Behind the ‘raw’ photo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that captures their enduring friendship is a simple, one-word message that remains a constant, ever-present point of reference: “Eternal.”
At 37 years old, the Swiss native has long since established himself as one of the game’s best and most prolific competitors.
He has won more major titles than any other male player on the ATP World Tour, and holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles of any male player in history at 24. Most recently, he broke Björn Borg’s 16-year-old singles record of 16.
Federer celebrated the milestone with a speech at his final press conference, one that took him back to the moment he first met Nadal at the U.S. Open final in 2011. From that moment on, Federer has been a constant in the Spaniard’s life.
“Roger has been there for me, always. There’s nothing more to say,” said the 20-time Grand Slam champion. “Rafael has an extraordinary life, being the most successful and accomplished tennis player in the history of the sport while he’s still at school and working his way through college. I don’t think I’d be as happy and as productive without having Roger with me.
“I love Roger Federer — to me it’s the definition of what a champion is. He’s also my friend, and he’s a part of my life.”
Federer has been a father to Nadal’s two daughters — Alexia, aged 6, and Bianca, aged 3 — and has played a major role in their lives and their development since they were born in 2009.
But the bond between the two men is an eternal one.
The day they met
Federer is one of the few athletes to ever have been able to draw on the tennis knowledge he gained as a teenager in his native Switzerland.
It was when he was 23, in the years leading up to the U.S. Open final in 2011 against Nadal — who at the time was ranked 13th on the ATP circuit — that Federer made his first visit to his idol’s home country. It was after he’d won his second junior grand slam in the Davis Cup, and had finally won his first title outside of the states of Austria and Italy.