Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: Behind the “raw” image that embodies their enduring friendship


It was a moment in time – as short as half a second – that captured the intensity of the relationship and rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Photographer Ella Ling poses as she stands on the side of the court with her camera at the ready Federer’s farewell from tennis Being charged with emotion – although when the moment came, she was stunned by an outpouring of tears and flattery.

In front of her at the O2 Arena in London was Federer and Nadal – a longtime friend and rival of the Swiss star – sat side by side as he sobbed uncontrollably.

As the scene following Federer’s final match unfolded, Ling began to flick away at her camera and hoped for the best.

“It was only when I went back to my computer and downloaded everything I found on that shot and thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to share with everyone,'” Ling, who tracks men’s and women’s tennis tours around the world, said. CNN Sport.

The image in question – Led Federer’s shot over Nadal’s head while Ellie Goulding performs “I Still Fall For You” during the Laver Cup – has garnered widespread attention, capturing a scene unlike any that Laing has experienced on a tennis court.

“I just wanted to take a picture that really summed up the feeling of the night, but also a moment in history when it was [Federer] He’s finally playing his last game and he’s retired.”

“I would have loved to have an iconic photo, but I never imagined I’d actually get one.”

Laing's photo of Federer (left) and Nadal holding hands during the Laver Cup proved to be very popular with tennis fans.

The Laver Cup provided an opportunity to pay tribute to Federer’s illustrious career in tennis, even though the results were not in his favour.

Playing alongside Nadal, he lost his doubles match to Americans Jack Sock and Francis Tiafoe on the first day of the tournament, then was on the sidelines the next two days as Team Europe fell 13-8 to Team World.

But the images most likely to define Swanson Federer are his and Nadal – rivals for more than 15 years with 42 Grand Slam titles between them – struggling to keep their emotions in check.

“Off the court, I think they (Federer and Nadal) share very, very similar values ​​and morals,” says Ling.

“They value family a lot, they value respect. They’re both very elegant. They always win sportsmanship awards and things like that. I think that’s where they bonded.”

“But at the same time, I don’t think either of us really understood how close they were. I didn’t realize until this point and throughout that whole evening (when) you can only see how close they were.”

Federer (left) and Nadal watch a video montage after the Laver Cup doubles match.

Over the course of their rivalry, Federer and Nadal played 40 matches, including nine Grand Slam finals – Nadal won six. After many fights on the field, watching both players cry was a moving sight, according to Ling.

“You have these two male guys — they’re male athletes… they try not to show any emotion on the court, and you rarely see that much emotion off the field,” she says.

“For them to be sitting there right now, crying uncontrollably, holding each other’s hands in front of the 17,000 people there – and millions more on TV – and being so pure, strong, and open about it is incredible.

“I think it would do a lot for the community as well to see that.”

For his part, Federer said the moment with Nadal was a “secret thank you” and that he was hoping to get some pictures from the Laver Cup.

“I think all men – Andy [Murray]Novak [Djokovic] And also Rafa – they saw their careers flash before their eyes, realizing that we all somehow had a long enough time already,” Federer said. New York times.

“As you get older, reach your thirties, you start to learn what you really value in life but also from sports.”

Federer added: “I almost forgot that you were still taking pictures … because obviously I can’t talk and the music was there, I think I just touched him.”

Federer waves to the crowd at the Laver Cup in London.

Laing says she was well positioned to snap a photo of Federer and Nadal, away from the television cameras that were shielding other paparazzi from taking the photo. She hopes to be remembered for a long time as one of the most iconic images of tennis – and sports in general.

“That’s the beauty of photography,” says Ling, “You capture these moments and they will be there forever.”

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