Rafael Nadal is used to pressure, but even he will feel the nerves when he lines up with 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 Bjørn 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 from Team World at London’s 02 on Friday night.
“It’s a different kind of pressure,” Nadal said. “After all the wonderful things we shared together on and off the field, being part of this historic moment will be something wonderful, 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 game. So let’s see.
“Obviously it will be something I’m looking forward to having Roger next to me again. I’m just really happy about it.
“It’s going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, no 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 will try to do my best in every way, to help make this moment even more special than it is going to be.”
The Ryder Cup-style event also throws up the tantalizing prospect of two more former world No. 1s, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, reprising their short-lived, and utterly failed, doubles partnership.
The gilded pair teamed up as teenagers at the Australian Open in 2006 and in Miami five years later – losing in the first round both times.
“We talked about it last night, about different combinations and partnerships in the team and obviously it’s up to the captain to decide that, but we have a lot of good options in the team,” Murray said.
“Me and Novak would be good, yes, but if we don’t, whoever goes out on the doubles court will be a top team.
– It is clear that it will be fun to play with Novak again. Yes, 2006 feels like a long time ago. We talked about it last night. I had hair, like, out here. Yes, it would have been fun to do that.”
The ‘big four’ all practiced together on Thursday afternoon, with Murray and Djokovic on the other side of the net from Federer and Nadal.
However, Djokovic doubts whether Borg would choose him.
“I’m probably the worst doubles player on the team, so I don’t know if I’d get picked,” he said.
“But if we get a chance to play, hopefully we’ll win a game because we lost both.”
Murray, who is making his debut at the event, will face Australia’s Alex De Minaur in the first match of the evening.
In the day session, Casper Ruud meets Sock and Stefanos Tsitsipas meets Diego Schwartzman.