Roger Federer opens up about viral moment with Rafael Nadal

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The sight of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal crying alongside each other at the conclusion of Federer’s last match quickly became one of sports’ viral moments of 2022.

Friday night at the 2022 Laver Cup in London, Federer and Nadal played in a doubles match, losing to Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock in the final match of Federer’s storied career.

Switzerland's Roger Federer (L) sheds a tear after playing his final match, a doubles with Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) of Team Europe against USA's Jack Sock and USA's Frances Tiafoe of Team World in the 2022 Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London, early on Sept.  24, 2022.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer (L) sheds a tear after playing his final match, a doubles with Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) of Team Europe against USA’s Jack Sock and USA’s Frances Tiafoe of Team World in the 2022 Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London, early on Sept. 24, 2022.
(GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Following the match, the two competitors – who have 42 Grand Slams between them – wept alongside each other as the end of their decades-long rivalry came to a close.

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One picture in particular, in which Nadal and Federer briefly held hands as the tears flowed, made its rounds.

“Well, I mean, it was a short moment,” Federer told The New York Times. “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.

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“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.”

Swiss player Roger Federer R and Spanish player Rafael Nadal of Team Europe celebrate scoring during Roger Federer's last match after announcing his retirement at the Laver Cup in London Sept.  23, 2022.

Swiss player Roger Federer R and Spanish player Rafael Nadal of Team Europe celebrate scoring during Roger Federer’s last match after announcing his retirement at the Laver Cup in London Sept. 23, 2022.
(Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images)

The two played each other 40 times in their careers, with Nadal holding the edge 24-16, 10-4 in Grand Slams. For Federer, the fact that he was able to play his final match with his longtime rival was the perfect way to end his career.

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Federer called his friend after the US Open to tell him that he was planning on retiring and that he was going to try and play at the Laver Cup. Nadal, whose wife is pregnant, told Federer that he would do everything in his power to be there with him.

An emotional Roger Federer, of Team Europe, is consoled by his playing partner Rafael Nadal after their Laver Cup doubles match against Team World's Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the O2 arena in London, Friday, Sept.  23, 2022. Federer's losing doubles match with Nadal marked the end of an illustrious career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a role as a statesman for tennis.

An emotional Roger Federer, of Team Europe, is consoled by his playing partner Rafael Nadal after their Laver Cup doubles match against Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the O2 arena in London, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. Federer’s losing doubles match with Nadal marked the end of an illustrious career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a role as a statesman for tennis.
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

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“But it very quickly got clear on the phone, and Rafa told me, ‘I will try everything I possibly can to be there with you,'” Federer told the paper. “And that felt obviously incredible for me. And it showed again how much we mean to each other and how much respect we have.”

“I just thought it ended up even better than I ever thought it would,” Federer continued. “So, an incredible effort by Rafa, and I’ll obviously never forget what he did for me in London.”

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