There will be no Rafael Nadal at this weekend’s Laver Cup between Team Europe and Team World, and fellow players might miss his humour just as much as his tennis. The fourth edition of the annual indoor tournament, dubbed the ‘Ryder Cup of tennis’, gets underway today in Boston and will culminate on Sunday.
Nadal however, won’t be the only big European name missing. The two men with whom he shares a record 20 Grand Slam titles, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, are also absent.
That represents good news for Team World captain John McEnroe, with Europe victorious in 2017, 2018, and 2019, before the tournament was postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, McEnroe’s opposite number Bjorn Borg can still boast a very strong line-up with all his six of his players featuring inside the world’s top 10.
Despite being on the winning side in 2019 though, it was a YouTube clip from off the court, as opposed to on it, which saw Nadal and Federer go viral. Footage was posted online of scenes from the Team Europe bench during the Spaniard’s doubles match with partner Stefanos Tsitsipas – with Nadal struggling to hold back laughter as he discussed tactics with the Greek star.
“Um, Stefanos, we need to be a little bit more clear with the fingers – because I didn’t understand what you were doing,” said the 35-year-old, after seemingly consulting Federer over a mix up in the previous game.
Nadal proposed that from then on, a clenched fist signal meant Tsitsipas, also chuckling through the conversation, stayed in the same place whilst any finger signal meant he crossed over.
The exchange had Federer, 40, in hysterics as he stood just behind the pair, and still had a big smile on his face when he composed himself enough to clap and say ‘let’s go guys.”
The clip has since racked up more than 305,800 views on YouTube alone and has proved immensely popular with tennis fans, with many commenting favourably about seeing rare humour mid-match.
“I love that he consulted first with Roger, who urged him, ‘well ask him!’ We all appreciate not only their rivalry but also their amazing friendship,” commented one fan.
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“Not even the most talented script writer could ever imagine to write down Rafa’s line: ‘Any finger, you cross’ – already considered classic. The whole highlight is a classic already!” gushed another.
Inevitably, the clip has re-surfaced on the eve of this season’s event, but both Federer and Nadal are continuing to recover from the injuries which kept the pair out of the US Open. Djokovic meanwhile, has opted to take some time out away from the court after an intense year which saw him win three Grand Slam titles, but miss out on a fourth after losing in Flushing Meadows to Daniil Medvedev.
Indeed, it will be Russian Medvedev who leads the European charge, alongside Alexander Zverev, Tsitsipas, Norwegian ace Casper Ruud, Matteo Berrettini of Italy and another Russian in Andrey Rublev.
Team World consists of Americans John Isner and Reilly Opelka, Australian Nick Kyrgios, Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, Canadian Denis Shapovalov and youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime.