The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was characterized by intensity and extreme respect, facilitated by the idyllic relationship between the two champions off the pitch. Thanks to his 13th success at Roland Garros, the Spanish phenomenon equaled the Swiss record of 20 Grand Slams, crowning a very long chase and reigniting the debate on the GOAT.
Shortly after the final in Paris, the congratulatory message from Federer, who has often referred to Nadal as his greatest rival, was not long in coming. Many have noticed how Roger completely ignored the other Roland Garros finalist, the Novak Djokovic with whom he often had disagreements in the early years of his career.
Speaking on 'The Tennis Podcast', TV presenter Catherine Whitaker admitted that she felt a certain displeasure for the Serbian, who is often overlooked despite having numbers that are now similar to those of the two eternal rivals.
Roger Federer congratulates long-time rival Rafa Nadal
“It does make me feel a bit for Novak Djokovic because even on the day that was supposed to be about Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, their 56th meeting in the most prolific rivalry in men’s tennis, it still ended up being about Nadal and Roger Federer,” Catherine Whitaker said on The Tennis Podcast.
“He was still the third wheel even on a day when Federer wasn’t playing”. Co-host David Law, a commentator for BBC Tennis, said Federer’s failure to mention Djokovic was notable. “Federer didn’t mention him in the note, which I must admit I did look down and I thought, ‘Oh, no, can’t see that’.
Maybe that’s just an oversight,” he said. “I thought he might have done, just to say ‘unlucky’, but here we are”. Federer turned 39 in August and missed the US and French Opens while recovering from an injury, but he has vowed to be back at the Australian Open next year.
"I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion," Federer, who already owned four grand slam titles when Nadal won his maiden French Open title in 2005, said on Twitter. "As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players.
Therefore it is a true honour for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory. It is especially amazing that he has won Roland Garros an incredible 13 times, which is one of the greatest achievements in sport. I also congratulate his team because nobody can do this alone," added Federer.