Rafael Nadal has opened up on the moment he was informed by his long-time rival, Roger Federer that he would be retiring at the Laver Cup.
Nadal confessed that he was going to withdraw from the team tournament due to physical and personal issues but made a U-turn when he knew it would be Federer’s last game.
In the doubles game at the Laver Cup on day one of the tournament, Federer played his final match alongside Nadal, completing his 24-year career. It was a fitting end for the 41-year-old, who had the chance to play on the same side of the court as his biggest rival before waving goodbye to professional tennis as his Europe teammates, including rivals from the Big Four, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, stood by his side.
Four of the greatest champions in men’s tennis from this era joined forces for the first time and for the last time as professionals, and Nadal revealed that he wasn’t going to be a part of Team Europe until he learned of Federer’s retirement. In a recent interview with Radio Estadio Noche, the world No 3 explained that after receiving a phone call from the 20-time Grand Slam champion, he changed his mind.
“He called me about ten days before and it was a difficult conversation,” Nadal said, explaining that Federer told him he had made a final decision to retire at the event and said he wanted Nadal to be his doubles partner in his final match. “That he wanted to spend his last moment with me has been a great honour,” he added.
It was already doubtful that the 36-year-old would be able to participate in the Laver Cup when he lost in the fourth round of the US Open earlier this month. Nadal said at the time that he was still dealing with the effects of an abdominal tear sustained at Wimbledon, as well as personal issues following news that his pregnant wife was hospitalised.: “I need to go back [home], fix things and I don’t know when I’m going to come back. When I feel ready mentally to compete again… I will do it.”
Nadal, however, changed his mind after learning about Federer’s retirement plans, telling him that despite his ongoing personal struggles, he would be there for him as much as possible. Despite Federer still suffering from a knee injury that has kept him from playing for the past two years, the world No 3 and the 41-year-old had no idea whether their doubles match was even going to happen, he told Cope.
“I didn’t even know if he could play the doubles, because of the knee. We postponed the conversation a week later, and he also knew that, due to my situation, I cannot be away from home for a long time,” Nadal said. “The only thing I could say to him is ‘confirm that you are going to play to organise everything, and as much as I can, I will be with you, whether you play or not.’”
As a result of arriving late Thursday morning in London for an open practice day at the O2 Arena that saw the Big Four hit together for the first time, the Spaniard withdrew citing personal reasons after joining Federer at his farewell on Friday night, he flew home on Saturday morning.