“They sometimes leave together, sign some autographs and get in their cars, not without saying goodbye with a strong hug. They are very cute, very nice! I am responsible for delivering the cars to everyone. But sometimes they get in the car of the other one and drive away together, talking.” (x)
Roger and Rafa: November 2005
Basel (Switzerland) - Two sharp but discrete knocks on the door of room 449 in a luxury hotel in Basel. Rafael Nadal, world number two, opens the door. “Hola, Rafa!” Roger Federer says to him. “Eh…! Hola, how are you?” replies Nadal, almost unable to believe that the world number one is there.
Federer, recovering from an injury and on his first day without crutches, had decided to pay a surprise visit to his young rival, the man with whom he shares the domination of the tennis world. Nadal had arrived in Basel an hour earlier to dine with the organisers of the local tournament, from which he had to retire because of tendinitis in his knees.
“Roger phoned me and asked me where Rafa was staying,” explained Vittorio Selmi, the ATP tour manager. When I told him which hotel, he said right off: ‘I’m on my way there.’”
Federer lives in Basel, which made the meeting easier, although there are not many sports where the number one has such an open frank relationship with his closest rival. The Swiss is the indisputable leader but Nadal, after a marvellous season, has equalled his eleven titles in 2005.
The Spaniard had just won the Masters Series Madrid on Sunday night, one of the most important victories in his career, when his phone vibrated signalling that he had a SMS. “Hola, hombre! Rafa, bueno tenis y Madrid! Muchos contento Rogelio por te”. The message in a mixture of Spanish and Italian had been written by Federer to congratulate the Spaniard for his triumph in Madrid. Nadal is in the habit of calling Federer “número uno” or Rogelio, and the Swiss has obviously taken the nickname well.
Contact was resumed on Monday night. They were not able to talk for more than twenty minutes because Nadal had tournament obligations to complete. But Federer had time to ask him about how things had gone the previous week in Madrid. “It was very hard, I thought I was going to lose for most of the match,” the Spaniard confessed to the Swiss in more than acceptable English.
Federer took off his shoe and showed Nadal the state of his ankle, still very swollen after the torn ligaments he suffered ten days ago. There was one topic that could not be forgotten - football! Federer once again lamented the fact that he had not been able to play in Madrid and had had to postpone his long awaited meeting with his childhood idol the Frenchman Zinedine Zidane.
“Are you going to go to Shanghai?” Nadal asked. Federer smiled: “I’m doing all I can. Next week I’ll start to run a little, and then I’ll try to play some tennis.” “There is a glimmer of hope,” said Selmi, thinking of the Masters Cup that begins November 13.
There was no time for any more. Nadal dashed off to the dinner - where he left a great impression speaking English much more fluently than he does in his press conferences - and Federer stayed and dined at the hotel. It was midnight when they met again, one on the way to bed and the other on the way home. They greeted one another again and once again wished each other good luck: the number one and the number two want to continue their conversation in Shanghai. (source)
Q. “What would you write about Roger Federer if you were a journalist?”
RAFAEL NADAL: ”First, no way would I be a journalist.
“You guys have tried to kill Roger - often. But he’s always come back and proved you wrong. So one thing I would not do is make the mistake of saying Roger is dead.”