Roger goes; Nadal cries

Federer and Nadal
Federer being celebrated

By Chris Adetayo

Last night was extraordinary. Roger Federer was playing his last professional tennis match. Albeit a doubles. On your his side was Rafael Nadal, his greatest rival. Across the net were 2 Americans whose names won’t show in a top 1,000 players ever. 

The match was largely forgettable. Fedal lost. Roger was very rusty (he’d probably not played much in over a year due to his knee injuries) and Nadal was barely better on a surface he’s never been more than decent on. But no one cared. Just seeing them battle together was worth every moment.

After it all, we watched the 2 legends cry like babies as the farewell ceremonies for Roger got under way. The video tributes, the speeches, the hugs and backslaps. Tears streamed down many faces. Nadal was weeping like a part of his life had come to an end.

And that really is it. Tennis in the last 17 years has been about Roger and Nadal. It may be that, in the fullness of time, Novak Djokovic will hold more Grandslam titles than these 2. He has already been World No 1 longer than either of them. But he’ll always be considered by most as a side attraction, sort of an usurper to the throne. 

Their styles were different. Roger was the Yang to Nadal’s Ying. Style vs Substance; Nature vs Nurture; the Unstoppable Force vs the Immovable Object. They battled 40 times on all surfaces. In doing so, they dragged each other to levels never reached before. At the end of each match, we eagerly awaited and prayed for the next one. 

Tennis had never seen anything like their rivalry. Sampras vs Agassi (another storied rivalry) does not come close. Maybe McEnroe vs Borg but that lasted barely 4 years, and is so far into antiquity we can’t relate. Fedal was almost 2 decades of unremitting excellence. 

So Roger has walked into the sunset. Nadal is probably a year or two away from joining him. When he does, the curtain will truly have been drawn on the greatest era of tennis. As it is, with Roger gone, we have reached “the end of tennis history”.

So long, Roger! Thank you for the memories.
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