We are living in a Fedal wonderland.
This year belongs to 36-year-old Roger Federer and 31-year-old Rafael Nadal. After winning the two Grand Slams and two ATP Masters titles each in 2017, the duo combined in Prague to create history of a different sort – they played together on the same side of the net for the first time in their careers.
On Saturday, a dream came true for tennis fans around the world as arguably two of the greatest and most popular players of all time teamed up as a doubles team for Team Europe in the inaugural edition of the Laver Cup.
There was an air of surreality throughout their 81-minute long match against Team World’s Jack Sock and Sam Querrey as the tennis world watched with awe and delight.
Federer and Nadal won the extremely entertaining match 6-4, 1-6, [10-5] to give Team Europe a massive 9-3 lead.
The Laver Cup is an exhibition tournament pitting the best European players against some of the best from the rest of the world, and has a unique format and scoring system. Conceived by Federer to honour the great Australian legend Rod Laver, the tournament features six players on each team with 12 matches being played over three days.
In Prague, the matches are being played at the O2 Arena on an unconventional all-black court. With slick branding, famous stars and an exciting team format, the Laver Cup struck the right chords and attracted a lot of fans. And on Day 2, they were gifted with the most enticing, long-awaited prospect – #FedalUtd.
— Laver Cup (@LaverCup) September 23, 2017
It wasn’t just watching the World No 1 and 2 play together that made the match so enthralling, it was the fact that they shared a crackling chemistry and seemed to enjoy every moment together on court.
They have been staunch rivals for 13 years, having played against each other 37 times. However, on Saturday, they shared an easy-going camaraderie and it looked like they had been waiting to play as a team just as much as the rest of the world.
Federer and Nadal giggled between points, high-fived on every opportunity and even shared light-hearted banter on the changeovers. One of the best moments of the match was actually a mix-up between the two – Federer called out “mine” for a smash, but both he and Nadal went for it.
Federer had to duck dramatically at the last minute as Nadal backpedalled to hit an overhead winner. The crowd cheered and whooped, while the two Europeans exchanged sheepish looks.
Their rivals Sock and Querrey, for their part, made the contest a competitive one. While there are no ranking points on offer in the Laver Cup, the players have been playing with passion and an obvious intent to win.
The Americans were the first to get broken after Sock double faulted on break point in the seventh game of the opening set. But Sock redeemed himself in the second set and was definitely the best player on court as the match went on.
With Querrey complementing as a solid partner, Sock attacked at the net and covered the baseline well to break both Nadal and Federer in the second set. But once the match headed into a match tie-breaker, the experience and class of the higher-ranked players just shone through.
With coach Bjorn Borg in their corner, and Team Europe’s Alexnader Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych cheering them on, Federer and Nadal sealed a famous victory on their second championship point.
Nadal, who had been constantly fist pumping in his usual fashion, leapt in the air after Querrey dumped a final volley into the net. Their gleeful celebrations showed how much the victory meant to them, and they called the experience “unbelievable” after the match.
"To have the possibility to have Roger next to me is a huge privilege...something I wanted to make happen at some point and today I made it happen. It was an unforgettable day, after the history behind us to be on the same part of the court fighting for the team is something we enjoyed a lot,” Nadal said in his post-match interview.
Federer mirrored Nadal’s sentiments and also described the opportunity as a great learning experience. "This was something very special. It’s been an absolute pleasure sharing the court with Rafa on the same side of the net. Knowing you can trust him in the big moments, seeing his decision-making, seeing his thought process, it was very interesting."
But what made the match truly memorable is knowing that this was a rare one-off. It’s very unlikely that these two greats will pair up again, and they admitted as much in their post-match presser.
“We’re essentially singles players who play a bit of doubles,” Federer said, “and I don’t think that’s going to change.”
For 81 surreal minutes on Saturday night, the tennis world came to a standstill as Federer and Nadal, holders of a combined 35 Grand Slam titles, charmed the world in a match that lived up to its hype.
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Updated Date: Sep 24, 2017 20:03:56 IST