Great sporting rivalries over the years

As the two phenomenal footballers from the same generation continue to thrill fans all over the world with their exploits, we take a look at other great sports rivalries over the years. --PHOTOS: EPA/REUTERS
As the two phenomenal footballers from the same generation continue to thrill fans all over the world with their exploits, we take a look at other great sports rivalries over the years. --PHOTOS: EPA/REUTERS

Just a day after Cristiano Ronaldo smashed the Champions League's all-time scoring record with 76 goals, Lionel Messi went one better on Thursday morning (Singapore time) by netting his 77th in the competition.

As the two phenomenal footballers from the same generation continue to thrill fans all over the world with their exploits, we take a look at other great sports rivalries over the years.

1. FORMULA ONE: Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna


Arguably the greatest and most fiery F1 rivalry of all-time. Four-time world champion Prost's bitter feud with McLaren team-mate Senna, with three world titles under his belt, battled so bitterly between the late 1980s to the early 1990s that it resulted in multiple on-track collisions, a race disqualification and title controversy.

Such was the dislike Prost had for the Brazilian that after colliding at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix to eliminate his rival and win his second world title, the Frenchman blasted: "What he (Senna) did was disgusting. He is a man without value."

The rivalry came to an end in 1993 when Prost retired. A year later, Senna was killed in a crash at the Italian Grand Prix in Imola. While they battled fiercely on the track, they had tremendous respect for each other off it. Prost was one of the pallbearers at Senna's funeral.

2. TENNIS: Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer


For the past decade, the world has been captivated by the sight of the graceful Swiss slugging it out against the all-action Spaniard at the Grand Slams in what is arguably tennis' greatest rivalry in men's tennis' golden age.

It is a battle of contrasts: Right-handed versus left-handed, talent and technique versus effort and sweat, the master of grass versus the guru of clay.

Overall, Nadal holds a 23-10 advantage over Federer in their meetings but there is also plenty of healthy respect between the two, who have a cordial friendship outside the court.

3. BASKETBALL: Magic Johnson v Larry Bird


Just before Michael Jordan came and ruled the roost all on his own, the NBA was the battleground between two titans - Los Angeles Lakers' Johnson and Boston Celtics' Bird.

Their rivalry began in the 1979 NCAA Championships when Johnson's Michigan State beat Bird's Indiana State team to the title. After moving to the NBA, they revived the 1950s rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics. It was a rivalry that had different layers - the flashy Johnson versus the grit of Bird and black versus white. It was also a fight that brought a new wave of interest back in the NBA.

Johnson once said: "When the new schedule would come out each year, I'd grab it and circle the Boston games. To me, it was The Two and the other 80." Bird added: "The first thing I would do every morning was look at the box scores to see what Magic did. I didn't care about anything else."

4. GOLF: Jack Nicklaus v Tom Watson


In 1977, a 28-year-old Watson came to the fore after beating 37-year-old master Nicklaus by a shot after an epic battle remembered as The Duel in the Sun at the Open Championship.

Eventually, four of Watson's eight Majors came after beating the man regarded as the greatest golfer of all-time. After Nicklaus lost at the 1982 US Open, he said: "You little son of a b****. You did it to me again. I'm very proud of you. Congratulations."

However, the man nicknamed The Golden Bear had the last laugh when he left Watson trailing as he won the Masters in 1986 at the ripe old age of 46.

5. ATHLETICS: Sebastian Coe v Stephen Ovett

This was the middle distance rivalry that gripped the 1980 Olympics as both men fought for supremacy in the 800m and 1,500m events.

In Moscow, Ovett won the 800m but was third in the 1,500m behind gold medallist Coe. The triumphs were ironic as both men won each other's pet event.

And a year later, the world of athletics was enthralled by the duo as they exchanged the world record for the mile three times within a nine-day period with Coe eventually coming out on top.

6. BOXING: Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier

Ali, The Greatest, and Smokin' Joe may have only faced each other three times in the ring but their fights were packed with thrills, underlying meanings and tension.

Their Fight of the Century bout in 1971 was packed with as much cultural tension and strife as punches, with Ali representing the left-wing and anti-establishment movement and Frazier supposedly represented the white conservatives.

Frazier won the lengthy 15-round Fight of the Century by unanimous decision but Ali got his revenge in a rematch three years later. The following year, Ali would beat his rival again, defeating Frazier by TKO in the Thrilla in Manila for the World Heavyweight Champion title.

7. TENNIS: Martina Navratilova v Christine Evert

This is one of tennis';longest-standing rivalries. Beginning in 1973 and ending in 1989, both Navratilova and Evert matured along with the women's game. Their battles are credited with giving women's tennis a much-needed boost.

Navratilova dominated on grass, carpet and hard courts while Evert favoured clay. They met in 14 Grand Slam finals, with the former winning 10. Though nine-time Wimbledon singles champ Navratilova has defeated Evert six more times, Evert holds a record 34 Grand Slam singles titles to the former's 18.

Despite a whopping 80 clashes, the duo occasionally channelled their positive rivalry into an unstoppable doubles partnership.

8. BADMINTON: Lin Dan v Lee Chong Wei


Just like what Federer and Nadal did for tennis, Lin and Lee did the same for badminton. Both the Chinese and the Malaysian are absorbed in a captivating battle at the sport's pinnacle and some of their duels will go down as classics.

Both men have met at the Asian Games, World Championships, BWF Super Series and even Olympic finals but perhaps their most memorable duel came at the 2013 Guangzhou World Championship, where Lee withdrew in the third game due to cramps. Lin walked over to his opponent, squatted down and extended a helping hand. He later said: "From that moment we were not opponents any more. I really wanted to help and I went over to ask if he was OK. He didn't want to give up."

Although two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin has gotten the better of the Malaysian in most of their matches, he holds only one more singles title with 56 to Lee's 55.

9. MARATHON: Joan Benoit Samuelson v Grete Waitz

The American and Norwegian marathon runners hardly crossed paths but when they did, they made sure the event was not one to forget. At the 1984 Olympics, which was the first time women were allowed to compete in the marathon event, Samuelson pipped Waitz to the gold medal.

Though an injury-wracked Samuelson would not go on to compete as often as Waitz, her Olympic marathon record still stands along with her Chicago Marathon timing. Waitz herself went on to win the World Cross Country Championships five times and the New York City marathon nine times, beating a third-placed Samuelson in the 1988 edition.

They also re-wrote each others' long-standing world records in the women's marathon and half marathon events multiple times between 1982 and 1983. Samuelson had the last laugh in both before being succeeded by another.

10. SQUASH: Jahangir Khan v Jansher Khan


Squash's greatest rivalry began in 1986, with the younger Jansher challenging the dominant Jahangir. The older Khan was able to hold off the young pretender in all their initial encounters with his experience, but in 1987, however, Jansher would eventually taste victory and go on to beat him in their next eight meetings.

They eventually shared the squash world stage with closely-matched clash records. Each walked away with one title at two World Open final battles. Although Jahangir twice got the better of Jansher in both their British Open title clashes, Jansher has one more win in amongst their 37 tournament clashes.

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