Rafael Nadal led tributes for Roger Federer after the 20-time grand slam champion called time on a legendary tennis career at the age of 41.
Federer, who is considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time, shared an immense rivalry with Nadal, as well as Novak Djokovic in the unprecedented era of dominance of the ‘Big Three’.
The Swiss faced Nadal 40 times in his career - with the pair contesting several iconic battles including the 2008 Wimbledon final and 2017 Australian Open final.
Federer will retire after the Laver Cup event in London next weekend, which will see him team up with Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray as part of a European side against the rest of the world.
Nadal posted on Twitter: “Dear Roger, my friend and rival, I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
“It’s been a pleasure but also an honour and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.
“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that.
“For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London.”
Billie Jean King, who won 12 women’s singles grand slam titles, added her tribute to Federer on Twitter.
"Roger Federer is a champion’s champion," she wrote on her official account.
"He has the most complete game of his generation & captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court & a powerful tennis mind. He has had a historic career w/memories that will live on and on.
"Congratulations, Roger Federer. We wish you the very best as your journey continues."
Responding to Federer’s retirement letter, Martina Navratilova wrote on Twitter: "What a heartfelt message, full of love, life, hope, passion and gratitude. Which is exactly how Roger played the game we love so much. Thank you thank you thank you, for all the magic!!!"
Rod Laver, after whom Federer named the Laver Cup, wrote simply: "Thank you for everything Roger. See you soon. Rocket"
Federer’s rivals also paid their tributes. Andy Roddick, beaten in three Wimbledon finals, wrote on Twitter: "Cheers Roger. Thanks for the shared memories my friend. It was an honour to share time/experiences on the most hallowed grounds in our sport. Don’t be a stranger.
Also, seems like a good time to start training for Wimby (Obviously kidding)."
Juan Martin Del Potro, the only player other than Nadal and Djokovic to beat Federer in a grand slam final, said on Instagram: "You made tennis a unique sport.
"Thank you for teaching us with your example, in and out court. I’m thankful for sharing your journey and being able to play so many matches together.
"Thank you. Thank you for testing us all, raising our standards in every tournament we played, for everything you’ve given for our sport, for how warm you always were with me, and so many other things. I’m sad, this is something I didn’t want to hear. I do wish you a great life with Mirka and your kids."
Additional reporting from PA
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