Laver Cup: Nadal, Djokovic & Murray Lead Federer Tributes Ahead Of Final Hurrah

The Swiss Maestro is preparing for an emotional retirement at this week's Laver Cup
15:15, 22 Sep 2022

Rafa Nadal has enjoyed a fierce but friendly rivalry with Roger Federer for the best part of 20 years – and it was the Spaniard that was personally chosen by his fellow tennis legend as a partner for the Laver Cup doubles on Friday night at London’s O2 Arena for what will be the Swiss maestro’s final competitive hurrah.

Emotions were running high as the Team Europe players – including Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – lined up on the platform for Thursday’s set-piece press conference. The 41-year-old Federer’s tears may well come after he has taken his final bow. But here, it was Nadal more than anyone, sitting next to the player he first faced in Miami in 2004, that was almost choking up. If this is mirrored in the crowd for the finale, you can only feel for American and Team World opponents Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.

Federer’s decision to announce his retirement clearly sent a reminder to Nadal and Murray of their own tennis mortality, with both having wrestled with injury issues while still trying to compete at the top level. At 36, Nadal is currently the pack leader on 22 grand slam titles, but it was clear as he recalled his own greatest battles with Federer that this departure will leave a huge personal void.


Nadal said: “I have to name the 2008 Wimbledon final as a very special match between us – for me of course having won the title, but also for Roger. And probably for me also the 2017 final in Australia that he won was another very special one. Just a few months before that we had been sitting talking, both of us injured, wondering if we could get back to a good level on tour. Then there we were in the final in Australia, a five-set match. So for different reasons, those two. 


“But the memories that Roger has given to the sport have not only been in matches against me. I saw him playing and having success before I even arrived on tour. And then I was able to create an amazing rivalry together with him, and that is something we are both proud of. And it has been a friendly rivalry.  

“That is not easy at times, because we are playing for things that are so important for our tennis careers. Though we both understood that personal relationships are more important than professional things, and we handled it in the proper way. 

“I think Friday will be very difficult to handle – for Roger without a doubt, but for me too. One of the most important players in my career, if not of all time, is leaving. It is sad news, and was a tough day when I heard. And so this moment will be hard. But I am grateful to him for playing with me. 

“I didn’t need to hear Roger’s announcement to know that for me the end is closer. That is the normal cycle, some players leave, others come in, and history repeats. It’s just in this case it is one of the most important players in the history of tennis that is leaving after a great and long career. And some of us were able to share it.” 

Britain’s Murray suffered as much as anyone at Federer’s hands in grand slams, though did beat him at Wimbledon to win Olympic gold. And even though not involved he also highlighted the epic and much rain-delayed Wimbledon final of 2008, eventually won by Nadal 9-7 in the fifth set, as a truly iconic showdown. 

Scot Murray, 35, said: “I was actually in the stands at Wimbledon with some friends watching the Roger v Rafa final in 2008 – and when it started raining, I actually left! So I watched the end, but at home rather than in the stadium live. That is one obvious match that stands out in his career, because it was one that I was actually present at – at least at the start.


“As you get older as athletes and with some of the physical issues you do think about ‘What if’, and when is the right moment to stop, and how would you like it to be. But for me this feels really right for Roger. 

“Having him and Rafa on the same side of the net and finishing his career as a team, at this event, with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe at the side of the court and Rod Laver in the stands, seems a really cool way to end an incredible career. I have thought about it myself, and I don’t think there are many better ways to go than this.” 

Murray and Djokovic came up from junior days together, but the Serbian star proved better able to combat the skills of Federer and Nadal to bring his own grand slam haul to 21. Djokovic said: “My first grand slam final against Roger at the US Open in 2007 stands out. I lost that one, but it was an amazing experience and allowed me to believe that I belonged at that level. 

“And then the 2019 Wimbledon final that I won – sorry about that, Roger! At the beginning of my career I lost a lot to Roger and Rafa in grand slams. And they contributed a lot to the player I am today, working out how to turn the tables. I am grateful to have been part of that era, with Andy also – who I first played when we were 12. 

“Already these last few days have been memorable spending time together – we had a lot of laughs at the dinner on Wednesday night. On a personal level, Roger’s legacy will live forever – that’s for sure.” ​​​​​

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