“I wish that day never happened, it’s a sad day for me and for sport all over the world“, Nadal said in a message posted on Twitter. Proof that the numbers do not say everything, the Swiss will have faced Novak Djokovic 50 times in his career, ten more than against Rafael Nadal, whom he did not meet. “only” 40 times, but his sporting relationship with the Majorcan will keep something incomparable.
We remember that, when he returned to Roland-Garros in 2019 after four years of absence, Federer took a breather before meeting his rival in the semi-finals: “That’s why I came back. To play Rafa.” He could have said “I came back to try to win back Roland-Garros ten years later.“, but no. It was telling because it’s not taking too many risks to think that he wouldn’t have said that about anyone else, anywhere.
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The Melbourne Exorcism
When Nadal, still a teenager, began to assert himself, Roger Federer had just established himself as the undisputed boss of world tennis. The arrival of “Rafa” was both “Rodger’s” worst nightmare and greatest opportunity. Both have grown mutually. Very quickly, the Nadal threat became clearer, until this match monument, completed at dusk one evening in July 2008 at Wimbledon, in the form of a transfer of power.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the fabulous Wimbledon final in 2008.
Nadal has made Federer cry more often than not, in part because most of their confrontations have taken place on clay (14-2 in favor of the Spaniard on ocher, 14-10 Federer elsewhere), but the Bâlois arguably exorcised a good part of his demons by winning another jewel in their common crown, the 2017 Australian Open final.
We will not list here all their duels, a good number of which have become entrenched in tennis legend. Come on, two or three at random, in addition to those mentioned above: the final of Miami in 2005, that of Rome in 2006, of Wimbledon in 2007, of Melbourne in 2009, and so on. Victory, defeat… Now that Federer is leaving, we almost want to say that all this doesn’t matter much anymore. There is or there will soon be prescription. To retain such a victory or such a defeat rather than the work they built together would be a mistake.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
The unforgettable giggle
So we can take Nadal at his word when he said this Thursday: “It has been a pleasure but also an honor and a privilege to share all these years with you, to experience so many fantastic moments on and off the courts.“It was also our pleasure and our privilege. When it comes to moments off the court, two spontaneously come to mind.
The first dates back to 2010. On the occasion of a promotional spot for charity matches, the shooting, which was supposed to last a few minutes, will drag on. The two champions have only a handful of words to say, but, sitting side by side, they cannot. The laughter that takes them then holds them has become cult. The second, closer, dates from the first edition of the Laver Cup, in 2017, with their (victorious) association in doubles. A kind of tennis fantasy.
Perhaps it was at least in part at those times when, accomplices and on the fringes of their rivalry, they discovered each other differently, that Rafael Nadal thought when writing this. It is also in this same Laver Cup that they will meet one last time, next week, since Roger Federer has decided to bow out on this occasion. Seeing the Swiss champion on the court will be tasty, but the presence of all the others will be no less tasty. And in these “others”, there will also be, above all, “Rafa”. “I’ll see you in London“, concluded Nadal.
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