Rafael Nadal salutes his ‘friend and rival’ Roger Federer: ‘I wish this day would have never come…’

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the end of a match

Rafael Nadal has paid tribute to the Roger Federer, describing the tennis great’s retirement announcement as “a sad day for me personally and for sports people around the world”.

Federer has struggled with a knee injury for the best part of three years and has only played a handful of matches since the start of the 2019 season with his last encounter coming in the quarter-final at Wimbledon last year.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner had hoped for one last hurrah as he announced earlier in the year that he is to return during the second half of the 2022 season with the Laver Cup and Swiss Indoors and Basel pencilled in.

However, on Thursday he confirmed that he had accepted defeat in his battle to return to full fitness as he revealed that the Laver Cup would be his last tournament.

Federer will team up with Nadal as well as fellow greats Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at the team event at London’s O2 Arena and it will be the last time that Fedal – as Federer and Nadal have been nicknamed – will be in competitive action.

The duo have enjoyed an extraordinary rivalry as they faced each other in nine Grand Slam finals – including three consecutive Wimbledon finals from 2006 to 2008 – spanning two decades.

Twenty-two time Grand Slam winner Nadal posted a message on social media.

He wrote: “Dear Roger, my friend and rival.

“I wish this day would have never come… it’s a sad day for me personally and for sports people around the world. I said it to you when we spoke and now it’s here.

“It’s been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.

“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that.

“For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London at the @lavercup.”

The pair were also involved in several joint-fundraising events as in 2010 they played matches in aid of the “Joining Forces for the Benefit of Children” with the proceeds going to the Fundación Rafa Nadal and a few days later they played for the “Match for Africa” for the Roger Federer Foundation.

In 2020 they teamed up again for the “Match for Africa” at Cape Town Stadium in South Africa with 51, 954 spectators setting the record for the highest ever attendance at a tennis match.

READ MORE: Full Roger Federer retirement statement after ’24-year adventure’