Rafael Nadal admitted that Roger Federer “left a part of his life” when his great rival retired from tennis.
The two, who have won a combined 42 grand slam titles, have joined forces in a doubles match for Federer’s swan song at the Laver Cup in London.
After that match, footage went viral of both players crying as they sat next to each other during the post-match ceremony.
“Someone who I admired, who I matched and also shared many beautiful things on and off the field, left,” Nadal told reporters ahead of an exhibition match in Argentina.
“In that sense, all those moments, those feelings you have for playing a grand slam final, of an important tournament, everything that was in the air before those matches. It was different from other games.
“You know you won’t go through that again and part of my life has stayed with him [when he retired]. It was also the emotion of saying goodbye to someone who has been so important to our sport.”
The pair have faced each other 40 times over the past two decades in one of the sport’s most enduring rivalries, with the Spaniard leading the head-to-head 24-16.
After a number of injuries and ailments in recent years, Nadal’s own future in the sport also remains up in the air, even as he won the first two majors of the season.
He continued his Australian Open triumph by capturing a record-extending 14th French Open title in June – though he required multiple injections to numb the pain in his left foot.
An abdominal injury forced the 36-year-old Spaniard to withdraw from Wimbledon ahead of his semi-final clash with Nick Kyrgios.
While he didn’t elaborate on his own retirement plans, Nadal said: “My time will come when it’s due.
“I am quite prepared for my next life outside tennis.
“I don’t think it will be a problem for me, apart from what will be an adjustment to the changes. My life has things that are as important or more important than tennis.”