It was quite a conglomeration of tennis luminaries who shared the indoor black hard court for a Laver Cup doubles practice on Thursday, including 66 Grand Slam titles, a group collectively nicknamed the Big Four: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal respectively one side of the network; Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray on the other side. (More tennis news)
Game and TV details
date: Saturday, September 24; time: 00:50 IST (provisional start time); Venue: Center Court, The O2, London, England. TV channel: Sony Sports Network in India; live streaming: SonyLIV
Team Europe: Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andy Murray, Casper Ruud;
team world: Alex de Minaur, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Jack Sock, Diego Schwartzman.
Set up by his management company, this team event marks the end of Federer’s career and his final match will come on Friday night alongside longtime rival Nadal for Team Europe against Team World doubles pair Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
“I’m not sure I can handle it all. But I will try, ”said the 41-year-old Federer about his certainly emotional farewell on the court after 20 major championships, a total of 103 tournament titles and hundreds of weeks in first place in almost a quarter of a century as a professional tennis player.
“Sitting here,” Federer said at a team press conference on Thursday, with 36-year-old Nadal to his left and Djokovic and Murray, both 35, a few seats to his right, “feels good that I’m feeling.” come first from the boys. It feels right.”
Federer ends his playing days after a series of surgeries on his right knee. He has not competed since a quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon against Hubert Hurkacz in July 2021.
When it emerged in February this year that Federer would be in London this week, he said Nadal had sent him a message that he was proposing to play doubles together again. They teamed up to win a doubles match at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017.
“I saw him play on TV before I went on tour. I saw him succeed on TV and then (we were) able to create an amazing rivalry together. And on the other hand, we’re probably very proud to have a friendly rivalry,” Nadal said on Thursday.
“Tomorrow will be something special. Difficult. It will no doubt be difficult to deal with, especially for Roger. But also for me. In the end, one of the most important players – if not the most important player – of my tennis career is going.”
They played each other 40 times in singles (Nadal won 26), including 14 Grand Slam matches (Nadal won 10). Nadal prevailed in their classic Wimbledon final in 2008, considered by some to be the greatest match in history. Federer won his last showdown in the 2019 semifinals at the All England Club.
“To be part of this historic moment,” Nadal said of Friday, “will be something amazing, unforgettable.”
Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American who defeated Nadal en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the US Open this month, said dryly, “Yeah, I’m just looking forward to playing two up-and-coming players tomorrow.”
Tiafoe added, “It’s going to be iconic to be a part of. Both guys are absolute legends. And of course (it’s) Roger’s last dance.”
The full line-up for Day 1 of the three-day Laver Cup was announced on Thursday.
The singles matches will pit Sock against two-time Grand Slam finalist of 2022 Casper Ruud of Team Europe, Diego Schwartzman of Team World against 2021 French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas of Team Europe and Alex de Minaur of Team World against the three-time Major Champion Murray before the Federer-Nadal doubles game completes the schedule.
Everyone knows what the main event will be: Federer’s farewell.
“For me,” said Murray, “it feels right to see him and Rafa together on the same side of the net.”
(With AP inputs)