Five major sporting rivalries during 2015

From "The Fight of The Century" between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao to Lionel Messi's swift efforts to crack a well-defended Bayern Munich, here we look back at five major rivalries that made 2015 a great year.

1Soccer – Barcelona vs Bayern Munich

There’s always something going on between these two teams, both undeniably among the most entertaining to watch.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, though primarily known as a goal machine, has his Achilles' heel – Manuel Neuer, the German goalkeeper who, until May 7, had kept a clean sheet by denying the Argentine, both in World Cup and Champions League competition.

When the sides met in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Camp Nou, the talking point was more about how to crack Neuer than how to stop Messi.

During the pre-game built-up, Neuer said he’d show Messi who’s the boss.

The rest of the story backfired. In case you missed the match, watch the rerun. Messi’s "messiah moment" was beyond belief.

The forward’s superb double in the space of three minutes ended a 76-minute goalless stalemate, inspiring Barcelona to thrash the visiting Bavarians 3-0 with Neymar adding to the tally.

The historic moment came with Messi’s second goal, in which the 5' 7" star nimbly wanted past Bayern’s 6' 4" Jerome Boateng before chipping over the German 'keeper. Disturbed by Messi’s shimmy, the defender was left crumpled awkwardly on the ground, only able to watch the ball curve into the net.

The Argentine had finally broken one of the world’s finest defenses that had thwarted him a step away from his most coveted honor in the 2014 World Cup final.

Barcelona eventually claimed the elite European competition crown before wrapping up its treble-winning season.

Barcelona knocked out Bayern 5-3 on aggregate and eventually claimed the elite European competition crown before wrapping up its treble-winning season.

Adding more intrigue to the already closely-watched clash, the tie was the first time legendary coach Pep Guardiola had returned to Camp Nou. The Spaniard is the most in-demand manager now after announcing a Bayern exit at the end of current season.

Nostalgic fans can also find consolation in again seeing veterans including former Barca legend Xavi Hernandez and ex-Bayern great Bastian Schweinsteiger in action.

It’s a classic.

2Tennis – The world against Novak Djokovic

After taking sweet revenge on Roger Federer by winning two straight sets at the final of the ATP World Tour Finals, Novak Djokovic sealed his 11th singles title of 2015 in London, bringing his prize money for the season to a record $21 million.

Djokovic cruised to almost every final of the 16 ATP and Grand Slam events he contested, claiming a historic six Masters, together with three Grand Slam titles. On the way to completing this wild season, he achieved overall victories against the other three - Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal - of the Big Four who have dominated the men’s tennis world in the past few years.

The Serb won 15 times in 19 meetings with the trio, helping improve head-to-head records with Federer and Nadal.

Unlike Federer’s past history which relies on a “tiki-taka” way of controlling the ball, what makes Djokovic more reliable is that he thinks less, plays simpler and employs less complicated skills, resulting in fewer mistakes and fluctuations.

Djokovic relies on only two ploys - the world’s best baseline play and serve receiving - which are powerful enough for him to take almost all games in a consistent, reliable and effective way.

Unless he encounters a career-high performance, such as that of Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, he is hard to defeat. The rest of the world owes a thank-you to Wawrinka, otherwise the year would be probably labeled a Djokovic one-man show.

Djokovic claimed six Masters title, a historic feat, together with three Grand Slam titles in 2015.

It is a universal consensus that Djokovic eclipsed the rest of the tennis world during 2015. Even compared with Federer's season of 2006, his achievement is more convincing as he won two more Masters titles than his Swiss rival.

However, Djokovic should learn from Federer how to create easy winner shots, if he wants to stay at the peak. Over-reliance on baseline play makes his game far more energy-consuming than Federer and is largely restricted by his physical condition. He can never feel relaxed about his reign at the top.

Next month, a new challenge will begin for the World No. 1 at the Australian Open, which kicks off in Melbourne on January 18. Let’s wait and see what happens.

3Basketball – Stephen Curry vs LeBron James

After giving Stephen Curry a congratulatory hug, LeBron James walked off court to the prolonged cheers of his home fans.

Even though there were still minutes to go in Game 6 of last season's NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers star must have known he’d done all he could.

Curry, whose sensational performance earned him the title Most Valuable Player of the 2014/2015 season, eventually inspired the Golden State Warriors to its first NBA championship in 40 years.

Debate lingered over the choice of Finals MVP, which surprisingly shunned favorite Curry and went to the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala. The honor, as many fans argued, could also have gone for a third time to James, who even in defeat carried the injury-depleted Cavaliers on his broad shoulders during the postseason.

