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Roger Federer retirement: When Rafael Nadal left his 'friend and rival' in tears

Rafael Nadal took to Instagram to send a heartfelt tribute to his 'friend and rival' Roger Federer, who announced his retirement from the sport after the Laver Cup 2022. But did you know the Spaniard left the Swiss great in tears once? We revisit that day, their rivalry and friendship.

tennis Roger Federer retirement: When Rafael Nadal left his 'friend and rival' in tears snt
First Published Sep 16, 2022, 2:26 PM IST

Bringing an end to one of the glorious careers in tennis, Swiss ace Roger Federer on Thursday announced his retirement from the sport after next week's Laver Cup 2022. The news sent shockwaves among tennis enthusiasts and sparked fans worldwide to send their heartfelt tributes. 

Spanish legend Rafael Nadal, who shared an intense rivalry with Federer, was quick to share an emotional note to bid his' friend and rival' a happy retirement.

Also read: 'Legends never retire': Fans thank G.O.A.T. Roger Federer for years of enthralling tennis; mark end of an era

"Dear Roger, my friend and rival. I wish this day would have never come… it's a sad day for me personally and for sports people around the world. I said it to you when we spoke and now it's here," Nadal wrote in an Instagram post.

"It's been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court. We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what's ahead of you. I'll see you in London at the Laver Cup 2022," the Spaniard added.


A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

The Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal rivalry will go down in the sport's history as one of the greatest. Fierce, intense, gruelling and enthralling were the scenes on a tennis court when the two greats faced each other, leaving spectators at the edge of their seats and hearts in their mouths till the very end. 

Since 2004, the Spaniard and Swiss great crossed paths 40 times and produced some of the most fascinating tennis matches. Nadal leads the head-to-head record over Federer 24-16. The last time they faced each other was at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships. The Spanish ace has won more finals than the 41-year-old and has a winning record of 14-10 in summit clashes.

Also read: 'Habits never retire': Tendulkar's tribute to Federer a reminder of what legends are made of

On clay and outdoor hard court, Nadal leads 14-2 and 8-6 over Federer, while the Swiss maestro leads on grass and indoor hard court 3-1 and 5-1, respectively. The Spaniard leads 6-0 at the French Open, 3-1 at the Australian Open, while Federer leads 3-1 at Wimbledon. The two never faced each other in the US Open.

Nadal's 2009 Australian Open win against Federer will remain etched on the Swiss legend's memory forever

Throughout Federer's glorious career, there have been countless memorable moments between him and Nadal - one of them was 13 years ago, at the Australian Open. February 1, 2009, will be remembered as one of the most competitive days in the sport's history as it was when Nadal defeated Federer to clinch his first Australian Open crown.

At the age of 22, Nadal won the Australian Open 2009 in a dramatic 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6 and 6-2 in 4 hours and 36 minutes and stopped Federer from reaching the Pete Sampras line with 14 majors.

tennis Roger Federer retirement: When Rafael Nadal left his 'friend and rival' in tears snt

Nadal came to Melbourne as world No. 1 and top seed, while Federer, who had bagged three Australian Open wins and 13 Grand Slam crowns in total, was number two but also worshipped as the greatest tennis idol back then.

"Thanks for the support, you guys are unbelievable," said Federer after receiving his runner-up trophy amidst a packed Rod Laver Arena. 

"Maybe I'll try later again. God! this is killing me," remarked the Swiss master, following which he broke into tears and cried uncontrollably and excused himself from addressing the crowd.

The presenter called Rafael Nadal, the Australian Open 2009 winner, to come forward to receive the prized trophy. The Spaniard took the winning trophy, raised it in front of a booming audience and went towards an emotional Federer only to put his arms around him and share some words of encouragement. The two greats were pictured sharing a moment, which will go down in the game's history as one of the greatest examples of sportsmanship. The crowd in Melbourne acknowledged this gesture and applauded the two's rivalry and friendship.

"I'll try again," Federer said as he walked forward to address the crowd after the shock defeat to Nadal.

"I don't want to have the last word. This guy (Nadal) deserves it," the Swiss maestro added.

"Rafa, congrats. You played incredible. You deserve it, man. Played another fantastic final, so all the best for the season," Federer added.

In response, when Nadal took the mic to give his winning address, he said, "First of all, I'm sorry for today, but you're a great champion, one of the best in history. You're going to surpass Sampras' 14 titles, for sure."

Also read: 'I wish this day would have never come' - Nadal, Serena saddened with Federer retiring

Federer not only surpassed Sampras' record, but Nadal did it by some margin. The Swiss master will surely remember the 2009 Australian Open defeat the most after such a long career.

"At the beginning, you are upset, surprised and sad. There are a lot of feelings you have," Federer later reflected. "The problem is that you can't go to the locker room and take a cold shower. You have to go outside. And that's the worst moment. It's hard. It just hurts so much to lose," the Swiss legend added.

tennis Roger Federer retirement: When Rafael Nadal left his 'friend and rival' in tears snt

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