Together with Nadal they did not give any ball for loss. The result does not matter: they are living legends.

Together with Nadal they did not give any ball for loss. The result does not matter: they are living legends.

1,526 matches and 103 trophies later, there was Roger Federer, ready to say goodbye. Uniformed in blue and white with Rafael Nadal, the friend and rival with whom he set the scene for more than a decade of the golden age of tennis, he entered the hard court of the O2 in London amid the applause of an audience that had lived a day of more than nine hours of previous matches with a single objective: to accompany him in his last dance.

VideoFederer retires from tennis: follow LIVE the Swiss goodbye with Rafa Nadal

The right knee, the same one that cracked for the first time in 2016, forced the last outing of the Swiss to be in the doubles category of the Laver Cup. And between the nerves, the laughter and the hugs they exhibited with Nadal, it was confirmed thatThere was no better option to fire the man who made an individual sport a collective passion other than a team game.

The last dance

Along with Nadal they did not give any balls for loss. The result does not matter: they are living legends .

“The result is the least important”, some aware fans remarked before the game between Federer-Nadal and Tiafoe-Sock. But after 24 years of triumphs, a defeat was not in the plans of the Swiss. And for that, every ball of the two hours and 14 minutes that the game lasted was played with nervousness.

433 days had passed since Federer's last appearance, which had been in that same city, but in his temple, at Wimbledon. Nadal, for his part, came from a surprise loss to Tiafoe in the round of 16 of the recent US Open. Still, nothing mattered. It was his second match as a couple and it was the farewell of the older of the two. You had to do everything to win.

At first, the anguish took its toll. Nadal was not in the net and Federer could not gauge his backhand. Then the minutes passed and confidence came. The Spanish shone from the back of the pitch and the Swiss stunned into the net. In the stands, Novak Djokovic, the last member of the triad, supported endlessly. A joint sigh ended each point.

During the first set, the break came at the best time. In the tenth game, after having saved a break in the previous one. 6-4 the living legends won.

In the second set, Sock and Tiafoe broke Nadal's first serve and put the balance in his favor. Then, in the sixth game, the Europeans equalized the charges. In the end, even though the break was close in game 12, there was no break for Nadal and Federer. In the tie-break, the Americans were unbeatable and prolonged the uncertainty. 6-7 (2).

Already in the match tie-break, the anguish, despite all odds, intensified. Federer hit an ace and the crowd exploded. Sock grew larger than his meter ninety-one and achieved two anthology points. Nadal came to fail in the mesh and the stadium fell silent. Tiafoe burst the ball against the humanity of the Swiss and the boos were felt. Federer served for the match and they lost the point. Tiafoe struck hard again, this time in front of Nadal, and took the Swiss' serve. Sock, the only doubles player on court, was in charge of closing the evening. Three blows to the side of Federer and a change of sides. That was the formula to close the game.

Federer and Nadal fell 9-11.

'I just wanted to play'

Together with Nadal they did not give any ball for lost. The result does not matter: they are living legends.

“We've managed it somehow. It's been a wonderful day, I'm not sad. Playing with Rafa on the same team, having the support of the guys. I didn't want to feel alone when I said goodbye, thank you all”, declared Federer, through tears, at the end of the match.

“I would never have expected all this. I just wanted to play tennis. It has been perfect, I would do it all over again. My end has been as I wanted, “the gentleman closed in his farewell.

Amid the tears of the public, the Swiss melted into a hug with all his teammates, Borg, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, the same ones who marked the beginning, development and end of his career. Along with them, surely, he will have a heartfelt tribute on Sunday, at the end of the Laver Cup.

It remains in memory that, until this Friday, the Swiss had won 1,251 matches as a professional. This must have been 1,252, but it doesn't matter anymore, since the numbers stopped representing his greatness a long time ago.

That is his legacy: having transcended the sport that he loved and suffered like no other.

ANDRÉS FELIPE BALAGUERA< br>SPORTS EL TIEMPO

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