Best Ever Competition Rivalries - Individual

Not looking for Team rivalries like Yankees-Red Sox, but individual rivalries like Federer - Nadal.

Looking for Auto Racing, Golf, Tennis, Pool, Bowling, Olympic Sports, Cycling, heck we can include Pool, Poker, and Chess

Some that I can think of from the past:


S. Williams- V. Williams



Ladies Golf:


Minnesota Fats-Mosconi

IMO, it helps the rivalry if there is a little animosity between the competitors

Federerererer[1]-Nadal, no doubt.

[1] Does anyone else think of The Man With Two Brains whenever they see his name?

This goes back a ways, but in the 1970s, Indy-car drivers Johnny Rutherford and Gordon Johncock were pretty serious (and sometimes bitter) rivals.

Doh, just realized I hadn’t read the first sentence of the OP. :smack: At least I got in my inane Man With Two Brains joke.

Formula 1 has had over the last 20 years or so:

In the late '80s / early '90s - Senna v Prost
In the mid '90s - Schumacher v Hill
In the late '90s - Schumacher v Hakkinen

We could potentially see Hamilton v Vettel v Alonso v Kubica for years to come.

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, middle distance runners Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett had an epic rivalry, highlighted by Coe breaking Ovett’s world record in the mile, with Ovett taking back the record a week later, only to see Coe break it again in 2 days time (3 wr’s in 9 days!).

That brings to mind the Ben Johnson-Carl Lewis rivalry. Now with added steroids!

Ali-Frazier is probably the class of this sort of thing in boxing.

Others would include:


In middle-distance running, I’d like to nominate:

Coe-Ovett (ETA: sorry)

No animosity (they trained together and were close friends), but Rafer Johnson vs. C. K. Yang in the decathlon in the 1960 Olympics. Yang won seven of the ten events; Johnson won the other three, and by large enough margins to get the gold medal.

Affirmed and Alydar?

Helen Wills Moody and Helen Jacobs had a major rivalry in women’s tennis, back i nthe 1930’s.

Wow, I never even considered boxing in my OP. :smack:

Guess that tells you how far off the radar screen boxing is in my world.

Great examples from everyone. exactly what was looking for. Even the outside the box rivalry of Alydar/Affirmed. Were there any jockeys that were big (and bitter?) rivals.

Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro were certainly rivals, in the horse racing world.

In the world of surfing, Kelly Slater and Andy irons were certainly archrivals… though they SEEMED to like each other, when not trying to beat each other.

In NASCAR, Richard petty and David Pearson finished 1-2 quite a lot. And Jeff Gordon has been a heated rival of both Dale Earnhardt Senior AND Junior.

Back to golf… Ben Hogan and Sam Snead may deserve a mention.

Tiger - Phil (golf)

Fischer - Kasparov (chess) I think they were kind of rivals or am I making that up?

Although they were members of teams, I always thought Dwight Evans and Dennis Eckersley had a pretty intense personal rivalry back in the late 80’s - early 90’s. They were former teammates and every single Eck vs. Dewey at bat was like its own mini-drama, complete with intense stare-downs. Maybe they thought there could be only one D.E.

Fischer-Spassky was the rivalry that the musical CHESS was about; Fischer had retired to pursue other interests by the time Kasparov came on the scene.

Kasparov’s main rival while he was up-and-coming was Anatoly Karpov.

I think you’re conflating Fischer - Spassky and Karpov - Kasparov. Fischer and Kasparov never played each other.

Not a chess fan – correct me if I’m wrong.

From martial arts:

Randy Couture - Chuck Liddell
Georges St. Pierre - Matt Hughes
Royce Gracie - Ken Shamrock
Tito Ortiz - Ken Shamrock
Chuck Liddell - Tito Ortiz

ETA: Thanks, Tom

Indeed, Fischer and Kasparov never played each other, which makes NPR’s headline for their interview with Kasparov following Fischer’s death a bit disingenuous.

Kwan v. Slutskaya v. Butyrskaya

the ultimate figure skating rivalry Harding - Kerrigan.