Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic reveal their most memorable matches against Roger Federer

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As Roger Federer gears up to say his final goodbye to tennis at the Laver Cup, he will do so surrounded by his greatest rivals. The Swiss is joined by Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray – the fabled ‘Big Four’ from the golden era of men’s tennis, with Team Europe this week. At the pre-event team press conference in London, his rivals spoke about their most memorable encounters.

Nadal mentioned the Wimbledon 2008 final, the last in a trilogy of summit clashes the pair played at SW19, that was marred by rain and saw Nadal’s two-set lead slip in two tiebreaks before going into extra-time. The Spaniard won the final set 9-7 in near darkness on Centre Court. But for him, the standout match came in 2017, when the duo, returning from a long injury lay-off the year before, came back to meet in the final of the Australian Open, which Nadal lost in five sets despite being a break up in the decider.

The 36-year-old recalled speaking to Federer a few months before that, unsure of whether they will ever return to that stage.

“I think honestly the 2017 final in Australia was a very special one, because of the significance,” he said. “Few months before we were together, injured, talking about how the things are going to be, if we are going to be able to be back on the tour at this level, and few months later we are playing the final in Australia, five-set match.”

Djokovic, who has had the better of Federer on more occasions than any other player, also had two stand out matches. “I’ll pick my first Grand Slam final, US Open 2007,” he said. “I lost that match. That was the first Grand Slam final obviously, was a remarkable experience for me at the time. Kind of the first match that allowed me to believe that I belonged to that level.”

Federer quipped back, thanking the Serb for being very kind for mentioning a match he lost. “I haven’t finished,” the Serb replied.

Djokovic went on to talk about the Wimbledon 2019 final, which saw Federer narrowly miss out on a then record-breaking 21st Major. The Swiss, the better player on the day, had two match points on his serve in the fifth set before Djokovic produced some of the best returns at maximum-capacity clutch play to break back and eventually win the match in Wimbledon’s first-ever deciding set tiebreaker.

Federer was able to make light of one of the most heartbreaking moments of his career, three years on. “What happened (at Wimbledon 2019)?” he asked with a wry laugh. “I’ve blocked it out.”

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The Laver Cup kicks off on Friday, and Federer, whose post-operative knees will only hold up for one doubles match, will do so alongside Nadal, whom he described as his greatest rival.



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