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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, September 21, 2017

 
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal

"Of course I would love to share the same side of the net this time around," Roger says of playing doubles with Rafael Nadal.

Photo credit: Laver Cup Facebook

No one understands the jolting force of Rafael Nadal’s twisting topspin forehand quite like Roger Federer.

That’s one reason why Federer—like the rest of the tennis world—eagerly anticipates a Roger and Rafa dream doubles pairing for Team Europe at this weekend’s inaugural Laver Cup in Prague.

Watch: Zverev vs. Shapovalov Highlights Laver Cup Day One

The iconic rivals are Olympic gold medal doubles champions, who have faced off in singles 37 times and long discussed sharing the court as doubles partners.

It should happen either Saturday or Sunday as part of the three-day international team competition.

“I’m very happy he’s on my side of the team and not on the other side,” Federer said of Nadal. “I’ve played a lot against Rafa on so many occasions, big matches, I think in nine Grand Slam finals. So, finally to have him on my side, it’s a joy.

“We talked about playing doubles a long, long time ago. It never happened. So of course I would love to share the same side of the net this time around, if Bjorn agrees.”



The 19-time Grand Slam king and world No. 1 lead a loaded Europe team that includes Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych.

Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic plays 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe on the all-black hard-court in tomorrow’s Laver Cup opener.



Team World captain John McEnroe selected Tiafoe, John Isner, and talented Canadian Denis Shapovalov as his opening-day singles starters. McEnroe is saving Sam Querrey, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock for singles starts on Saturday or Sunday, when points are more valuable.

US Open champion Nadal will partner Tomas Berdych in Friday’s doubles against the World Team duo of former Wimbledon doubles champion Sock and Kyrgios, who defeated Nadal in Cincinnati last month.

That will be Nadal’s first doubles match since he paired with Bernard Tomic in Indian Wells and should be a prelude to his first doubles pairing with Federer.

The thought of Roger and Rafa sharing the court as doubles partners may be as inspiring as the concept of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo collaborating on a painting project.

Fresh off his run to his 16th Grand Slam title at the US Open, Nadal expects an intense atmosphere.

“We have a great team and the World Team has a great team, too,” Nadal said. “So it’s gonna be interesting. It’s gonna be close. The most important things is for sure it’s going to be emotional. Because with the format that every day there is the value of the victories are more points, it’s gonna be very, very interesting. And playing a super tie break in the third set everything can be close.”

The Laver Cup follows a Ryder Cup style format.

Each day four matches are played—three singles and a doubles. On Friday and Saturday, there will be a day and night session followed by a final single day session on Sunday.

Each match win will be worth one point on Friday, two points on Saturday, and three points on Sunday.

The first team to reach 13 points out of a total 24 points available will win the Laver Cup.

In the event of a 12-12 tie at the end of all matches, a fifth and decisive match will be played on Sunday will be played to determine the winner.



Will Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg wait until Sunday to unite Federer and Nadal?

We may never see the iconic rivals share the court as Grand Slam doubles partners. Federer hasn’t played a major doubles match since partnering buddy Yves Allegro at the 2004 Australian Open and Nadal, who owns 11 career doubles championships, played his last Grand Slam doubles match alongside Feliciano Lopez at the 2005 Wimbledon.

However, Roger already dreams of doubling up with Rafa again—in Prague playgrounds on a joint family vacation.

“One day, I have to come back to Prague with Rafa maybe and his family and my family,” Federer told the media. “We’ll walk around and go to all the bars and playgrounds with our kids. We’ll have a good time one day in Prague in the future. This time it’s all about tennis.”


 

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