The transcendental careers of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been a treat for tennis fans all over the globe. The two legends of the game have enthralled audiences with a rivalry like no other. Bringing two distinct styles of play, one – fierce, the other – graceful, the duo assembled lyrical poetry with their racquets whenever they shared the court. The rivalry, fondly labeled “Fedal”, has held sway over the minds of generations as the most respectful and affectionate rivalry in all sports.
As Roger Federer gears up to draw the curtains on his esteemed career by playing alongside Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup for one last time, one can’t help but revisit the memorable instances between the golden pair throughout their careers.
On that note, let’s have a look at eight things Rafael Nadal has said about Roger Federer over the years:
#1 “If he had played his best tennis, I would have had no chance”
The 2004 Miami Open marked the launch of one of the greatest rivalries in sports history. A 17-year-old Rafael Nadal, ranked No. 34 in the world, entered the court in Miami with an unbreakable determination to take over the then World No. 1 Roger Federer for the first time in their careers.
The Spaniard went on to seal the fixture with a comfortable straight-sets win, 6-3, 6-3. After the match, Nadal shed light on the monumental victory and also admitted that he was eager to play against Federer.
“I am very happy because I played one of the best matches in my life. Obviously, he didn’t play his best tennis, and that’s the reason why I could win. If he had played his best tennis, I would have had no chance. I was very worried about him beating me 6-1, 6-1 or 6-1, 6-2, but I really wanted to play this match against the World No. 1,” he had said.
#2 “If somebody says I am better than Roger, I think this person don’t know nothing about tennis”
During the 2010 French Open, the now 22-time Major winner talked about Federer before his quarterfinal loss to Robin Soderling. Rafael Nadal, who went on to win his seventh Slam at the event, suggested that it was ridiculous to compare him to the Swiss maestro.
“If somebody says I am better than Roger, I think this person (doesn’t) know (anything) about tennis. You see the titles of him any you see the titles of me? It’s no comparison. So that’s the answer. It’s difficult to compare Roger with me now, because he has 16 Grand Slams. I have six,” he reminded.
#3 “Man, you’re getting old; Stop winning”
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 2019 Laver Cup
Roger Federer received a hilarious birthday wish from the Mallorcan on his 36th birthday in 2017. Nadal, who is five years his junior, jokingly reminded the 20-time Grand Slam champion that he was getting old and asked him to stop winning.
“Hey Roger, I wish you a very very happy birthday. Man, you’re getting old. Stop winning. Leave something for the youngest, okay? Well, just have fun and I wish you all the best,” he said.
#4 “I don’t want to look like I wanna be his boyfriend, no?”
At the 2017 US Open, Rafael Nadal jested about the frequent questions about the duo’s views of each other. When asked about Federer for the umpteenth time, the Spaniard joked that he did not want to seem like the Swiss’ boyfriend.
“I don’t want to look like I wanna be his boyfriend, no? (laughs) We don’t wanna talk about these kinds of things before an important match (continues laughing). Well, we have a lot of respect for each other. We’ve played a lot of times. I think we did important things for tennis, and we appreciate that. He’s always been a great ambassador for tennis, representing good values,” he said.
#5 “Honestly, I started to be a little bit tired to be rivals”
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at 2019 Laver Cup
During the opening night gala of the 2019 Laver Cup in Geneva, Rafael Nadal said a few witty words while introducing the countryman. He revealed that it was much better to have Roger Federer as his teammate rather than the opponent.
“Good evening, well that’s for me the toughest part. (Introducing) the most unknown player here. I will present you my rival, probably the biggest one. Honestly, I started to be a little bit tired to be rivals. It’s much better to have him next to me, being my teammate. (He) is the one and only, Roger Federer,” he said.
#6 “And after tomorrow, we’re gonna have another chance”
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2019
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer clashed for the 40th time in their careers in the 2019 Wimbledon semifinals, in what turned out to be their final encounter.
Before the match, the Spaniard said a few words about his biggest rival and confidently voiced that they would have more matches.
“Playing against Roger is always a unique situation. The opportunities to play against each other are (everytime) less, but we’re still here, and after tomorrow, we’re gonna have another chance,” he said.
The final fixture went in the favor of the Swiss maestro. Although Nadal was gloomy about the loss, he yet again acknowledged their competitiveness over the years.
“It’s great to be a part of this rivalry (when two other players are also achieving big things) in the same era. It’s going to be difficult to see it again, but we are not done,” he said.
#7 “Roger Federer is important in every single tournament”
Roger Federer played his penultimate event at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, where he lost in the quarterfinals against Hubert Hurkacz. He did not participate in 2022, owing to his knee surgeries. This was the first time that the Swiss player had missed the grass-court Slam since 1999. Rafael Nadal responded to this occurrence by acknowledging his absence.
“It’s a negative thing. But that’s the circle of life. Time happens and the clock never stops. Of course, personally, I miss him on the tennis tour, and tennis, of course, misses him – the tournaments, the fans, everyone. Everywhere. Roger Federer is important in every single tournament (not just Wimbledon),” he said.
#8 “I wish this day would have never come”
Laver Cup 2019 – Preview Day 3
“Dear Roger,my friend and rival. I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world. It’s been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court,” he wrote.“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London at the Laver Cup,” he added.