Exclusive: Federer leaving tennis is like the end of a beautiful movie, says Robredo

We are gladiators, but we are also people, said Robredo of the iconic image showing a weeping Federer and an emotional Nadal after the Swiss icon's farewell match

Rafael Nadal (left) gets emotional as Roger Federer, his greatest rival, weeps after their doubles match at the Laver Cup on Friday. Federer retired from tennis at the age of 41. (AFP)
Rafael Nadal (left) gets emotional as Roger Federer, his greatest rival, weeps after their doubles match at the Laver Cup on Friday. Federer retired from tennis at the age of 41. (AFP)

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 27 Sep 2022, 6:13 PM

Last updated: Tue 27 Sep 2022, 6:34 PM

The only time Tommy Robredo, a former world number five and a three-time Davis Cup winner with Spain, enjoyed the sweet taste of a victory over Roger Federer was at the 2013 US Open when he sent the Swiss icon packing in the round of 16.

Federer was in a state of shock after that chastening three-set defeat to Robredo. The struggling giant covered his face with both hands as he left the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York that night, leaving the tennis fans wondering if they were ever going to see him scale the peak again.

But Federer rose like a phoenix more than three years later, overcoming a career-threatening injury as he went on to clinch three more Grand Slams, becoming the first man to win 20 Majors.

And then jaws dropped when his endurance level at the age of 37 took him tantalisingly close to beating Novak Djokovic, arguably the fittest player in the history of tennis, in a gruelling five-set Wimbledon final in 2019.

But even the greatest athletes eventually succumb to the rebels in their own bodies.

So Federer waved the white flag this month and it’s been four days since he brought the curtains down on his glorious career following a doubles match alongside Rafael Nadal for Team Europe at the Laver Cup.

As Federer wept on the chair amid deafening applause from his adoring fans at the O2 Arena in London, Nadal, sitting next to his greatest rival, failed to hold back the tears.

It’s an image that has now been hailed by many, including Indian cricket icon Virat Kohli, as the most powerful symbol of what sports stand for.

“Who thought rivals can feel like this towards each other? That’s the beauty of sport. This is the most beautiful sporting picture ever for me,” Kohli tweeted.

Robredo, Nadal’s compatriot, couldn’t agree more.

“They were fighting to become the best of all time. Obviously one wanted to beat the other but it also means you are together a lot of time, sharing a lot of moments in the locker room after the final and before the final,” Robredo told Khaleej Times during an exclusive interview.

Former Spanish player Tommy Robredo. (Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty)
Former Spanish player Tommy Robredo. (Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty)

“We are tennis players, we are gladiators, we are competitors, but we are people also.

“When you see that your toughest opponent is finishing, it’s a sad moment and also you realise that this moment is going to come in your life as well.”

Robredo, who will play the Legends Team Cup in Dubai later this year, knew an outpouring of emotions would follow Federer’s retirement.

“It’s a like watching a beautiful moment in a movie that makes you cry. So Federer leaving tennis is like the end of a movie, so a lot of people cried, a lot of people are sad. But this is life,” he said.

“Hopefully, he will be involved with the world of tennis for the benefit of the sport. We have to thank him for what he has done. Without Federer, tennis will not be same, it’s the same with Rafa. The battles they had, it helped tennis grow so much.”

Nadal and Djokovic may have surpassed Federer’s tally of 20 Grand Slams, but Robredo revealed why the Swiss master was the most admired player in tennis history.

“First of all, his talent for tennis, nobody had played the game as smoothly as him,” Robredo said of Federer’s elegance on the court.

“His movements were perfect all the time, he plays the slice and he also had the volley, his forehands and service were amazing,” added the Spaniard before acknowledging Federer’s contribution to the sport off the court.

“I think the way he promoted tennis, in terms of supporting the sponsors and the tournaments on the ATP Tour, which shows us that you can be a star and you can be a gentleman also,” Robredo said.

“I never saw him doing anything bad on the court, screaming or anything. He was always polite. He inspired so many players. He was kind to all of us, he was kind to all the ball kids.

“So it’s incredibly sad that he is leaving, but his legacy is always going to be there.”

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