“I'm really here to honour the great man, Rafa. I think it's wonderful that he's taken this journey on to give the kids something back,” Federer said. “I've been around the game 17 years. I've seen a lot of hard workers and inspiring players, but you've been the one in my opinion who has been the most inspiring and most influential and made me the player I am today. Because you're left-handed, because of your spin, because of the intensity you bring to the court, I had to re-invent and re-work my game entirely. And that's because of the person you are and how much you've trained.”
Federer and Nadal have played 34 times. The left-hander leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 23-11 and has won five of the their past six matches. Federer, though, took their most recent contest, the final at the Swiss Indoors Basel last season.
“I've seen you prepare for tournaments and practices the same way, which I can't do, because my mind doesn't allow me to, I can't prepare for matches and practices this long. We're completely different when it comes to this,” Federer said. “I admire everything and how you do it, and I hope you can still do it for many more years to come. I really wish you good health. I think it's of the utmost importance.”
The 35-year-old Swiss endured his first major injury this season, 17 years into his professional career. Federer announced in July that he would sit out the remainder of the 2016 ATP World Tour season to continue rehabbing from knee surgery in February. He joked about injuries with Nadal, who's had his fair share, including a left wrist injury that forced him to miss 10 weeks earlier this season.
“I'm going through my first big injury now. It's been fairly easy for me. I've enjoyed my time at home. I've enjoyed seeing my family, practise has been easy,” Federer said. “But I don't know how it's going to be when I come back. You've done it a million times, so there again I can be inspired by you. How easily you always came back, and you made it look easy! You were always right away back in the Top 10, Top 5, World No. 1. That's something I'm going to be thinking about when I come back to the tour in January.”
The Rafael Nadal Academy by Movistar includes 26 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a fitness centre, two swimming pools, mini-football pitches, a multi-sport court and seven paddle tennis courts.
“To share this with Roger is an unforgettable day,” Nadal said. “For Roger to share this important moment, for me and my family, [it] really means a lot.”
Nadal might have earned a few potential future clients from Federer's visit as well.
“I hope the kids are going to learn from this great man. He's one of the greatest we've ever had. His attitude speaks for itself. I hope it's going to be a wonderful academy,” Federer said. “One thing's for sure, I know where I'm going to send my kids if they want to learn tennis. I'm going to send them right here!”