Roger Federer might not play another Grand Slam match but he will be in London, one of the most memorable venues for the 20-time major champion who is preparing for his Last Dance in the city. Federer will play his last competitive match on Friday in the Laver Cup.
Federer could not have asked for a better farewell as he will be having his biggest rivals, who have become his close friends over the years, by his side on the court. Federer will bring the curtains down on his celebrated career with a doubles match against his favourite foe, Rafael Nadal.
London has worn a festive look and the demand for tickets at the O2 Arena for Friday hit the roof. Federer himself, it seems, has made peace with the decision after having announced his retirement on September 15. The London crowd gave Federer a rousing reception as players from Team Europe and Team World graced the court on Friday afternoon ahead of the first singles match.
However, Federer will not play singles at the Laver Cup and is set to withdraw and make way for Matteo Berrettini after his doubles match with Federer. The legendary duo will face Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe of the USA in the final match on the opening day of the Laver Cup.
Federer wished for Nadal as his doubles partner and there was no surprise that the Swiss great got his wish granted by Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg.
Federer has met Nadal 40 times on the tour in one of the most storied rivalries in the sport's history and the two playing together in the Swiss great's final match is a statement in itself.
Nadal, who had penned a heartfelt note after Federer announced retirement, said he couldn't wait for the unforgettable experience. The Spaniard, who was pushed on by seeing Federer dominate the circuit in the early half of 2000s, has gone past Federer's tally with 22 Grand Slam titles, 2 of which came in 2022 after he won the Australian Open and the French Open crowns.
"It's going to be a different kind of pressure to be part of this historic moment," Nadal told reporters.
"It's going to be something amazing and unforgettable for me. I'm super excited. maybe we can create a good moment and maybe win the match."
Federer and Nadal have produced some of the absolute classics in men's tennis over the years. Nadal asserted his dominance on the tour by stopping Federer's bid for a 6th straight Wimbledon title in 2008. It was only poetic that Federer won the Australian Open in 2017, making a strong comeback to end a 4-year drought.
EMOTIONAL EVENING IN LONDON
Federer's last Grand Slam victory came in 2018 in Melbourne and his last Grand Slam final was against Novak Djokovic in 2019. Djokovic will be at the O2 Arena, cheering for one of his biggest rivals from the sidelines.
Djokovic too spoke highly about the legacy that Federer would leave when he hangs up his boots on Friday.
The spotlight will be on one man on Friday evening as the tennis world will, for one last time, watch the perfect blend of textbook tennis and intense competitive spirit.
Federer has handled the build-up to his final competitive match with class, not letting emotions take over. Can he remain composed on Friday too?
"I'm not sure if I can handle (all the emotions) but I will try," Federer said.
"This one feels a whole lot different. It's super special playing with Rafa. Feels very different you know."