In a interview with New York Times reporter Christopher Clarey, Roger Federer opened up about the memorable night at the O2 Arena and expressed his admiration for Rafael Nadal.
Rafa Nadal clearly made a big effort to be part of the event on Friday, given his wife’s pregnancy. What did it mean, knowing all that you knew, for him to be there for you for the doubles?
RF: I called him after the U.S. Open — I waited for him to finish that tournament — just to let him know about my retirement.
And I just wanted to let him know before he started making some plans without the Laver Cup at all. I told him on the phone that I was probably 50-50 or 60-40 on making the doubles. I told him, “Look, I’ll keep you posted. You let me know how things are at home. And we’ll reconnect.”
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.” 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. Yes, it’s hard, and it’s brutal sometimes, but it’s always fair. And you can come out on the other side and still have this great, friendly rivalry. I just thought it ended up even better than I ever thought it would. So, an incredible effort by Rafa, and I’ll obviously never forget what he did for me in London.
Those raw emotions after the match were powerful for a lot of people around the world, particularly the scenes with you and Rafa. Do you think you maybe changed the way people view male athletes?
RF: I think I have always had a hard time keeping my emotions in check, winning and losing. In the beginning, it was more about being angry and sad and crying. And then, I was happy-crying about my wins. I think on Friday, this was another animal, to be honest, because I think all of the guys — Andy [Murray], Novak and also Rafa — saw their careers flashing in front of their eyes, knowing that we all in a way have been on borrowed time for long enough already. As you get older, you get into your 30s, you start knowing what you really appreciate in life but also from the sport.
Have you seen the photo of you and Rafa sitting on the bench crying and holding hands?
RF: I have seen it.
What’s it like to look at that image?
RF: Well, I mean, it was a short moment. 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. 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.
You can read full interview here.