CHENNAI : The ‘frame’ — both poignant and moving — can be preserved for eternity. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal sitting next to each other crying, almost inconsolable.
Federer’s last match (as a professional) has just ended but the beautiful symphony of their friendship rose to a crescendo. Greatest of rivals on court were fighting tears and even holding hands — a reflection of the immense love and respect they share. Words fail to describe that beautiful moment. Perhaps, it’s sensible to absorb, relish and tuck it into the most-desirable chambers of your memory. They may appear together on court, they may sit next to each other too but the emotion the two evoked on Friday night will never be the same again. The frame will always remind generations of a rivalry that was fierce but it was also built on respect and love for the other’s craft.
Like all sportspersons, Federer’s retirement was inevitable. And it was poetic that it ended with Nadal by his side. All good things come to an end. So does sporting careers. The applause at the O2 arena in London reverberated throughout the world. Whether a fan or not, drops of tears escaped unknowingly. The result was not exactly a fairytale ending. Federer and Nadal, 42 Grand Slams between them, lost to Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock 4-6, 7-6, 9-11 (match tie-break). In emotional matches, results are a side show.
Federer, the protagonist, strode the court like a king. He hugged his teammates, World team-members and later, his family. And, of course, he was as emotional as the moment would command. “We’ll get through this somehow,” he said emotionally during the postmatch interview. “I’m happy, I’m not sad. It feels great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time. The match was great, I couldn’t be happier. It’s been wonderful. I didn’t feel the stress so much even though I thought maybe something was going to go, like a calf, but the match was great. Playing with Rafa and having all the greats here, all the legends, thank you.”
As Federer walks into sunset, Nadal’s words aptly capture the loss to sports and beyond: “When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving too.”