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Federer-Nadal Rivalry Illustrates Perfectly the Subjective Nature of Wikipedia

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 15 Jun 2015


Have you ever heard the joke "I read it on the internet, so it must be true'"That's the duplicitous reality of the internet as a source of information in the modern age. It's an unbelievable luxury to have such widespread access to information, but that certainly doesn't mean it's all "true."Take, for example, the epic rivalry between the two professional tennis players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Together, the pair set the modern record for most meetings in the championship round of a Grand Slam tournament (8), alongside many other impressive rivalry records. Records which, admittedly, are currently at risk in favor of the Djokovic-Nadal rivalry.Beyond the statistics of Federer-Nadal, however, was the intensely followed and often dramatic encounters between two high-profile players who seemingly raised worldwide interest in the sport several noticeable notches.Whether it was the contrast in their very different styles on court or their individual pursuits of history, there's no doubting the all-time Slam champion versus the One Who Would Usurp Him has been an amazing roller coaster for tennis fans across the globe.The fact that both players are still active on the professional tour hasn't stopped the media and their legions of fans from participating in some rather spirited discussions on each legend's particular place in history.Unfortunately, the spirited nature of that much-publicized discussion appears to have spilled over on to theirWikipediapage (Federer-Nadal rivalry) and, in the process, illustrated quite starkly the limitations of a user-controlled website as a source of "factual" information.While the battle between media members and tennis fans over who the better player is in terms of history can't accurately be addressed until both players are retired, there can be no doubt that the rivalry between them to date has been a one-sided affair.Leading their rivalry by a record of 23-10, Rafael Nadal has dominated Roger Federer on the court of play there are simply no "ifs-ands-or-buts" about it.However, a quick read through the "Federer-Nadal rivalry" on its designatedWikipediapage recently projected more like a battle between fans who were trying to raise one player over the other, as opposed to an accurate characterization of their on-court encounters (i.e. the actual rivalry).I spent some time on said rivalry page editing incorrect or subjective information and was met each and every time by either "anonymous" users or "super" users who insisted on controlling the tone and accuracy (or inaccuracy in this case) of the information publicized about this particular subject.It was one particular line, found prominently at the top of the Federer-Nadal rivalry page on Wikipedia, that first catalyzed my editing fervor: "Despite the head-to-head record, Federer maintains the better overall record in most win categories against all other players."Besides being outright inaccurate, this assertion was not referenced.It was also deleted. By me. Numerous times.Nadal, in fact, enjoys a higher overall winning percentage in his career than Federer (83.13 percent vs. 81.50 percent) and holds a better record against top 10 players as well (66.50 percent vs. 65.28 percent). Nadal's winning percentage actually measures in at the highest level of any player in the open era. But going back to the inaccuracy, one wonders why that assertion would even be included on the Federer-Nadal rivalry page. That now-deleted quote (still visible under the "history" tab) related to the players' success against other opponents on tour. While such statistics may be relevant in the broader discussion about their respective places in history, the rivalry itself is about the history and nature of the head-to-head encounters between two specific players. While updating a good portion of the informationon this page, I consistently found a "super" user going by the screen name "Wolbo" either undoing my corrections or deleting my additions. Not ironically,Wikipediaindicates of Wolbo that "this user thinks Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time."Wikipediaalso indicates that Wolbo has "pending changes reviewer rights" and is an "autopatroller."I found out the latter basically meant he/she could undo any adjustment I made, factual or otherwise, at will.Only after countless updates was I able to squeeze through a few adjustments that actually helped portray the rivalry as it actually isa one-sided affair in Nadal's favor.I purposefully left untouched several head-scratching descriptions of matches in which Nadal came out victorious but were described as all but in Federer's back pocket before some sort of miracle saved the Spaniard.Under the "History" section on the rivalry page, one encounter in 2013 is described as such: "They finally played a match at the2013 Western & Southern Openin Cincinnati, where Nadal unseated the five-time champion in the quarterfinals after Federer played a dazzling first set with crisply struck groundstrokes. At several points Federer had openings in Nadal service games in the second set, including a 030 chance, but Nadal came back to win in three sets." While it may be acceptable to characterize a few matches in which Nadal was victorious as near misses for Federer, one can see quite easily how the Wikipedia page might read if every facet of their rivalry was described from that same perspective. Oddly enough, it mostly did read that way. If you go through the "history" tab of edits on that Wikipediapage, you can see for yourself this is true. The fact is Rafael Nadal remains the only player in the history of tennis who has beaten Roger Federer in the championship round of a Grand Slam on each of the three unique surfaces (French Openclay, Wimbledongrass, Australian Openhard court), while Federer has only beaten Nadal on onegrass.Nadal is lifetime 22-6 against Federer on outdoor courts and is 9-2 against him in Grand Slam competitionboth of which represent sizable, and compelling, advantages.Prior to much editing by myself (full disclosure, my Wikipedia screen name is Liquid foundation), it was fairly clear that this particular page was controlled by several users seeking to downplay Nadal's actual domination of Federer by sweeping the important facts under the proverbial rug and presenting Nadal's incredibly impressive record against Federer as some sort of accidental after-thought due to a "bad match-up."While a discussion about their respective places in history would certainly allow for a wider boundary of information and opinions, the actual rivalry itself, constituted by their 33 head-to-head encounters (to date), should read as is: a landslide.One hopes that as sources such asWikipediadevelop and improve, "word crimes" (props here to the Weird Al song) such as this will be corrected by a more efficient market of information. Or, if necessary, a new source is created that more accurately reflects the facts on a consistent basis.If nothing else, this example highlights the power of information, the power of those who control said information and the perspective by which it is presented. Winston Churchill famously said: "History is written by the victors." In the case of the Federer-Nadal rivalry, until mid-2015, itappears the opposite was true.
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