Tennis legend Roger Federer has thanked Rafael Nadal for making his final appearance at the Laver Cup a special one.
The 41-year-old said an emotional goodbye to the world of tennis alongside the other members of the ‘Big Three’, Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The Spaniard participated in the London tournament despite his wife recently being hospitalised due to complications with her pregnancy, and the effort to be there wasn’t lost on Federer.
“I told him, ‘Look, I’ll keep you posted. You let me know how things are at home. And we’ll reconnect’,” Federer told the New York Times.
“But it very quickly got clear on the phone, and Rafa told me, ‘I will try everything I possibly can to be there with you.’
“And that felt obviously incredible for me. And it showed again how much we mean to one another and how much respect we have.
“And I just thought it would be just a beautiful, amazing story for us, for sports, for tennis, and maybe beyond that as well, where we can coexist in a tough rivalry and come out on top and show that, hey, again it’s just tennis.
“Yes, it’s hard, and it’s brutal sometimes, but it’s always fair.
“And you can come out on the other side and still have this great, friendly rivalry. I just thought it ended up even better than I ever thought it would. So, an incredible effort by Rafa, and I’ll obviously never forget what he did for me in London.”
What now for Federer?
As for how Federer is feeling now that his playing career is over, he says he’s complete.
“I think I feel complete,” he said. “I lost my last singles match. I lost my last doubles match.
“I lost my voice from screaming and supporting the team. I lost the last time as a team. I lost my job, but I’m very happy.
“I’m good. I’m really good. That’s the ironic part, is everybody thinks about happy fairy-tale endings, you know?
“And for me, actually it ended up being that but in a way that I never thought was going to happen.”
Federer and Nadal were seen crying and holding hands while sitting following their match, but Roger says it was a happy moment for him.
“It was a short moment,” he said. “I think at one point, I was sobbing so hard, and I don’t know, everything was going through my mind about how happy I am to actually experience this moment right there with everybody.
“And I think that’s what was so beautiful about just sitting there, taking it all in while the music was playing, and the focus was maybe more on her [the singer Ellie Goulding].”
As for his decision to retire, Federer says he reached a point where his knee was just causing him too many problems.
“As time went by, I could feel less and less chance as the knee was creating problems for me as I was struggling to power through,” he added.
“And that’s when I ultimately said, look, it’s OK, I accept it. Because I left it all out there. Nothing more to prove.”