NEW DELHI: It was like IPTL 2014 all over again. The deafening roar from over 13,000 adoring fans said it all as Roger Federer walked onto the court. Only this time around, his prime rival wasn’t far behind. Rafael Nadal’s entry drew only marginally fewer cheers. Such is the influence of two of the greatest players ever.
While the quality of the match couldn’t trump the blinder that Federer and Novak Djokovic played last year, the magic that a Roger-Rafa clash brings is unmatched. Artist vs marauder. Ice vs fire. Righty vs lefty. The list of monikers goes on. One supposes the makers of the Batman v Superman movie ought to have taken a look at these two for research purposes.
The fans didn’t care who won, as long as they got their money’s worth. These two stalwarts didn’t disappoint. The duo acknowledged the love they received was special as they sat side by side (!) in the media room. “I’m happy to play here against Roger and the crowd gave us a lot of love,” Nadal said. “The season’s just beginning, so I’m bound to be a bit rusty. Considering those circumstances, I played pretty well. Overall it was a great experience,” Federer chimed in.
Federer will also play in Dubai on December 15 and 16, followed by Singapore on 18. Once that’s over he’ll go into “practice overdrive”. The 17-time Grand Slam winner also sounded off on the exhibition confusion. “What is an exhibition? Is it kids’ day where one’s hitting with Scooby Doo or is it one where 15,000 people have paid to watch us compete? It is the question of who the crowd is composed of. To me, this is serious tennis with a fun aspect of having a team ‘high five’ you continuously. Call it an exhibition or not, it’s a fun concept,” he opined. The 34-year-old added there was “a strange kind of pressure” playing in the IPTL because of the singular set.
“It could be a 6-1 blowout either way… then you realise it was your only chance!” He seemed hopeful but said he would discuss with the right people, including wife Mirka, before making a decision to return next year.
With the news of him partnering Martina Hingis at the Rio Olympics becoming official on Friday, Federer recalled that Hingis, at just a year older, inspired him when he was 15.
He conceded they need to practice to make it count. “She was a hero of mine while I was 15, because she was winning Grand Slams then… at the age of 16! It’s beautiful to see she’s still playing. We might be a bit rusty, though. After all, it’s been 15 years since we last played,” he added. He also revealed he would speak to Stan Wawrinka in January about playing doubles together in Rio.
Talking about his amicable split with Stefan Edberg, the Swiss said he’d known 10 months ago that it was the end of the road. Hiring Ivan Ljubicic was not a decision he took lightly. “The idea was to only do it one year and when he said yes for another, it was a delight for me. I’ve known for about 10 months that this was going to end in December.”
As he winded up, he said he’d like to take a tour of India when his kids were much older. Maybe then, one can get a good look at him!