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The story when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played on a hybrid court for the Battle of Surfaces

Updated: May 6


Picture showing two tennis players playing on a hybrid court half clay and half grass.

The Battle of Surfaces

The Battle of Surfaces was an exhibition match played in Mallorca in Spain, home of Rafael Nadal, on May 2nd 2024. For the occasion, the number 1 player in the world Roger Federer was playing the number 2 player in the world Rafael Nadal on a court specially built for the event.


The unique court was split in two halves, one was on clay and the other one was on grass. The court took 19 days to build and cost an impressive total of 1.63 millions dollars. It was a big challenge for the organizers, according to the BBC, the event was almost cancelled the night before when the grass surface had to be replaced as it did not adapt to the indoor conditions and was infested with worms.


The reason for this strange court? Settle who was the best player in the world between the 2 best players ever on their respective surface.


The King of Grass vs. the King of Clay

On one side of the net we had Roger Federer who had not lost a single match on grass in 4 years and who was on a streak of 48 consecutive wins on the surface. On the other side was Rafael Nadal, the new sensation on the tour after winning the last 2 French Open and on an incredible streak of 72 consecutive wins on clay.


At the time, Nadal lead the head-to-head against Roger Federer 7 to 3, including a 5-0 record on clay. On the other hand, Federer had won the only meeting between the two on grass, a 4-set win during the Wimbledon's final the year before.


According to the organizers, 6800 spectators filled the small stadium in Mallorca where the match was hosted while around 200 millions telespectators were watching this historical match on their television. For the occasion, the tv breaks were extended by 30 seconds to give more time to the players to change shoes during the change of ends, and surfaces.


An unsurprising result at the Battle of Surfaces

Just like we could have anticipated, the match was close, really close. Even if it took some time for both players to adapt to the surface changes, the match made it to the 3rd set tiebreak. The match was so close that the tiebreak ended 12-10, final score: 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 in favor of the Spaniard.


Both players enjoyed their experience:

It has been a nice experience, although before the match I thought it would be a disaster because I felt it would be very difficult for me to adapt to the court. - Rafael Nadal
I found the court to be excellent, especially the clay part. The challenge was difficult, because you have many things in your head. You have problems to work out about how you are going to play on either side of the court. - Roger Federer

Here are highlights of the match:



If you're interested in learning more about Rafael Nadal's career, we recommend you read his autobiography and New York Times best-seller : RAFA. You can buy this book and support Tennis Clubhouse at the same time by using this link.

 

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