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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday, September 23, 2022

What makes Rafael Nadal most proud when it comes to his iconic rivalry with Roger Federer?

Tennis Express

The fact that the pair managed to navigate the trials and tribulations without ever letting their mutual respect for each other wane.

Speaking about the Swiss maestro on Thursday at Laver Cup, Nadal said that the pair’s rivalry was heated but also friendly. Sportsmanship was at the heart of their legendary rivalry, which played out over 16 years and 40 matches on tour.

There was heartbreak and jubilation as the pairs fought for supremacy across two decades. But also a growing sense of respect for the way they treated one another, and a deepening friendship that persisted, despite the fact that they contested nine Grand Slam finals and 24 ATP finals in total.

“I think the memories that Roger brings to the sport, in my personal way, they are not only in matches against me,” Nadal said. “I saw him playing comfortably before I arrived on tour. I saw him having success on TV, and then I was able to have an amazing, create an amazing rivalry together.”

Nadal says that he’s happy that in the end that he and Federer recognized that personal relationships are more important than professional stepping stones and charted a course that enabled fans to experience their rivalry as more than just a battle for supremacy.

In the end the dynamic duo benefitted from being the original big Three rivalry and embraced their roles as founding members of tennis’ Big Three and Big Four.

"On the other hand, something that probably we are very proud of [is the fact that is has been] a friendly rivalry," Nadal told reporters. "Not easy sometimes, because we are playing for such an important things for our tennis career, but at the same time we were able to understand that at the end, personal relationships are more important than sometimes professional things. We were able to handle it I think the proper way.”

Fitting then that Federer’s career will end with Nadal by his side at the doubles court in Laver Cup, rather than across the net.