With a lifetime $500million deal with Nike, James continues to be the face of the NBA, especially after the more-weathered Kobe Bryant announced his retirement at the end of the current season.

The 30-year-old Cavaliers icon is not slowing down in the 2015/2016 campaign, averaging 25.8 points a game and helping the Kyrie Irving-less squad to top the Eastern Conference standings.

LeBron James carried the injury-depleted Cavaliers on his broad shoulders during the postseason.

But all this has been overshadowed by their Western rival’s "Golden" winning streak of 24 games, which ended at hands of Milwaukee Bucks, with the Warriors’ Curry extending his excellent form.

Fans would love to see a rerun of the Cavaliers-Warriors Finals if both can secure their respective top spots.

4Boxing –Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao

The “Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao was a clash for cash.

Prior to the May 2 bout, speculation centered on the big bucks it would generate rather than boxing.

Mayweather and Pacquiao were ranked the world's best-paid athletes by Forbes magazine.

By numbers the fight didn’t disappoint. Fresh from reportedly splitting the $300 million the pair were offered to show up, Mayweather and Pacquiao were ranked the world’s best-paid athletes by Forbes magazine. It’s reported that American Mayweather, who won unanimously 118-110, 116-112, 116-112, took $220 million, while Filipino Pacquiao pocketed $180 million.

The TV industry got its fair share too. The lucrative clash created record pay-per-view revenue in the United States of $400 million from 4.4 million buys, cable networks Showtime and HBO said.

The duo met in Las Vegas, a city already rolling in money, attracting huge crowds to casinos and hotels. Nevada casinos made more than $1 billion from gamblers in May.

What came as bigger surprise was how money was squandered. Mayweather still didn’t come up with a wise way to disperse his wealth. The undefeated fighter showered a Los Angeles strip club in dollar bills in October. Two months later he posted a photo on Instagram showing himself atop a cash-blanketed bed.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, is more politically motivated. Already a local politician in his home country where he’s revered as a national hero, "Pacman" has announced his bid for a seat in the 2016 senate election.

It seems a remote prospect to expect a rematch of such an iconic fight after Mayweather called the Sept 12 bout with Andre Berto his finale. Meanwhile Pacquiao is set to retire next year and focus on his political campaign.

But nothing is settled yet. Mayweather, who so far has been living up to his moniker, “money”, may still be tempted back for another big payday.

5Formula One – Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg

When Lewis Hamilton sprayed champagne with abandon to celebrate his third Formula One world championship, a title he secured at the US Grand Prix in October thanks to Nico Rosberg’s mistake, the German stood in disgust beneath the shower.

Before the podium ceremony, Hamilton had tossed his Mercedes teammate a cap to wear. Rosberg chucked it back, like threw a tantrum.

No need for a sound here although the pair had traded a war of words on other occasions. Tension was already flaring.

The Mercedes duo are known for their intense rivalry, so passionate that the whole story could change within three seconds. Hamilton crossed the line 2.8 seconds ahead of Rosberg in Texas. The German had led seven laps from the end but ran wide at turn 12, making an error that soon morphed into the Briton’s opportunity.

Hamilton and Rosberg used to be friends as young karting drivers but later developed a tenacious F1 rivalry.

Their strained relationship was not built in a day. The pair, both 30, used to be friends as young karting drivers but later developed a tenacious F1 rivalry which has seen Rosberg beaten in two consecutive world championship seasons.

Hamilton is the more favored in news headlines. Just as his driving style, which his German peer dismissed as “aggressive”, the Briton has maintained a high profile in everyday life. The racer is constantly linked with a string of Hollywood women after eight years of dating singer Nicole Scherzinger. Rosberg, on the other hand, is the quiet one.

The triple F1 champion once accused his teammate of “complaining a lot” due to his privileged background. Hamilton spent part of his childhood on a council estate, while Rosberg, son of multi-millionaire racing driver Keke, grew up in Monaco.

The fallout was so openly discussed that team boss Toto Wolff had to step in before things became disastrous to collective work, warning earlier this month that one of the drivers could go.

Hamilton, in defense of his spirit of teamwork, said what he and Rosberg have had is “sweet”, according to CNN.

Written by: Zhao Siyuan and Gao Qihui | Designed by: Hebe and Chen Xiaotong

The page is best viewed using IE version 8 or above, and other browers including chrome and baidu.

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.