An emotional Stan Wawrinka paid tribute to his compatriot Roger Federer in a heartfelt speech following the Indian Wells final on Sunday night.
Wawrinka was defeated 6-4, 7-5 by his fellow Swiss Federer, and in his post-match speech revealed the extent of his admiration for his rival.
“I would like to congratulate Roger,” Wawrinka said, with tears in his eyes as he glanced over at Federer. “He’s laughing. He’s an a*****e, but it’s OK.”
He continued: "I lost some tough ones against you, but when you played the final in Australia I was still your biggest fan so congratulations for your comeback and congratulations for today.
"Anybody who loves to watch tennis loves to watch you so it's always good to see you back at that level, hopefully for many years."
Wawrinka had begun his speech by saying: "I'm sorry I'm just tired after 10 days."
When asked about Wawrinka's comments, Federer, who moved up to No 6 in the world with the win, said he had only been trying to cheer up his opponent.
“I was trying, when he looked at me, not to give him the sad face,” he said. “I was looking at him going, ‘You’ll be fine,’ and gave him a laugh, say, maybe gets his mind off it. I guess I achieved that.”
When asked if it was the first time in his life that he had been called the expletive, Federer said he’d heard it “many, many times before” in a non-serious way.
“That’s why I take it as a compliment,” he said, smiling.
“There’s not always cameras around, so I get called that sometimes. Quite often, actually. On the court is the first time, but it felt good.”
The closeness between the pair these days suggests the animosity that existed when the two fell out during a tetchy ATP World Tour finals semi-final in 2014 has long since dissipated.
Both players will now move on to Miami for the Masters event there which starts later this week, and forms the second part of the 'sunshine double'.