Roger Federer may have paved the way for a record-breaking exhibition clash with Rafael Nadal at the home of Real Madrid after his decision to retire from tennis. The Swiss revealed on Thursday in an emotional statement that he will end his career at the Laver Cup in London next weekend.
Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion and an icon of the sport, wrote: “The past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form.
“But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have drama, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.”
But most crucially, Federer confirmed: “I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on the tour.” And the 103-time ATP Tour title winner could now take on Nadal in an incredible contest at the Bernabeu, the home stadium of La Liga champions and Champions League winners Real Madrid.
It was claimed in Spain three years ago that Real Madrid were drawing up plans for Los Blancos fan Nadal, who was present for the Champions League win over Liverpool in Paris, to face Federer and shatter tennis’ attendance record. The current record is 51,954 spectators.
That was set by Federer and Nadal themselves when they contested the Match for Africa at the Cape Town Stadium in South Africa in 2020. Federer won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a match which raised £3million for the Roger Federer Foundation.
Real Madrid could host 80,000 fans at the Bernabeu and now that Federer has retired, the pair could continue their long-running rivalry in the Spanish capital. Nadal apparently agreed to play at a redeveloped Bernabeu once renovations are complete, with the work expected to be done by the start of the 2023-24 season.
That could set the scene for a showdown in the summer of 2024 after the football season has finished. Fans would flock to the event between the two legends, even if both had retired by then, with Nadal having recently turned 36 and closing in on the end of his own career.
Federer and Nadal have not met competitively since the 2019 Wimbledon semi-finals, which Federer won before losing an epic five-set semi-final to Novak Djokovic in which he wasted two championship points. They are set to share the court at the Laver Cup in a thrilling doubles team-up.
Nadal, reacting to the news of Federer’s retirement on Thursday, said: “Dear Roger, my friend and rival. I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world. It’s been a pleasure but also an honour and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.
“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London.”