Roger Federer confesses one thing in which he could never be like Rafael Nadal

Federer reflects on his rivalry with Nadal and the looming retirements of the remaining members of the Big Four.

by Dzevad Mesic
Roger Federer confesses one thing in which he could never be like Rafael Nadal
© Getty Images Sport - Pool

Roger Federer doesn't agree that he went through his career "effortless" but admits that he could never be a Rafael Nadal-type since he still remembers watching the Spaniard getting all hyped up and intense before the match and thinking that if he did it, he would get tired before even entering the court.

Federer and Nadal, who had one of the greatest rivalries not just in tennis but in all sports, were two completely different game styles and personalities but that only made their rivalry even more popular and entertaining. 

On the court, Federer always looked so relaxed in his demeanor and shot-making that even numerous fellow pro players said that the Swiss was making playing tennis look so easy. On the other side, Nadal would always bring a lot of passion and emotion into his matches and grinding and fighting hard was always his trademark - which ultimately made him one of the greatest competitors in tennis history.

But last week, Federer publicly said for the first that he never liked people describing his tennis as "effortless" because only he knew how much hard work needed to be put in in order for him to be in the position he was. Now on a BBC show, Federer stood by his statement from last week but also noted that he could have never been as intense as Nadal. 

Roger Federer
Roger Federer © Getty Images Sport - Ian Walton

Federer: I was looking at Nadal thinking, 'I'd get tired...'

"I think it's a great compliment to hear that because effortlessness is a myth, as we now know," Federer said on BBC Breakfast.

"Everyone is very different. For some, it's their only way of playing by showing that grit. For me, I needed the balance. I could not go through a career with Rafa's intensity. He’s running around the locker room getting intense. I was looking at him thinking: 'Jeez, I’d be tired before getting on court.'

"We both can't do it the other way and that’s why there's so much mutual respect between athletes and players. Me, Rafa, Novak or Andy, we do it all our own way and all roads lead to success.

"It's tricky sometimes and there’s definitely moments when you don't like a certain opponent, but then you like him so much. It's important to remember this as a player - it is just tennis and at the end, we can be normal.

"You see us being super friendly with each other after the rivalry and we get on super well. It's nice to be kind to one another."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Federer on Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray's retirement 

This year could be the final for two of Federer's four biggest rivals - Nadal and Murray. While Nadal has already revealed plans to retire at some point this year, 37-year-old Murray hasn't yet made any official announcements but there are strong indications that the three-time Grand Slam might do that. On the other side, 37-year-old Djokovic has had a tough 2024 season but he hasn't shown any indications that he plans on retiring anytime soon.

Asked about Murray and the Briton potentially stepping away from pro tennis in the very near future, Federer acknowledged that "retirement is deeply personal" so he didn't want to get too much into the 37-year-old's decision. However, Federer noted that personally, he would like to see Murray, Nadal and Djokovic "keep playing forever."

"I really don't think there are any words of advice that I can give him. Retirement is so deeply personal. When you take that decision, everybody is in a completely different circumstance," Federer said of Murray. 

"We've gone through similar things but I'm too far away to give advice. If he called me up, I'd be happy to answer some questions. He’s had this massive hip issue and what he is doing is inspirational. I hope Andy, like Rafa and Novak, can keep playing forever, like a fan. The tour is better with them.

"I was watching Roland Garros last week and I was like: 'Wow, they're so good - I used to do that too!' I feel so distant to my career. I start to forget the things I've done, the records. It’s more of a beautiful past on the road. It’s been a great life and now having this distance is a great place to be in."

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

In Federer's case, the former 20-time Grand Slam champion was hoping to return to tennis in 2022 after three knee surgeries. But after realizing and accepting that his knee wasn't recovering as targeted, Federer made a hard call and ended his pro tennis career by appearing in a doubles match with Nadal at the 2022 Laver Cup.

Roger Federer Rafael Nadal Big Four