Rafael Nadal is thrilled to have the chance to play alongside the retiring Roger Federer in the Laver Cup on Friday.
Swiss ace Federer will partner fellow all-timer Nadal in the doubles, the man from Basle bringing an end to an illustrious career in the company of his greatest rival.
Swiss great Federer made clear in a press conference on Wednesday that the tie-up with Nadal was the one he wanted for his finale.
That made it practically inevitable they would be paired together, and it was confirmed on Thursday that Federer and Nadal would indeed join forces for Team Europe, to take on Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock in the final match of the day at around 2000 GMT.
The prospect of being a team-mate on court with Federer in London is something that will be “unforgettable” for Nadal.
“After all the amazing things that we shared together on and off the court, to be part of this historic moment, it’s going to be something amazing and unforgettable for me,” Nadal said in Thursday’s press conference.
“I hope I can have a good time playing at a decent level and hopefully together we can create a good moment and maybe win a match.
“But I hope that the crowd will be supporting a lot. I’m super excited to be here with the team and of course to be on the court and having Roger next to me one more time will be something that I am very looking forward to.
“We were able to create an amazing rivalry together, and on the other hand, something that we are probably very proud [to have had], I have been a friendly rival which is not easy sometimes because we are playing for such important things for our tennis careers.
“But at the same time, we were able to understand that in the end personal relationships are more important than sometimes professional things, and we were able to handle it I think the proper way.
“Tomorrow it’s going to be a special thing. I think it will be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt, but for me too. One of the most important players, if not the most important player, in my tennis career is leaving and to leave at this moment will be difficult.”
By the time Nadal emerged as a teenage prodigy, Federer was already a grand slam champion, and their rivalry will go down as one of the greatest in tennis history.
They have met in nine grand slam finals, with Nadal winning six of those on his way to a career 24-16 winning record against Federer.
Federer, 41, is retiring after deciding the knee trouble that has plagued him in recent years will not allow him to extend his career any further. He will sign off with 20 slam singles titles, two behind Nadal, who has won the most of all men.
Federer is playing just one match at the Laver Cup, the tournament he was involved in setting up, with his big send-off coming in London, where he won eight Wimbledon titles.
Federer is also looking forward to the match and partnering with Nadal, though he concedes it will be a difficult test as the Team Europe pair tackle Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
“Of course, it’s super special playing with Rafa,” Federer said.
“It feels really different. Also just walking out on the court and having the chance to play with the likes of Rafa or Novak also in the past has been an amazing experience for me.
“So, to be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful. I’ll try my very best and I hope to be good out there. And of course, I’ll enjoy it but it will be hard.”