Roger Federer brings down curtain on his career with a defeat, but still dazzles alongside longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal. (2:32)
On Nov. 1, 2017, Rafael Nadal was in his hometown of Santander, Spain, playing in the Madrid Masters event. He had just dropped a 7-5, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 first-round win over Benoit Paire, when his phone rang. He answered quickly and then took the call. It was Roger Federer, calling to congratulate him on his latest win.
Federer was at the top of his game, having won the U.S. Open in April and reached the Wimbledon the following month. He and Nadal were now scheduled to meet in the final of the Madrid tournament, and it was Nadal’s fourth consecutive appearance in the final.
But Federer was not with his opponent that day. With two match points against him, he had chosen to use a match-point violation to force a decider. Nadal, the defending champion, took the fifth set of his first-round match in three sets to advance to the fourth round of the Madrid final. Nadal lost, but Federer was the man to beat in the Madrid final, moving on to the Wimbledon final.
A month later, he and Nadal faced off at the 2018 Wimbledon final. Nadal, who had not lost a set in the first-round match, had advanced to the final with a straight sets win over Marin Cilic to bring him to 7-0 at the Open. Federer, who was 6-0 going into the final, had just won the U.S. Open in three sets to take home the title.
They were tied at 2-2 in a deciding set, which Nadal broke to win. Federer’s victory was particularly satisfying because he had lost the first set in four of his six previous meetings with Nadal on grass, only to come back to win the next three. He had also not played a match in the three weeks between the Madrid finals and the Wimbledon final.