Swedish tennis legend Roger Federer is stepping onto the court one last time at the Laver Cup before retiring. Federer will not be competing in singles, but he does have a specific wish for his last doubles match: to play alongside longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal.
"It is clear that the most beautiful thing would be to play doubles here with Nadal because it has been my great rivalry." Federer said ahead of the competition.
The Laver Cup is a special competition for Federer, as he helped create it in 2017 to honor the tennis great Rod Laver. The event features the top six male players from Europe against the top six players from the rest of the world. Whether he plays with Nadal this weekend is yet to be seen, as the lineup will officially be announced Thursday.
Even though the Spanish veteran Nadal has been one of Federer's most challenging opponents through his career, there is mutual respect and admiration between them. When, Nadal said he was sad to see Federer leave the sport, but that it had been an "honor and privilege" to share the court with him and that he knew this was not the end of their friendship.
Federer has had one of the best careers in the history of the sport. His 20 Grand Slam titles are third most all-time, just behind Nadal's 22 and Novak Djokovic's 21. Both Federer and Djokovic missed the US Open a few weeks ago, but all three stars will be in London this coming weekend to help Team Europe defeat Team World for the fifth consecutive year.
One of Federer's main reasons for walking away this year is his ongoing issues with injuries. The plan for his doubles competition is that Italian 26-year-old Matteo Berrettini will be the on-site alternate and take his place if needed. Players are usually required to play in at least one singles match, but an exception was made for Federer after he talked to European captain Bjorn Borg and the ATP.
"Of course this is an event, an ATP event that I don't want to mess with," Federer said. "I asked Bjorn if it was okay if I play maybe just one doubles… Then I guess Matteo would come in for me and have to play on Saturday for me."
Federer is already in the city hanging out with some of his teammates. Djokovic and Berrettini got their head in the game right away and shared a lighthearted video while "scouting" Team World. Nadal has not arrived yet, so he asked them to wait for him.
During the press conference in London this week, Federer took some time to reminisce about the beginning of his journey and how he shattered his own expectations. Federer spent a total of 310 weeks as the world No. 1, including a record of 237 consecutive weeks.
"When you have a vision of being a champion, you see yourself winning one tournament or maybe becoming world No. 1, but not many, many times in a row, or staying there for as long as I did," Federer said. "That was definitely very special."
The Laver Cup is taking place in London at the indoor hard courts of the O2 Arena from Sept. 23-25. Federer is expected to play in the night session on Friday. Here is the tournament schedule.