How fitting it was that Roger Federer played his last match of his professional career with great rival and friend Rafael Nadal. The legends of the game teamed up in the ongoing Laver Cup to give fans and themselves one last moment to cherish and celebrate.
Federer and Nadal faced each other for the first time in 2004 and since then created magical moments which showed the best of their rivalry and friendship.
Here, we recount a few of those on and off court moments:
Fedal: One last time at Laver Cup
Safe to say, the whole tennis world was waiting for the Federer-Nadal doubles match against Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the Laver Cup. Not many would've bothered about the result, which eventually went in favour of the Americans.
Both Federer and Nadal were not at their best, but they competed, like they have always done. And when it came to an end, there were smiles, tears and hugs - genuine appreciation and celebration.
It was hard not to be moved by the tears coming out of both Federer and Nadal when they sat together on the bench. This was a rarest of rare case of a tender moment in a sporting rivalry, seen by millions around the world. As Federer said goodbye, a part of Nadal has also left and the tennis world also realised that it is unlikely they will ever witness what they saw with these two champions.
Wimbledon 2008 final: The Epic
Four hours and 48 minutes, counting rain delays. Federer and Nadal battled on the centre court grass and raised the game of tennis to its highest levels.
Nadal defeated Federer during the 2008 Wimbledon final, the third installment of the "Fedal" trilogy. pic.twitter.com/0KTzRL6Wwv
- ESPN (@espn) July 6, 2022
Federer was chasing his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, while Nadal was trying not to lose his third final on the trot. It was near-darkness in London when Nadal finally managed to win the epic fifth set and with it the match. Nadal, then the world No 2, ended Federer's Open Era record of 65 straight wins on grass. Two months later, Nadal finally overtook Federer in the ATP rankings, ending Federer's record run of being world no 1 for 237 consecutive weeks.
For many, this final was the greatest tennis match ever.
Australia Open 2009 final: More than a rival
Another scintillating Grand Slam final between world no 1 Nadal and world no 2 Federer. Like in 2008 at Wimbledon, Nadal defeated Federer in five sets, clinching his first ever Australian Open. This was his sixth Grand Slam title while Federer was aiming for his 14th.
But it was the post-match ceremony which made the strongest of impressions and maybe signaled the start of a special friendship. A tearful Federer struggled to make his speech: "I've felt better. Maybe I'll try later. God, it's killing me," he said. As Nadal lifted his trophy and had a look at his opponent, he walked up to him and gave a nice hug. He said, "Roger, I know exactly how you feel. Just remember you're a great champion and you're one of the best in history and for sure you're going to match Sampras."
Nadal and Federer: Behind the scenes
The two sat down to promote their charity match in Switzerland in 2010. The cameras are on and the producer wants them to say their lines. What happened next? You probably would've guessed the video but that doesn't mean you'll not enjoy it again:
Roger Federer & Rafa Nadal are going to play a charity exhibition match in Cape Town, South Africa in February 2020
- Tennis TV (@TennisTV) July 4, 2019
Federer at the Rafael Nadal's Tennis Academy
In 2016, Nadal opened his tennis academy in Manacor, Spain, and he wanted Federer to be there during the inauguration. Federer, being a class act he is, arrived at the academy to be with his friend on his important day and shared the stage.
"Dear Roger, thank you very much for your support. Today is an unforgettable day for me, my family and my team. You cannot imagine how special it is to have you here with us. This reflects all the moments we had on the court," Nadal said.
In reply, Federer said, "If my own kids ever choose to pursue tennis, they are going to train at Nadal's Academy. And I'd tell all the kids to come over here."
The 2017 Australia Open final. This was when Federer was 35. He couldn't play the sport for six months the previous year due to a knee injury. Both players were not the favourites for the title.
Federer had never defeated Nadal at the Australian Open but he changed the record on that Sunday. He won the match in five sets to lift his 18th Grand Slam title and his first in five years.
"I'd like to congratulate Rafa. I don't think either of us thought we'd be in the finals when we were at your academy four or five years ago," Federer said, while Nadal added, "It is amazing how he is playing after all this time away from the tour. Congrats, I am very happy for you."