the duel of the century and one last dance together

They met almost two decades ago. The first time that Rafael Nadal Y Roger Federer shared track was on March 28, 2004, in Miami. More than 18 years later, this Friday they will do it for the last time. Not as rivals but as a doubles pair. The match will be the living reflection of how two historical ‘enemies’ ended up forging a friendship.

Federer retires at the age of 41 and the counter Grand Slam won standing at 20. Five years older than Nadal and six more than Novak DjokovicRoger could not hold his pulse with the other two of the Big Three in the final stretch of his career. In 2022, the Spanish tennis player and the Serbian took off from the Swiss carrying their accounts at 22 and 21 ‘big’.

But with Federer, numbers aren’t everything. He leaves behind a legendary legacy in tennis that ranges from his finesse with a racket to his fierce competition over the years. An athlete who left countless epic matches against many rivals, but above all against Nadal, is fired.

[15 años del día que Nadal y Federer hicieron historia juntos: los secretos de la ‘Batalla de las Superficies’]

Federer and Nadal have met a total of 40 times. They could have been 41, but an injury to Rafa in Indian Wells 2019 he left without playing one that would have been one of his last duels -the Spanish retired before facing the Swiss in the semis-.

A total of nine endings remain in the gallery. Grand Slamincluding four of Roland Garrosthat of Wimbledon 2008 that for many is the best match in history or that of the Australian Open 2017 in which Federer made up for himself after ten years without winning a ‘big’ from Nadal. The total balance leans towards Rafa’s side by 24 wins to 16.

The legend was inaugurated on the day that a 17-year-old boy beat the number 1 in the world against all odds. Federer was 22 years old and then he seemed unbeatable for anyone on the circuit. Nadal, who was only 34th in the ranking, took the battle to victory 6-3, 6-3 in an intense 70-minute battle.

Two antagonistic styles face to face. It is curious to see how Roger defined Rafa after that match without knowing that he would end up becoming his greatest rival: “I think he is a bit shy on the court. He looked at me as an incredibly good player. I felt more respect than nerves” .

“We’ll see how strong it will be in two years,” Federer threw into the air. After that time, Nadal was already double champion of Roland Garros and number 2 in the world. Even so, Rafa was slow to seize the throne of tennis, this happening on August 11, 2008. Roger spent more than four uninterrupted years, 237 weeks, at number 1.

One of the most historic images of this rivalry occurred a year later, at the 2009 Australian Open. Nadal beat Federer in the final in a great five-set match (7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (7 /3), 3-6 and 6-2) and the Swiss could not hold back his tears. “God, this is killing me”, he stammered at the trophy ceremony. “Rafa, surprised and shocked, had emotional words for his rival:” You are a great champion “.

[El adiós de Roger Federer y del ‘Big Three’: el final de la mejor batalla del tenis]

The pulse was maintained for years, with Djokovic’s subsequent entry into the fight. What was a tough rivalry was transformed: for Rafa, Roger ceased to be the enemy to beat; Federer no longer saw Nadal as the ‘young man’ who wanted to overthrow him. They became friends and enjoyed their duels on the track as much as the spectators. Their relationship was summed up by the Spaniard this Thursday: “Personal relationships are more important than professional ones.”

It is also fair to talk about what they have been able to record in the memories of racket fans. They left for posterity and in the spectators’ minds one of the best matches in history: the 2008 Wimbledon final. Nadal’s assault on Federer’s garden. An ode to tennis that fell on the side of the Spanish thanks to his incombustible bellows to withstand the onslaught of the Swiss. He snapped a streak of five consecutive titles for the Basel in a nearly five-hour battle.

If they hinted at a fierce rivalry on the courts, we must not forget that the two were fighting for the tennis title and being the man with the most Grand Slams, outside they also left iconic moments. One of them, the viral laughs they shared when recording a spot together. The complicity of Nadal and Federer was demonstrated in one of his culminating moments.

Laughter, looks and guffaws dominate the announcement. A demonstration of the good vibes between the two. It is not something new since they always profess admiration for each other. An unmissable combo that has been able to give a show outside of tennis. For example, they were also able to bring together in an exhibition Peter Sampras Y Andrew Agassi, two other absolute champions and former number one in the world. Two geniuses capable of bringing together more geniuses.

Two generations, four rackets, four players, a total of 64 Grand Slams and many weeks as leaders of the ATP. An explosive combination that is difficult to reconcile on a tennis court. A demonstration of the power of conviction of Nadal and Federer to carry out projects together as well.

In these projects there is the possibility of facing each other once again, in another exhibition, with the Santiago Bernabeu already remodeled as a luxury stage. In addition, they could break the historical record for spectators at a tennis match. Currently it is 51,954 spectators and yes, the match that was held was a Nadal-Federer in Cape Town (South Africa).

For the last time they will meet again at the highest level. And they will do it in the best possible way: forming a couple. Federer’s goodbye could not have a better partner, he himself made it clear both before and after the confirmation. He came to describe it as “a dream” before confirmation. “It’s super special to be able to play with Rafa,” he assured after his game was made public. In 2017, also in the Washer Cup, they played together for the first time.

Back and knee, his lashes

A joy for Federer after the suspense about his presence in the tournament. The Helvetian was tested throughout the week and, after declining his presence in singles, he decided to make his last assault in doubles. The lower demand and travel on the track favored the tennis player, who is greatly diminished by his physical problems.

A scourge in health issues that has made him completely out of the circuit for the last two years. The ailments in her knee have caused her severe pain and she is unable to practice the sport where she has achieved everything, both at the level of titles and at the level of recognition.

Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, in London

Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, in London

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The last game he played left obvious signs that something was wrong with his knee. Humbert Hurkacz was his executioner, but beyond that the worrying image left by Federer set off alarms. And it was as serious as thought. He had to have surgery on his knee cartilage, going through the operating room in such a delicate matter did not bode well. So it was. A constant headache that has prevented him from playing as a professional again.

It all started without playing tennis. A fortuitous blow bathing his children made him undergo surgery on the meniscus of his left knee in 2016. And after several months out, the falls on the always slippery grass of Wimbledon martyred him again with five months out.

His back, previously, also caused his absence on the circuit. Some discomfort plagued him between 2013 and 2014, reaching the final of Roland Garros with continuous pain. A decade practically marked by the persistence of physical resentments that have made him say goodbye.

Despite trying to resort to science to unsuccessfully attempt his return, Federer decided to give up and step aside. Already considered a tennis legend and with an excellent record, at 41 years old he has decided to dedicate himself to his family and to enjoy life. Not without first performing his particular ‘last dance’ with his best friend, Rafa Nadal. Many experiences together and a successful career with him on the other side of the track.

Their confrontations gave them an apprenticeship that led them to be almost brothers. An exhaustive knowledge between the two. Constant words of praise between the two marked by chivalry on the dance floor. Not once did Rafa and Roger raise their voices or have any clashes. The hours on the track hardened a friendship that ends in the best way. A duo never seen before in tennis, as well as the ties they have forged.

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