Rafael Nadal is used to pressure but even he will be feeling the nerves when he lines up alongside Roger Federer for the Swiss great’s final match.
Federer will bring the curtain down on his illustrious career by partnering Nadal in doubles at the Laver Cup after Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg granted the 20-time grand slam champion his wish to compete alongside his oldest and greatest rival.
The ‘GOAT Dream Team’, with 42 major titles between them, will face Americans Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe of Team World at London’s 02 on Friday night.
“It’s a different kind of pressure,” said Nadal. “After all the amazing things that we shared together on and off court, to be part of this historic moment is going to be something amazing, unforgettable for me.
“I hope I can have a good chance to play at a decent level, and hopefully together we can create a good moment and maybe win a match. So let’s see.
“Of course being on court, having Roger next to me one more time will be something that I am very much looking forward to. I’m just very happy for that.
“It’s going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. For me, too. You know, at the end one of the most important players, if not the most important player, in my tennis career, is leaving.
“I’m going to try to do my best in every single way, to help to have this moment even more special than what it’s going to be.”
The Ryder Cup-style event also throws up the intriguing prospect of two more former world number ones, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, reprising their short-lived, and wholly unsuccessful, doubles partnership.
The gilded pair teamed up as teenagers at the Australian Open in 2006 and in Miami five years later – and lost in the first round both times.
“We were chatting about it last night, about different combinations and partnerships in the team, and obviously that’s up to the captain to decide that, but we have many great options in the team,” said Murray.
“Me and Novak would be a good one, yeah, but if we don’t, whoever steps out on the doubles court is going to be a top team.
“Obviously it will be fun to play with Novak again. Yeah, 2006 feels like a long time ago. We were chatting about that last night. I had hair, like, out here. Yeah, it would be fun to do that.”
The ‘big four’ all practiced together on Thursday afternoon, with Murray and Djokovic the other side of the net to Federer and Nadal.
— Andy Sims (@AndyCSims) September 22, 2022
However, Djokovic has his doubts over whether Borg would select him.
“I’m probably the worst doubles player on the team, so I don’t know if I would get picked,” he said.
“But if we get a chance to play, we hopefully win a match, because we lost both.”
Murray, making his debut at the event, will take on Australia’s Alex De Minaur in the evening’s first match.
In the day session Casper Ruud faces Sock and Stefanos Tsitsipas meets Diego Schwartzman.