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Laureus Awards: How rival Rafael Nadal made Roger Federer ‘a better player’

Roger Federer paid tribute to his longtime rival Rafael Nadal as he congratulated the Spaniard on having an equally impressive season at the Laureus Awards.

tennis Updated: Feb 28, 2018 11:15 IST
HT Correspondent
Laureas Awards,Rafael Nadal,Roger Federer
Roger Federer poses with his sportsman and comeback award trophies during the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards.(AFP)

It was a special night for Roger Federer at the Laureus Awards on Tuesday as the tennis legend claimed two awards - Comeback of the Year and Sportsman of the Year – to cap off a perfect comeback year.

The Swiss maestro had taken six months off in 2016 to deal with knee and back problems but bounced back in sensational fashion. He defeated Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open title and then followed it up with his eighth Wimbledon title after beating Marin Cilic in a rather one-sided summit clash.

READ | Roger Federer bags twin honours in Monaco, becomes most decorated Laureus Award winner

While speaking at the Laureus Awards, Federer did not forget to pay tribute to his longtime rival Rafael Nadal as he congratulated the Spaniard on having an equally impressive season.

“Thank you to my rival Rafa. I wanted to give a shoutout to him. He had an unbelievable year himself. We had a great battle and it’s because of a guy like him, I think I’m a better player.”

“He could very well be here tonight standing here with this award because he’s an incredible player, incredible friend and incredible athlete,” he added.

The pair has delivered a number of legendary matches over the years and in 2017, they turned back the clock by winning two Grand Slam titles each. Between the two of them, Federer and Nadal have won a combined 36 titles and the Swiss elaborated on the equation he shared with his rival.

“All the matches that you’ve played against one another, they sort of connect you to some extent.

“When you lose against a guy 9-7 in the fifth [set] or you win 9-7 in the fifth, it leaves something special there for everyone. Whenever you walk past a guy, you know there was a match that really shaped your character maybe as well.”

Federer was handed his second award of the evening by Martina Navratilova, whom he gave credit for his marriage to former tennis player Mirka, with whom he has four children.

“Martina, thank you for giving me the award today. Because of you, I met my wife. She was inspired by you,” he quipped as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

First Published: Feb 28, 2018 10:32 IST