5 all-time great sporting rivalries

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shared an intense rivalry over the course of their careers and are often mentioned in conversations about the greatest footballers of all time. However, such rivalry is not unique to football. Here’s a look at similar intense rivalries from other sports.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier

Two of the greatest boxers of all-time had an intense rivalry during their heydays and fought three memorable bouts that have gained legendary status.

The first time the two boxing legends went head-to-head was on 8th March, 1971 in Madison Square Garden, New York in a bout billed as “Fight of the Century.” Both the boxers were unbeaten heading into the match – Frazier in 26 bouts, while Ali was unbeaten in 31 – and in the end Frazier emerged triumphant after 15 rounds via unanimous decision. Their second fight was at the same venue on 24th January 1974, and this time Ali was victorious after 12 rounds.

Their last fight was on 1st October, 1975 in what was billed as Thrilla in Manila. Both the boxers took a savage beating before Ali won by technical knockout as Frazier’s second Eddie Futch conceded the fight before the 15th round.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

The Swiss and the Spaniard have been hailed as the greatest players of their generation and are counted amongst the greatest of all time, with both having legitimate claims for being regarded as the greatest tennis player ever.

Federer remains the leading grand slam winner with his tally of 17 majors, while Nadal has claimed 14 slams of his own. At their absolute peaks the duo played some of the greatest games in tennis history with their epic five-set battle at the 2008 Wimbledon final regarded by many pundits as the greatest tennis match ever played. Nadal emerged victorious with a scoreline of 6–4, 6–4, 6–7 (5-7), 6–7 (8-10), 9–7 after 4 hours 48 minutes. Nadal leads the head-to-head 23-11 after 34 matches.

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost

Senna and Prost shared the greatest Formula 1 rivalry. In 1988, Senna joined the Frenchman at McLaren-Honda and the duo went on to win all but one race in that year’s championship, with the Brazilian claiming his first driver’s title at the end of the season.

Prost won the championship ahead of Senna the following season before the Brazilian won his second and third titles in 1990 and 1991. The rivalry between the duo was often intense and collisions between the two at the Japanese GP in both the 1989 and 1990 seasons decided the title winner. Senna, who died tragically at the San Marino GP in 1994, won three titles to Prost’s four.

Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar

The duo is regarded amongst the greatest batsmen to have picked up a cricket bat. Lara, the West Indies great, was renowned for playing long innings and remains the only batsman to have registered two knocks of over 400 runs in first class cricket. He still holds the record for the highest test score with his innings of 501 not out against England.

Tendulkar, on the other hand, earned renown for his ability to score hundreds and the quality of the shots he played. “Textbook shot” was one of the common refrain when commentators defined the beauty of Tendulkar’s shots. The duo shared an amiable relationship both on and off the pitch.

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert

They are regarded amongst the greatest tennis players of all time. During the course of their illustrious careers, they both won 18 grand slam titles each. The duo faced each other 80 times and Navratilova leads the head-to-head 43-37.

From 1975 – when the WTA rankings were introduced – until 1987, one of the two held the top ranking in all but 23 weeks. Evert dominated the French Open with seven title wins, while Navratilova was irrepressible on the lawns of Wimbledon, winning nine titles.