Behind the ‘raw’ photo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that captures their enduring friendship and the moment they became tennis’s two greatest rivals, a decade ago this week, the two men are strikingly different.
Federer, already one of the game’s top 10 players and a two-time singles Grand Slam champion, was just 24 years old when he played the young Spaniard in the final of the 2001 Australian Open, the biggest non-Wimbledon final of his fledgling season.
Nadal, meanwhile, was just 20. He was only the second player born in the 1980s to win a Grand Slam singles title, had only won 15 singles titles over the previous two decades and had yet to win another Grand Slam.
“It’s the closest I’ll ever get to playing Roger,” Nadal recently said. “If I lose, it will probably be the first time I played a Grand Slam final.
A ‘friendship’, not a rivalry
Federer, who has admitted that he has “never beaten” Nadal and believes the Spaniard is the best forehandman of his generation, has spent the past decade in one relationship.
“They are completely devoted to one another,” wrote Chris Murray in his 2004 book, Federer: The Best of the Best. “They are two brothers in a relationship, with Fed as the older brother and Nadal as the younger one, who they both love very much.
“When Roger does something wrong, it is always Nadal’s fault. They were not looking for it at all, but Fed never forgave anyone, and was never happy afterwards. They would say that, when they met, they didn’t know each other.”
Federer and Nadal have always been in the news as fierce rivals but their relationship became so intense in 2002 that they were often referred to as the “perfect match” in the media, with the press frequently asking the same question of the pair from different sides of the fence.
The first thing that strikes you about the two men in this portrait, however, is their personalities, almost completely in opposition