Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two of the best tennis players of their generation, if not all-time. They have competed in many matches against each other over the years. The most recent was the semifinals of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.
During all of that, and as they enter the twilight of their careers, Federer and Nadal have become close friends. Here’s a look at how Federer and Nadal went from fierce rivals on the court to good friends off of it.
Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry
The men have played each other 40 times. Despite Federer winning at Wimbledon, Nadal leads the overall series 24-16. They have played 14 matches in Grand Slam tournaments, with Nadal holding a 10-4 lead, including 6-0 at the French Open.
The only Grand Slam tournament in which they have not met is the US Open. Overall, they are number 1 and 2 on the list of all-time majors titles for men, with Federer’s 20 topping the list and Nadal just two behind him at 18.
The 2019 Wimbledon semifinal
Their Wimbledon match in 2019 was the first time Federer and Nadal played each other at that event since 2008. It was a four-set match that Federer won 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal didn’t give it up easily, though, saving four match points along the way. But, Federer was too much for Nadal to handle on that day.
The victory gave Federer a spot in his 12th career Wimbledon final, setting him up for battle with another of this generation’s best, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic won in an epic five-set match that took nearly five hours to complete.
Respect and praise for each other
As their careers have largely overlapped, Federer and Nadal have come to know each other well through the years, which has helped them develop a strong friendship.
As with many celebrity friendships in the social media age their bromance, which has spanned more than a decade, has earned a nickname, “Fedal”. They have different styles of play on the court, but they have similar work ethics and values, which has helped them develop their camaraderie.
Nadal has famously called Federer the best of all time, including at a press conference at the 2010 French Open. He said, “if somebody says I am better than Roger, I think this person don’t know nothing about tennis.” Federer has also been effusive in his praise of Nadal, telling CNN in 2015 that Rafa “has been the toughest and probably the most challenging and fun to play against just because of his character and he’s been unbelievable for the game.”
Federer went on to say that he loves the rivalry the duo has. They have also worked together to start new tennis tournaments and events for charities. One example is the “Match for Africa” benefit for Federer’s Roger Federer Foundation back in 2010. They tried to create a promotional video for the event, but they had trouble keeping straight faces in a clip that went viral.
Rivalries in sports
Sports rivalries, in general, are good for their respective games. Whether it’s an individual rivalry like Federer-Nadal or Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson or team rivalries, such as Yankees-Red Sox or Giants-Cowboys.
When they play each other it makes the contests more interesting and meaningful, both for the competitors and their fans. If the Yankees beat the Red Sox, for example, it means more to the players and fans than winning a game against the Tigers or Reds.
And while neither may admit it, Federer and Nadal likely feel a bigger sense of accomplishment or happiness by beating the other one, as opposed to winning a match about a less-known or less-accomplished foe.