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‘We’re very proud of that’ – Rafael Nadal reflects on greatest aspect of Roger Federer rivalry

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Rafael Nadal feels proud to have had such a good-natured rivalry with Roger Federer over so many matches at the highest level. 

The two men have influenced each others’ careers to no end for more than a decade and a half now, and the rivalry between them defined the sport for much of the start of this century.

On the eve of the final farewell for Federer at this year’s Laver Cup, he and Nadal had the chance to speak one last time on their playing relationship.    

“The memories that Roger brings to the sport, in my personal way, they are not only in matches against me,” explained Nadal. “I saw him playing on TV before I arrived on tour. I saw him having success on TV. 

“Then [we were] able to create an amazing rivalry together.”

Nadal first faced Federer aged just 17 at the 2004 Miami Masters, defeating the Swiss 6-3, 6-3 in the third round. 18 years and 39 more matches later, the on-court passion and fight rarely if ever bled out into their lives away from competition. 

Their two most recent professional meetings came at their respective spiritual homes of the French Open and Wimbledon, both in semi-finals in 2019.

“Something that we are very proud of, we have [had] a friendly rivalry,” Nadal continued. “[It’s] not easy sometimes, because we are playing for such important things in our tennis career. 

“But at the same time we were able to understand that at the end, personal relationships are more important sometimes than professional things. We were able to handle it I think the proper way.”

 

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