Behind the ‘raw’ photo of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that captures their enduring friendship, a story emerges of the Federer-Nadal friendship that began when they were both 14. It was about to make a major impact on the sportsman’s life.
In a tiny country where tennis was once a sport not much older than tennis and where few people have ever heard the name Rafael Nadal, two tennis stars whose fame was once limited to the tennis court and to Spain are now destined to become household names in a global audience.
The two men who were born in the same year in Argentina, Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal, have crossed paths more than half a century apart. But for the better part of 20 years, the two men, who met for the first time in their early teens, have been on a path to becoming two of the most famous athletes in the world.
And if the tennis stars have never met, they are certainly going to have a lot to celebrate when they meet in June at the Australian Open.
For the next few days, Nadal and Federer are in New York City, where this weekend they will play the United States’ Davis Cup team. So while the two will meet at the U.S. Open this week, they won’t be sharing the same courts or playing against each other in the same order.
In the year since that match in Australia, Nadal has become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the game, winning seven Grand Slam singles tournaments and a record-breaking 22 majors. Federer, meanwhile, had come off the court in the midst of a historic drought, winning no Grand Slam singles or doubles tournament until the 2011 Australian Open when he upset Novak Djokovic in the final.
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“People ask me what I can’t do and I say no,” the four-time Wimbledon champion said in a recent interview with ESPN.com. “People don’t know how to take my victories on the court. On my road, I never lose. People ask me, ‘How can you lose? You must give up.’ I know more than them. We’re all the same. It’s not