARTHON

PARIS, France, Jun 6 – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will resume one of sport’s greatest-ever rivalries with their 39th clash in the French Open semi-finals on Friday.

It will be their first meeting since 2017, with Nadal leading the head-to-head record 23-15, despite Federer winning the last five matches, and 13-2 on clay.

Here, AFP Sport takes a look at five other fantastic sporting rivalries from years gone by:

Chess: Bobby Fischer (USA) v Boris Spassky (URS)

Fischer’s victory over Spassky made him the first US-born world champion © AFP/File

— Fischer’s clash with Spassky in the 1972 world chess championship in Iceland came during the Cold War and signalled the end of 24 years of Soviet domination in the sport.

The American was the favourite heading into the match, but the build-up was dominated by speculation that he wouldn’t play.

He did arrive in Reykjavik eventually, though, and despite forfeiting the second game to fall 2-0 behind, Fischer plotted his way to a 12.5-8.5 victory.

The win made Fischer an instant American hero, but he never defended his title due to disagreements over the format.

The pair clashed again in an unofficial match in 1992 as Fischer won 10-5, but the decision to play in Yugoslavia saw the United States issue an arrest warrant for Fischer due to sanctions imposed on the Balkan nation, and he died aged 64 in Iceland in 2008.

Formula One: Alain Prost (FRA) v Ayrton Senna (BRA)

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Prost and Senna crashed early in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix © AFP / TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

— Prost and Senna won seven world titles between them, but that only tells part of the story of a bitter rivalry that first festered when the two were McLaren teammates in 1988-1989.

Two successive world championships were decided by the pair crashing into each other in Japan, while the animosity off the track was palpable, even after Prost left McLaren for rivals Ferrari.

But they became friends after Prost had retired following his fourth and final world title in 1993, with Senna in second.

The duo spoke on the morning of Senna’s death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, with the Brazilian urging his old rival to relaunch the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association due to his fears over driver safety.

In 2010, Prost complained that he was portrayed in a bad light in a documentary about Senna’s life.

Golf: Arnold Palmer (USA) v Jack Nicklaus (USA)

Nicklaus and Palmer remained great friends until the latter’s death in 2016 © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / Mike Ehrmann

— Two parts of ‘the big three’ along with South African Gary Player, Palmer and Nicklaus shared arguably golf’s most famous rivalry in the 1960s, with Nicklaus ultimately coming out on top.

Palmer, known as ‘the King’, dominated the sport, winning a legion of fans dubbed ‘Arnie’s Army’ as he won seven major titles between 1958-1964.

But Nicklaus, 11 years Palmer’s junior, burst onto the scene when he finished second to the fan favourite as a 20-year-old amateur in the 1960 US Open.

Nicklaus then edged out Palmer in a playoff to win the 1962 US Open, his first of a record 18 major titles.

The ‘golden bear’ Nicklaus would win his final major in 1986 at the Masters, while Palmer never won another after his 1964 triumph at Augusta.

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Boxing: Muhammad Ali (USA) v Joe Frazier (USA)

Frazier beat Ali in the 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’, but lost their next two bouts © AFP/File

— Ali came out on top in their third and deciding fight in the ‘Thriller in Manila’ in 1975.

Frazier had inflicted the first defeat of Ali’s career on the former Olympic champion in the 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’, which Frazier won by a unanimous decision.

Ali levelled their head-to-head record in 1973, before they headed to the Philippines for their legendary third bout, when Ali said the fight would be “a killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila”.

He made good on his promise, snatching a dramatic win by technical knockout after 14 rounds of heavyweight boxing at its best.

Darts: Phil Taylor (ENG) v Raymond van Barneveld (NED)

Taylor dominated his rivalry with ‘Barney’, but lost to the Dutchman in an epic 2007 world final © AFP/File / MAX NASH

— Van Barneveld’s breakthrough as a four-time world champion helped darts first start to see its profile increase outside the UK.

When ‘Barney’ joined the PDC from the BDO in 2007 — darts split into two governing bodies in 1993 — that meant he could finally look forward to a world championship clash with then-13-time champion Taylor.

The Dutchman duly set up a final against ‘The Power’, which he won in a deciding leg on double 20 after the 13th and final set was level at 5-5.

The match was widely acclaimed as the best ever in the sport, although Taylor went on to dominate their rivalry, winning 61 of their 83 matches and drawing four.

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