Behind the ‘raw’ photo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that captures their enduring friendship, an insight into their unlikely bond and a touching tribute to the late Nadal, the two now play on the very same court, after all this time.
This is one of the most fascinating parts of sports: the athletes who get to share the same ground as their rival – especially if they had been friends for many years. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were on top of that list.
The top players and tennis luminaries from the sport’s history are friends. Some of the best of the best. They have, literally, played on the same court. Even Federer and Nadal’s greatest rival: Pete Sampras had once said it was a “miracle” that they had both played on the same court. At Wimbledon, the first time the two had met since the 2000 Wimbledon final, Nadal was playing Roger Federer.
Federer knew his rival well. He had always known him and respected him as a fellow competitor and a top player. He had even been at his wedding to Nadal’s sister, Victoria. But Nadal had been on the sidelines at a clay-court tournament in Switzerland to attend Sampras’s wedding, while Federer was there with his own wife, Jelena, and daughter, Joannetta, to be married to her. So they were at the other side of the world.
And that is where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal first met. At the 2000 Wimbledon final. It was a “miracle” because it was not supposed to happen that the two great tennis rivals would meet on the same court at the same time, in the same year, on the same day, as if tennis had never changed in generations.
“I have seen the two of them in other tournaments, we have met in Switzerland, and our paths crossed at the 2000 Wimbledon final. I was only a little bit surprised, to say the least,” said Sampras in 2008. “I was surprised that Roger and Rafael both were there. But I have to admit, when we got around to the finals, it felt like an entirely different tournament. I think it was as if I was playing against Roger and Rafa. It felt like I wasn’t playing against Rafa. I was playing against Roger; I knew it would be that way.