From start to finish, the match was lived with tears in the eyes, goosebumps and a lump in the throat, how could it be otherwise. Roger Federer retired this Friday in the Laver Cup playing a historic doubles match with Rafael Nadal, the most important rival of his career, at the O2 Arena in London. The defeat (4-6, 7-6, 11-9), however, was the least of it. The Swiss, an icon without equal, leaves after having achieved something reserved for very few: transcend beyond his sport, leave a mark, be a legend without titles or achievements mattering in the least. Federer leaves, but Federer stays. He long live the king.
At 41 years old, and forced by his right knee, Federer made the decision to say goodbye to his Laver Cup career, changing his plans (playing Basel in October and saying goodbye in some tournaments next season, including Wimbledon). Thus, forced by the situation, the Swiss drew up a fantastic plan, given the circumstances: to play for the last time alongside Nadal, the tennis player with whom he has spent almost two decades fighting for history in a thousand corners of the world.
After playing together just once (Prague 2017, during the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup), the pair of rivals held hands on Federer’s last night. That the Swiss chose Nadal to live that moment says a lot about the relationship between the two, an example of how and reaffirms something that was already known: it is impossible to understand the career of one without the other.
Despite everything, Federer’s problems and the couple’s lack of preparation, the two quickly found sensations and understood each other well, assaulting the net at the slightest opportunity, protecting the base forcefully, playing harmoniously and pressing teeth as the junction went awry in the second set, before seeing victory slip away in the dizzying super tie-break.
It was the last gift of two players of movies that have revolutionized modern tennis since an immense rivalry that ended in the early hours of Saturday with the withdrawal of Federer.
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