June 14, 2024
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s tennis rivalry will be remembered as one of the fiercest and most enthralling in sporting history.

The legendary duo dominated the sport for the best part of two decades, playing each other 40 times, with 24 of these encounters coming in finals.

Rafael Nadal
There is huge mutual respect between the pair, who rank second and third among those with the most Grand Slam titles in tennis historyCredit: getty

Many of these clashes have gone down as some of tennis’ greatest ever matches, with the pair’s epic 2008 Wimbledon final lasting just under five hours as Nadal edged the five-set thriller.

Given how long they went toe-to-toe for the sport’s biggest prizes, it would hardly be surprising if the rivals admitted to not being the best of friends.

Remarkably however, this could not be further from the truth.

Federer, who retired in 2022, previously revealed that the respect between the two is such that Spaniard cried tears of joy after watching the all-time great win his first French Open title in 2009.

When asked if he and Nadal were rivals or friends in a 2020 interview, the Swiss responded: “Can you be both? I think so. I really do.

“He’s a great person with great values, he’s got a great family. My family and his family respect each other immensely.

“He told me today that he cried when I won the French Open in 09, he was so happy for me. So it’s a great rivalry.”

The revelation is all the more impressive considering he had been eliminated from the tournament in the semi-finals, having been victorious in Paris in each of the previous four years.

Nadal, who boasts a record 14 Roland-Garros titles, was beaten by Robin Soderling in the last four, who Federer then beat in straight sets in the final to claim a Career Grand Slam.

And the 20-time major winner then made it clear just how highly he thinks of his great rival, ahead of an exhibition match between the pair.

Federer retired from tennis in 2022, with his final Grand Slam title coming at the 2018 Australian OpenCredit: GETTY

Nadal has dominated at the French Open since winning his first title in 2005Credit: AFP

He continued: “He’s been wonderful for the game, promoted this sport in the best possible way.

“He’s got a huge fanbase and I’m sure a lot of you guys are Rafa fans. He deserves everything and all the praise, he’s a great person.”

Admittedly, it would be difficult for Federer not to acknowledge his former adversary’s brilliance on the court, with the ‘King of Clay’ coming top in their head-to-head record.

The 37-year-old, who expects to retire from tennis at the end of the year, won 24 of his 40 clashes with the eight-time Wimbledon champion, and also prevailed in 10 of their 14 Grand Slam matches.

And though the Swiss legend made his feelings for his counterpart clear, Nadal however has revealed he does not consider Federer a friend.

In an interview on Spanish television show El Objetivo, he said of the 42-year-old: “I wouldn’t consider him a friend, but someone familiar, with whom I have a great relationship.”

Nonetheless, he has been equally complimentary when discussing Federer’s playing career.

He told El Pais: “Since I have memory, he is the player who has impressed me the most, the one who has entertained me the most, the one who has moved me the most.”

With both players having talked openly about their admiration for one another, there can be little doubt that Federer will be fully behind Nadal over the coming months, as he enters the twilight stage of his career.

And as the Spaniard prepares to take part in what will likely be his last French Open, it may be the 2009 champion who is reduced to tears this time as he watches his rival bid farewell to his favourite event.

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