Rafael Nadal on Roger Federer: ‘An important part of my life is leaving too’
In the end, neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal could hold back their tears.
Maybe it was the music that stirred the emotions, with British singer Ellie Goulding ending a memorable night in London, or maybe it was the memories, and there are many of those shared between these tennis greats, highlighted.
As Nadal sat alongside his friend and great rival at the O2 Arena on Friday night, the pair cried. Fans chanted Federer’s name, the pair hugged and Federer received a final standing ovation. There was no doubt that this was the Swiss great’s last professional game.
« For me it has been a huge honor to be part of this incredible moment in the history of our sport, and at the same time many years of sharing a lot together, » the Spaniard said of Federer, according to Reuters, after the pair lost their Laver Cup doubles match to American pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.
« When Roger leaves the tour, yeah, a big part of my life leaves too because all the times he’s been next to or in front of me in big times in my life. So was emotional (to) see the family , seeing all the people. Yes, hard to describe. But, yes, amazing moment.
Federer and Nadal have faced each other 40 times in one of sport’s greatest rivalries, with the most memorable match being the thrilling 2008 Wimbledon final which Nadal won in the final set. It is still considered one of the greatest tennis matches of all time.
Between them, they have amassed 42 Grand Slams (Federer 20, Nadal 22).
Despite the battles on the pitch, however, the duo remain friends, with Federer having chosen Nadal as his doubles partner during his swan song. The partnership was affectionately referred to as « Fedal » by fans.
« I think every year the personal relationship is getting better day by day, » Nadal, 36, told reporters. “I think in a way we understand at the end that we have a lot of similar things. We approach life probably similar.
« On the court, we have completely opposite styles, and that’s probably what makes our matches and our rivalry one of the most important and interesting.
« Very proud to be a part of his career in some way. But even happier to end our career as friends after everything we shared on the court as rivals.
Federer, a former world number one and a player who will be remembered as one of the greatest champions in all of sport, has described his 25-year professional career as a « perfect run ».
« It feels like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like that at the end and that’s exactly what I was hoping for so thank you, » he said in an emotional on-pitch speech.
« It was a perfect trip and I would do it again. »
Federer, 41, also thanked his wife, Mirka, for her support.
“Everyone is there, boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive of me. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago, but she didn’t,” Federer said.
« She kept me going and allowed me to play, so it’s amazing. Thank you. »