Rafael Nadal ‘cried’ after Roger Federer ended 10-year French Open drought

Rafael Nadal set for 2024 farewell after pulling out of French Open

Rafael Nadal once told Roger Federer that his French Open victory in 2009 sparked tears of joy, according to the Swiss tennis icon. This year, fans are gearing up for Roland Garros without either of the Grand Slam heavyweights, with the former pulling out through injury and the latter having retired in 2022.

To say Nadal has proven tough to beat at the French Open over the course of his career would be a huge understatement. The first 10 times the Spaniard entered, he won it on nine occasions, with the only exception being 2009.

That year, he was on the wrong end of a shock result against Robin Soderling, who proceeded to battle all the way to the final and set up a bumper clash with Federer. The Swiss had been waiting patiently for that kind of opportunity to come around, and it came a decade after his debut at Roland Garros, with Nadal proving nigh on unbeatable in the meantime.

Federer converted his chance by beating Soderling in straight sets, and in doing so, he notched the final piece of the puzzle and completed the career Grand Slam.

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Speaking ahead of an exhibition match against Nadal in 2020, Federer was asked whether the duo were rivals or friends. “Can you be both? I think so. I really do,” he responded. “He’s a great person with great values, he’s got a great family. My family and his family respect each other immensely.

“He told me today that he cried when I won the French Open in 2009, he was so happy for me. So it’s a great rivalry. He only knows his career with me on the court. I knew a few years without him, which was nice, because there was no Rafa which made things a little bit easier! He deserves everything and all the praise, he’s a great person.”

While Federer’s absence from this year’s tournament comes as no surprise, having retired from professional tennis in September last year, fans had been hoping to see Nadal return to his favoured turf at Roland Garros.

However, a devastating hip issue forced him out of the Australian Open in January and the healing process has taken longer than expected. In a hard-hitting press conference called this week, Nadal admitted that he would not be able to play and outlined his plans to call it a day in 2024.

“I will [now] stop for a while, maybe one month and a half, maybe two months, maybe three months or maybe four months,” he explained. “I don’t know. I do not like to predict the future. I will do the right thing for my body and personal happiness.

“My goal and ambition is to try to stop and give myself an opportunity to enjoy the next year. That is my idea but I can’t say 100 per cent it will be like this. My idea is to try to enjoy and say goodbye to all the tournaments that have been important for me.”

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