Frenemies or genuine bromance? Fedal, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic
Stan Wawrinka has opened up on his relationship with compatriot Roger Federer, suggesting: “Even if we each have our own life, we have been marked by great victories together since the beginning of our careers, this creates bonds that will never break.”
Which begs the question: who are the guys that get on as opposed to tolerating each other? Here’s the evidence.
1. Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal
The Scot and the Spaniard have always enjoyed a close friendship since the two met at an under-16s tournament in Andorra. They have grown up together in competition. Nadal’s training environment prompted Murray’s move to Spain giving him access to the kind of facilities unavailable in wet and windy Scotland. On one occasion, the Spaniard also did a perfect wind up at a restaurant in New York which Murray took time to see the funny side of…. Did we know Rafa was this cheeky???
— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 3, 2020
2. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic
There has always been a tangible tension about Novak and Roger’s bond even before the Serb became part of the multiple major club that ensures three-way respect between its elite members. Gone were the (hysterically accurate) Roger impersonations for a start.
Before the Djoker’s rise, the Swiss used to dismiss his opponent as a bit of a quitter, but over the years the current world No 1 has talked of Federer in an almost God-like status. “Obviously, Roger is an icon of our sport, and people around the world love him.”
There have been a few run-ins with the extended family (Djokovic senior) and the Novak and Roger thing is more like a carefully scripted mutual respect directive rather than anything too deep.
3. Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev
It’s not exactly a bromance but the relationship between the world No 1 and 2 has certainly blossomed. Medvedev told a story immediately after his defeat by the Serb at the 2021 Australian Open final. “I first met Novak when I was 500 or 600 in the world, ” Medvedev said on court after the match.
“I thought OK, he’s not going to speak to me, because he was world No 1. I was really shy. He was talking to me like I was a friend. He’s never changed – he’s always been a great sport and a great friend.” Even when the Russian was a relative nobody, they practised together and hit it off. Literally.
The secret to the relationship may well be grounded in their headstrong and independent perspective. As Djokovic observes: “He (Daniil) is very authentic and speaks his mind on every stage, he is not always politically correct, which many people won’t like. He reminds me of myself in that regard.” These two know what it’s like to feel underappreciated by the crowd.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – or Fedal as they are known to their fans – was the original Millennium tennis story. These guys were joined at the hip as a storyline. Who can ever forget that thrilling Wimbledon final and the constant anticipation and buzz around any potential meeting.
Federer has always been the senior player and revealed that in the early years, the Spaniard was too shy to disagree with the head prefect. Then, according to Roger, Rafa became “a much stronger character and we had still a good time, but obviously the rivalry grew.” Federer added: “I think we understand each other very well. We like seeing each other and chatting together and making sure that tennis moves forward the right way.”
It’s a solid friendship and one of the most durable in the game in its sincerity. As Nadal says: “Roger has been a huge part of my career, a big rival and also a true friend.” Wherever there’s a charity project or foundation, you can be sure they are each other’s best supporter.
5. Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev
The German could do with all the friends he can get at the moment and there’s no one more solid than Dominic Thiem. It’s so much more than the language. When Zverev lost the 2020 US Open to Thiem from a position of two sets and a break up, at least he lost to his mate.
Zverev was in bits, unable to compute what had happened: A few days later, Thiem revealed the extent of the bond: “In the four hours the friendship was completely hidden. But it was difficult for me at the awards ceremony. It would have been easier against someone else. He was really destroyed, shed a few tears. I wish him from the bottom of my heart that he will win such a big title as soon as possible.”
Zverev, for his part, left a voice message on the Austrian’s phone in the early hours of the morning congratulating him.
6. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev
These two compatriots are chalk and cheese in many ways. Rublev is your kind of post-teen mumbler whereas Medvedev is the wacky maverick older brother who can poke fun at his little mate. This is exactly what happened at a hilarious Rod Laver Cup press conference when the younger Russian kept on repeating a certain adjective. It even had Bjorn Borg in stitches. Maybe they can hang out elsewhere during Wimbledon…
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