Tennis 2022: Roger Federer on photo of him holding hands with Rafael Nadal, in tears at retirement at Laver Cup

Roger Federer has opened up on the iconic photo of him holding hands with Rafael Nadal during his emotional swan song at the Laver Cup last week.

The two tennis icons lost their doubles match for Team Europe against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock, but there wasn’t a dry eye in London’s O2 Arena as the reality set in that Federer had played his last ever match.

Federer has enjoyed a storeyed rivalry with Spain’s Nadal over nearly two decades – together they have won 42 Grand Slam singles titles in a golden era for the men’s game.

The pair, who first met in 2004, played 40 times, including in nine Grand Slam finals, with Nadal holding a 24-16 winning record.

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But they were on the same side of the net in a fitting farewell for Federer, who turned professional nearly a quarter of a century ago.

There were emotional scenes afterwards when Federer and Nadal started crying while sitting next to each other and the Swiss maestro instinctively reached out to hold Nadal’s hand.

The photo of the two tennis icons in tears quickly went viral around the world as Federer’s retirement begun to sink in.

In an interview with the New York Times, Federer said he had seen the photo of him holding hands with Nadal and described the heartwarming act as a “secret thank you” to the Spaniard.

“Well, I mean, it was a short moment,” the 41-year-old said.

“I think at one point, I was sobbing so hard, and I don’t know, everything was going through my mind about how happy I am to actually experience this moment right there with everybody.

“And I think that’s what was so beautiful about just sitting there, taking it all in while the music was playing, and the focus was maybe more on her (the singer Ellie Goulding). So, you almost forgot that you’re still being taken pictures of.

“I guess at one point, just because obviously I couldn’t speak and the music was there, I guess I just touched him, and I guess it’s maybe a secret thank you.

“I don’t know what it was, but for me, that’s maybe what it was and how it felt and some pictures came out of it. Different ones.

“Not just that one but other ones, too, that were just completely crazy, you know, so with different angles, and I hope to get those because they mean a lot to me.”

Federer announced his retirement from professional tennis earlier this month, bringing down the curtain on an illustrious career.

He won 20 grand slams including a record eight Wimbledon titles and formed part of the “Big Three” alongside Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have 22 and 21 grand slam titles respectively.

In recent years however, Federer’s body has finally caught up with him.

He pushed through calf and knee injury niggles to play at the Laver Cup and hopes his body holds up enough so he can still play exhibition matches during his retirement.

“I think it would be beautiful to somehow have a goodbye exhibition game, you know, and thank the fans, because obviously Laver Cup was already sold out before I knew about retirement,” Federer told the NY Times.

“A lot of people would have loved to get more tickets and couldn’t, so I just feel maybe it would be nice to have one more or several goodbye exhibitions, but I’m not sure if I could or I should do that now.

“But obviously I would love to play exhibitions down the road, take tennis to new places or take it back to fun places where I had a blast.”

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