Rafael Nadal shared a career with Roger Federer, as his original kryptonite, longtime rival and longtime friend. On Friday night in London the Spaniard shared tears and deep, heartfelt emotions with his Swiss buddy, and the tennis world collectively followed suit as the world celebrated Federer’s career and mourned the fact that he has now officially struck his last ball in anger.
Nadal summed it up best at the podium, as the pair took questions from reporters long after midnight in London.
Nadal – A part of my life goes too
The teary-eyed Spaniard said what we all feel as we bid 20-time champion Federer, the OG of the Big 3, farewell. As much as we don’t like to admit it, the beginning of the end of an era has officially started and there’s no more escaping it.
With it goes a piece of our collective tennis experience, relegated to the past.
“For me, have been huge honor to be a part of this amazing moment of the history of our sport, and at the same time a lot of years sharing a lot of things together,” Nadal said. “When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving too because of all the moments that he has been next or in front of me in important moments of my life.
“So have been emotional see the family, see all the people.
“Yeah, difficult to describe. But, yeah, amazing moment.”
Tsitsipas – not possible without Federer
More than anything, it was a joyful celebration, contextualized by the respect for Federer that spanned the generations. Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas reminded us of how important the Swiss has been to tennis and how his influence will live on into the future.
“This moment would not have been possible if Roger didn’t give me the opportunity to dream. I owe this moment to him! Love you with all my heart,” he wrote on Twitter.
Celebrate and Marvel at his career – Djokovic
Novak Djokovic shared many tender moments with Federer on Friday, showing both his respect for a rival and his appreciation for the past and present of our sport.
He too believes that this weekend is about getting inspired by Federer’s achievements and the player and person he was.
“There are different generations right now present in our team,” he said. “You know, most of us have watched and admired Roger’s success and achievements, you know, before coming on the tour. Some later, some earlier. But, you know, we will do our best to contribute to the team and a good performance, but at the same time marvel and celebrate his career.”
Sock – Happy to be a part of the GOAT’s final match
Jack Sock, who teamed with Frances Tiafoe to save a match point and eventually hand Federer and Nadal the loss that closed out Friday’s Laver Cup action, said the experience left him feeling drained at the finish.
“It was super fun to just be a part of that match,” he said. “I think we are going to be forever grateful to be a part of the GOAT’s final match. But I don’t think it settled in until after. When I hit that last shot, and realized it was over, it was, like, kind of went numb.”
His partner Tiafoe then chimed in:
“Empty feeling,” he said.
Federer – tonight was all happiness
But Federer didn’t see it that way. Although he’d like to play on if only his body would let him, the 41-year-old is clearly at peace with his decision to retire.
He said he has gone through the emotional ringer over the last month, and that has made this weekend a bit easier for him.
“For me I didn’t have fireworks in my head where I see my career flashing by, all the things I’m gonna miss,” he said. “This was weeks ago. So there it was hard for me making phone calls, letting people know that this decision is happening.
“There I felt pain, but now, tonight was all happiness.”