Roger Federer’s heartwarming ‘secret thank you’ to Rafael Nadal

Oct 03, 2022
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal comfort subtly each other. Source: Getty

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal shared a heartwarming moment after Federer played his final game of professional tennis at the Laver Cup on September 24.

Losing their doubles match for Team Europe to Team World, the legendary duo quickly became overwhelmed with emotion as Federer reached across to hold Nadal’s hand as a “secret thank you” to the Spaniard.

Since first meeting on the court in 2004, the iconic tennis players have battled each other 40 times, meeting in nine Grand Slam finals and have secured 42 Grand Slam singles titles in total altogether.

As the tears streamed down their faces, reality officially set in for everyone at the London O2 Arena where Federer played for the last time.

Speaking with the New York Times, Federer said he was so overcome with emotion he forgot the cameras were on him.

“Well, I mean, it was a short moment,” the now retired athlete 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 (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.”

In his final post-match interview, Federer fought back tears to thank his family, supporters, and his teammates.

“It’s been perfect journey, I would do it all over again,” Federer said.

“It’s been so much fun.

“It’s been amazing. Thank you, everybody. I’ve had so many people cheer me on. And you guys here tonight, it means the world.

“I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time. And funny enough, with all the matches and having the guys being here – fans, family, friends – I didn’t feel the stress so much, even though I did think I’d pop a calf, or block a back or something in the match.

“So I am so happy I made it through. The match was great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s been wonderful. And of course, playing with Rafa on the same team and having the guys – everybody here, all the legends – Rocket, Edberg, Stefan, thank you.

“It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted it to feel like this at the end and it’s exactly what I hoped for. So thank you.”

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced his “bittersweet decision” to retire on social media, thanking his family, team, sponsors, competitors, and fans for their support over the years.

“To my tennis family and beyond,” the Swiss player wrote.

“Of all the gifts that tennis has given me over the years, the greatest, without a doubt, has been the people I’ve met along the way: my friends, my competitors, and most of all the fans who give the sport its life. Today I want to share some news with all of you.

“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.

“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on the tour.

“This is a bittersweet decision, because I will miss everything the tour has given me. But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.

“I would like to especially thank my amazing wife Mirka, who has lived through every minute with me. She has warmed me up before finals, watched countless matches even while over 8-months pregnant, and has endured my goofy side on the road with my team for over 20 years. I also want to thank my four wonderful children for supporting me, always eager to explore new places and creating wonderful memories along the way. Seeing my family cheering me on from the stands is a feeling I will cherish forever.

“I would also like to thank and recognize my loving parents and my dear sister, without whom nothing would be possible. A big thank you to all my former coaches who always guided me in the right direction… you have been wonderful! And to Swiss Tennis, who believed in me as a young player and gave me an ideal start.

“I really want to thank and acknowledge my amazing team, Ivan, Dani, Roland, and particularly Seve and Pierre, who have given me the best advice and have always been there for me. Also Tony, for creatively managing my business for over 17 years. You are all incredible and I have loved every minute with you.

“I want to thank my loyal sponsors, who are really like partners to me; and the hard-working teams and tournaments on the ATP Tour, who consistently welcomed all of us with kindness and hospitality.

“I would also like to thank my competitors on the court. I was lucky enough to play so many epic matches that I will never forget. We battled fairly, with passion and intensity, and I always tried my best to respect the history of the game. I feel extremely grateful. We pushed each other, and together we took tennis to new levels.

“Above all I must offer a special thank you to my unbelievable fans. You will never know how much strength and belief you have given me. The inspiring feeling of walking into full stadiums and arenas has been one of the huge thrills in my life. Without you, those successes would have felt lonely, rather than filled with joy and energy.

“The last 24 years on tour have been an incredible adventure. While it sometimes feels like it went by in 24 hours, it has also been so deep and magical that it seems as if I’ve already lived a full lifetime. I have had the immense fortune to play in front of you in over 40 different countries. I have laughed and cried, felt joy and pain, and most of all I have felt incredibly alive. Through my travels, I have met many wonderful people who will remain friends for life, who consistently took time out of their busy schedules to come watch me play and cheer me on around the globe. Thank you.

“When my love of tennis started, I was a ball kid in my hometown of Basel. I used to watch the players with a sense of wonder. They were like giants to me and I began to dream. My dreams led me to work harder and I started to believe in myself. Some success brought me confidence and I was on my way to the most amazing journey that has led to this day.

“So, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart, to everyone around the world who has helped make the dreams of a young Swiss ball kid come true.

“Finally, to the game of tennis: I love you and will never leave you.”

Throughout his impressive career, Federer was ranked world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for an incredible 310 weeks, including a record 237 consecutive weeks, and has finished as the year-end No. 1 five times.

He has claimed victory in 103 ATP singles titles, the second most of all time, including 20 Grand Slam singles titles, and a record eight men’s singles Wimbledon titles.

Federer dominated men’s tennis alongside Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who collectively became known as the Big Three, considered as the three most successful male players at the time.

Federer won his first major singles title at Wimbledon in 2003 at age 21 and between 2003 and 2009 he made 21 out of 28 major singles finals.

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