Rafa Roundup: Fedal Holding Hands

Photo: Ella Ling/Shutterstock


The Spanish star told COPE’s El Partidazo why he was so emotional following the game.

“I’m a sensitive person, when you see someone you appreciate saying goodbye it’s hard not to get emotional,” Nadal said.

“It got a little out of hand, and the worst thing is that when I went to the dressing room it happened again. It was difficult for it not to happen because of everything that was experienced that night.”

“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.

“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.’”

“Well, I haven’t seen the photo. I’m not a big fan of social networks, I’m sorry for that,” Rafael Nadal said. “I’m a sensitive person, and when you see someone you appreciate like that, it’s hard not to get emotional, although it got a little out of hand. When I got to my room, I got emotional again. But because of what was experienced that night, it was difficult not to get excited.

“I know that the moment of my retirement will come within ‘x’ or ‘x’ plus a little years, but with 36 years and a half, we are in the final stretch of my career. But now I neither consider it nor do I want to consider it. My emotion was not because of that, but because of the appreciation I feel towards Federer.”

Nadal and his wife Mery are expecting their first child soon and it would not be a surprise to see the 22-time Grand Slam champion shut down his season. Nadal suffered an abdominal injury that forced him out of Wimbledon in the semi-finals and then had more problems with it at the US Open, where he lost in the fourth round.

It seems likely that Nadal will now take some time off and look to be in the best shape to go again in 2023.

Meticulous with the placement and angle of his water bottles on court throughout his career, one might assume that Nadal is neat and tidy in the locker room. Not so, apparently.

“Rafa is pretty messy. Shoes and clothes are hanging everywhere. But on court he’s not messy, so he saves all his energy for the court I guess,” said Ruud, who trains at his friend’s academy in Mallorca.

In touching each other’s hands at last week’s Laver Cup, Federer and Nadal seemed to touch the tennis-watching public; social media was awash with emotional reaction. Federer had just played the last game of his career, and here was a moving coda. The two great rivals had fought for years over tennis’ biggest prizes, and now, with the era at a close, they were reaching to each other for comfort. The moment is captured in a widely shared photo, an image nonetheless moving for being still.

Had Federer slapped Nadal on the back, we can surmise, the image would not have prompted nearly so broad a circulation, nor so emotional a response. The hand-holding was, to those who shared or commented on the image, an eye-catching expression of intimacy.

The most telling moment was directly after the match at the O2 Arena in London, when the singer Ellie Goulding shuffled on to the court to serenade Roger and Rafa, now sitting side by side, with a tender rendition of Still Falling for You from the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby. Obviously. “This love is like fire and ice, this love is like rain and blue skies,” Goulding began crooning, as the cameras zoomed cruelly close to Federer and Nadal, both men weeping openly. They were crying, clearly, for the end of an era, the end of a sporting friendship and the end of a relationship that could be best described as, well, fire and ice and rain and blue skies. “Your heart got a story with mine, your heart got me hurting at times,” Goulding continued, while the cameras mercifully cut away from the bawling buddies, unable to pick up, for the TV audience at least, that the pair were actually, sweetly, adorably, holding hands.

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  1. Pure friendship brotherhood ,beautiful to see between two incredible athletes. Once again they show everyone what it takes to be the BEST.

  2. Rafa is my sporting hero but Roger comes a close second. For their friendship to show so clearly after years of intense rivalry on the court was very special. I agree, doubt we will see something like this again.

  3. The fans at this site have really nailed it. You have said it all. Thank you for summing up all the complex emotions.

  4. The Laver Cup Weekend was such a time of exhilirating joy and sadness as we all bid farewell to the amazing Roger Federer! But we will never eperience the great Roger/Rafa rivalry and friendship rolled up in one! What a tearjerker it was! The respect and affection they have for each other was beyond touching! To watch them play on the same side of the court in doubles was the best way for Rafa to pay tribute to his friend, Roger on and off the court! I am still shedding tears for them. Best Laver Cup ever!

  5. Rafa showed what true friendship and love and respect for Roger means to him. By being there and playing alongside him in his final game, in spite of his injury and the fact that his beloved Mery is v soon to give birth to their baby. xxxxx

  6. Greatest sportspersons who ever lived. I doubt we’ll see anything like we just witnessed in a lifetime.

  7. The best part (for me) of the article above: “I know that the moment of my retirement will come within ‘x’ or ‘x’ plus a little years, but with 36 years and a half, we are in the final stretch of my career. But now I neither consider it nor do I want to consider it. My emotion was not because of that, but because of the appreciation I feel towards Federer.”

    I try not to be selfish about wanting “more Rafa on court” but I cannot help it. He is the most remarkable player on court and an amazing man of character off court. His amazing friendship with Roger is a testimony to his love of the game as well as his understanding that friendships are often made in adversity. The world needs a little more of that understanding right now. I know how I feel about my best friend and we have very different views on some things – but our similar loves is what ties us together – just like Roger and Rafa.

    I am also happy to understand (from the many, many articles I have read looking for insight) that the reason he left London so quickly was truly to be with his beloved Mery. Well done and just thankful he now has time to properly heal (abdominal) and spend time enjoying his new baby and wife. Rafa is a champion in all he does.

  8. No need to explain pure emotion. If you have ever found someone, colleague or otherwise, who totally “gets” you, this photo needs no explanation. They have endured it all-success beyond all expectation and gut wrenching losses. Sharing it with someone who really sees you
    is monumental. A blessing!🙏🍀❤️

  9. Seeing Rafa and Roger crying and holding hands is reminiscent of two little boys saying goodbye to each other; one going off to summer camp leaving his friend behind.

    I am sure Roger was so happy Rafa came to be with him at Laver. Both are champions and both have a storied career.

    Be well guys.

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