Originally Posted by billnepill
So it's not all about contrasting styles as you threw in there a couple more factors- Excitement and competitiveness.
Let's take the "pigeon" and excitement part. In hindsight you could argue that the outcome of matches is easy to predict but in 2008 I doubt you would say that. At that point the h2h was 8-6 and the rivalry looked promising. Nadal and Federer are the biggest tennis stars by far and their encounters never lacked excitement and a lot of hype. In my view there is a bigger picture to a rivalry than h2h as well. Those players battle for the number 1 position and overall domination of the sport. The way they play, practice, what they focus on in their game etc it's partly done to beat their rival. That made Nadal become a better player on all surfaces and he finally got to Federer on the big non clay events.
Therefore, I view your criteria for a rivalry as too simplistic and your evaluation of Fedal as an understatement. However, I agree that contrasting styles is an important consideration albeit perhaps not be most important one.
Nadal and Federer do not produce the best matches except their grass matches at Wimbledon in 2007 and 2008, and to a lesser degree the Australian Open 2009. Clay is boring, Nadal dominance, and tons of unforced errors, especialy from Federer who foolishly tries to outrally Nadal on a slow clay court. Even if the scorelines were similar Djokovic-Nadal were already producing way better quality clay court matches as far back as 07 and 08. Indoors is also boring, Federer dominance, and only 1 decent but not unbelievable match, the 2010 WTF. Outdoor hard courts hasnt been great either, only 1 match in a slam and only a couple pretty good encounters.
I fail to see a single thing other than hype that would make their rivalry even close to the best.
There also was hardly ever a great number 1 battle. Before 2008 Nadal was far too weak on hard courts to even come close to being number 1 so there was no battle. From 2008 onwards Nadal was always going to be number 1 unless he went through a long period being injured, until Djokovic came along. Still no great battle.