“Rafa, Andy, come here! Photo photo! Rafa, here, here!”
In the midst of all the movement, the comings and goings of people, the cameras that smack their heads and the wiring that plays the occasional trick and entangles the feet, Roger Federer does not miss the smallest detail. After all, this is London, his second home. Nobody has won as many times as he has at Wimbledon, the garden of his extraordinary career, nor at the O2, his master stay at the end of the year that now also stages the goodbye, in a fully autumnal key. The Swiss leaves, the circle closes, the legend grows. And to the call they attend in line one after another, also Rafael Nadal.
“Here we go, how can we…”, the Balearic transmits during the greeting, while trying to get around the tangle that has formed in the back room and to approach the relatives who accompany him on this express trip he has made to professionally fire the dude. “I have a complicated personal situation”, he has commented before in the conference room, where an image is recorded for history: from left to right, four behemoths and 74 great trophies. Online, with six witnesses flanking them, Novak Djokovic, Björn Borg, Federer and Nadal himself, who has reached the Laver Cup invitation almost on the buzzer – the Swiss did it on Monday and the Serbian on Tuesday – and thanks the company Because these are not easy days.
Carlos Moyà, his physio Rafa Maymò, his sister, Maribel, and his agent, Carlos Costa, claim him. “Tomorrow I’ll play too, eh?”, jokes the last one, thin in silhouette, as the photographers have given the approval and the formation of the European team has been dissolved; under the baton of Federer, of course, and with the seasoning of the presence of Andy Murray, the guerrilla who left (January 2019) and then (August 2020) undid the steps, titanium hips and a unique resistance against the three great dominators of modern tennis. His service record provides three majors46 titles.
“I was in the stands watching the Wimbledon final in 2008,” rewinds the Briton. “But it started to rain and I ended up watching it at home, with some friends. I stay with that match ”, he adds when asked to choose, now that the saga of sagas, the Federer-Nadal, the federal for short, it’s over forever. So realistic, so emotional.
This Friday night (around 10:00 p.m., Eurosport), one and the other will compete hand in hand (against the duo made up of Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe) to leave another eternal frame and glorify the end of the journey of the Swiss, now immortal, now in the sports sky of those who in one way or another managed to leave their mark. His is simply incalculable, in substance and form.
“I don’t need to listen to the news to know that the end is closer,” says Nadal, who at 36 loses his great fellow sufferer, buddy and immense rival. “In the end, it’s the natural cycle of life, isn’t it? Some go and others come. It is nothing new, history repeats itself. What happens is that in this particular case, one of the most important players in history, if not the most important, leaves after a super long career. And, of course, when the first one leaves, you kind of miss something”, extends the Spaniard, who also chooses the indelible victory against the Swiss in 2008, the first of his double notch in La Catedral, and adds another that synthesizes perfectly the spirit of the great binomial.
“The 2017 final in Australia [anotada para el suizo] It is also very special, because a few months before we were together, talking, injured…”, says the Majorcan. “Yes, we were…” intercedes Federer jokingly, now 41 years old, 24 of them giving brushstrokes in the elite. “And in the end things turned out that way. We were able to return to the circuit at that level, in a great final, to five sets”, Nadal appreciates, while he, tennis and sport are already raising a glass to that cartoon tennis player whose game has raised everyone (without exception) ever from the seat.
Without going any further, the case of Djokovic’s coach, the Croatian Goran Ivanisevic. “He is one of the best athletes in history. In a sport like this it is not easy to have the continuity that he has had, but he loves to win. I prefer his ability to play with different registers, because he is unpredictable; many times you don’t know what you are going to do. I also appreciate that he is very studious and has always respected all of his rivals, ”he explains to EL PAÍS. Frenchman Henri Leconte, the last French finalist at Roland Garros, adds: “He is from another planet. He makes everything easy, it seems that he has never felt the pressure”. And he shares the Chilean Fernando González, individual bronze in the 2004 Games and silver in the 2008 Games: “It’s an encyclopedia of tennis. He always made you think, you never knew what he was going to do to you.”
And the Swedish Thomas Enqvist, retired in 2005 and now Borg’s right-hand man, finishes off for this newspaper: “I have never seen anyone play so extremely fast, he has all the possible shots. If he has a single second to attack, he does it; there is no one who makes the defense-attack transition like he does Rog. He is simply a genius.” It is the day, the last brushstroke: everyone at his feet.
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