The 20-time Grand Slam champion’s ceremony following the match was emotional for everyone at the O2 Arena in London.
Federer and Nadal let the tears flow after the match, and a now viral photo of the two rivals-turned-friends holding hands while crying was captured.
In his first interview since his retirement, Federer told The New York Times’ Christopher Clarey that he has seen the photo of him and Nadal, and explained what he was thinking during that moment.
“Well, I mean, it was a short moment,” Federer said. “I think at one point, I was sobbing so hard, and I don’t know, everything was going through my mind about how happy I am to actually experience this moment right there with everybody. And I think that’s what was so beautiful about just sitting there, taking it all in while the music was playing, and the focus was maybe more on her [the singer Ellie Goulding]. So, you almost forgot that you’re still being taken pictures of.
“I guess at one point, just because obviously I couldn’t speak and the music was there, I guess I just touched him, and I guess it’s maybe a secret thank you,” Federer continued. “I don’t know what it was, but for me, that’s maybe what it was and how it felt and some pictures came out of it. Different ones. Not just that one but other ones, too, that were just completely crazy, you know, so with different angles, and I hope to get those because they mean a lot to me.”
Federer made it clear before the Laver Cup he wanted his final professional match to be played with his close friend Nadal. Apparently, he called the Spaniard right after his run at this year’s U.S. Open to make sure he’d find time to make it to the Laver Cup.
“Rafa told me, ‘I will try everything I possibly can to be there with you,’” Federer said. “And that felt obviously incredible for me. And it showed again how much we mean to one another and how much respect we have. And I just thought it would be just a beautiful, amazing story for us, for sports, for tennis, and maybe beyond that as well, where we can coexist in a tough rivalry and come out on top and show that, hey, again it’s just tennis.”
Federer and Nadal competed against each other 40 times in their careers, with 24 of those matchups taking place in tournament finals. The Spaniard held a 24–16 record over the Swiss, and a 14–10 record in finals.
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