Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer reveal the sporting icons who inspired them

Ewan West
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have named some of the sporting icons they looked to for inspiration in the early stages of their tennis careers.

The pair both identified tennis legend Pete Sampras, while Nadal mentioned a football legend and Federer selected two basketball icons.

The legendary duo came together for the Core Values ad campaign by French luxury fashion house Louis Vuitton in a video titled: “There are Journeys that turn into Legends”. The pair covered a range of topics, with the video filmed in Italy’s Dolomites mountain range.

Federer and Nadal, who faced off 40 times over a 15-year period from 2004 to 2019, formed one of tennis’ most iconic and greatest ever rivalries. Nadal finished with a 24-16 advantage, having previously held 23-10 and 6-1 leads, while Federer won six of the pair’s last seven encounters.

The Spaniard has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, with his most recent coming at the 2022 French Open, while Federer — who retired in 2022 — won his 20th and final Major at the 2018 Australian Open. The two legends teamed up in doubles for Federer’s final match at the 2022 Laver Cup in London.

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Nadal, a big Real Madrid supporter, expressed his admiration for legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo, while he also highlighted the impact of his coach and fellow Mallorcan Carlos Moya — a former world No 1.

“I am a big fan of sport in general,” Nadal said. “First of all, sport by itself is an inspiration for me. I love football, so for me, when I was a kid, Ronaldo Nazario was a huge inspiration. And then I had the chance to spend some time with him.

“But as a tennis player, for me, Sampras was a good inspiration. But Carlos Moya, that is my coach today, he was right next to me and yeah, I think in some ways he helped me a lot when I arrived on the tour.”

As well as NBA greats Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, Federer named tennis legend Stefan Edberg — one of his former coaches.

“I mean, I loved basketball growing up as well,” Federer said. “So, clearly, Michael Jordan and then also actually Shaquille O’Neal, I looked up to. I thought that’s just the funnest, coolest sport out there.

“I mean, obviously tennis players, with Stefan Edberg and then also Pete Sampras, special people in my life. Stefan Edberg also coached me for two years. So that was obviously super duper special.”

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