Roger Federer is about to retire. The tennis great has already announced the Laver Cup – which begins tomorrow – will be his last tournament. Now, picture this. Federer suits up for Team Europe. He is on the sidelines, he has a great time, and fans get to cheer him. Then he steps onto the field for his final match. A doubles match. Alongside him is Rafael Nadal, his great friend, and biggest rival on the court.
Sounds like a movie, but it could well be reality. And what an ending that would be.
At a news conference at London’s O2 Arena on Wednesday Federer said he hoped to be fit enough to compete in one doubles match, which will likely take place on Friday night. And his number one choice for a partner is, of course, Rafael Nadal. And if the tennis gods have their way, this is exactly what fans will get.
"I think it could be quite a unique situation if it were to happen.” Federer said, adding that “For as long as we battled together, having had always this respect for one another, our families, coaching teams, for us as well to go through a career we both have had, come out the other side and have a nice relationship, is maybe a great message to tennis and beyond. For that reason, it would be great, I don't know if it will happen, but it would be great."
Great is an understatement. Federer and Nadal are two of the best players in the history of tennis, and their names are irrevocably tied to each other. They faced each other over and over again, made each other better, and celebrated each other at every turn, in the kind of rivalry books will be written about, and that might one day end up in a movie – one not about the game, but about their friendship.
If it does, well, would there be a better ending than this one? Not a passing of the torch, not really, because Rafael Nadal, for all he’s younger than Roger Federer, is anything but a rookie and has won his fair share even while facing Federer. Instead, a chance for two great rivals to give us one final show, and for Nadal to get to help say goodbye to the player that, in many ways, helped made him the kind of player he is today.
There’s no one who understands and respects the legacy of Roger Federer more than Rafael Nadal, and there’s no better relationship to showcase what tennis wants to be than the Fedal bromance. So, for Federer, for Nadal, and for us the fans, let us hope we really do get one final game from both of them. And that, in the end, we can all, Nadal included, turn to Roger Federer and thank him for all he’s done for tennis.