Rafa Nadal has followed Roger Federer’s lead and withdrawn from the Laver Cup after just one doubles match, flying home to Spain to be with his pregnant wife.
Nadal teamed up with Federer for the final match of the Swiss legend’s storied career on Friday night in London, losing to Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock at the team event that Federer helped create.
Under Laver Cup rules, every player must feature in at least one singles and doubles match throughout the three-day event.
However, players can be replaced if it occurs before the second day of action, with Federer and Nadal both taking advantage of the rule quirk to withdraw late on Friday.
Federer had always flagged his intentions to only play the opening doubles match in London, saying his surgically-repaired knee wasn’t up to the rigours of singles competition.
Scroll back up to restore default view.
However Nadal’s withdrawal came as somewhat of a surprise, with Team Europe announcing that he has left the event and flown home to Spain for personal reasons.
Nadal’s wife Xisca is heavily pregnant and was recently hospitalised in Mallorca as a precaution.
The Spanish champion’s participation at the Laver Cup was in major doubt up until he landed in London, after he said following his loss at the US Open that he didn’t know when he would be back on court.
Speaking on Friday night, Nadal opened up on how difficult it was for him to leave Xisca.
“They have been difficult weeks, few hours of sleep, a little stress in general,” he admitted.
“The situation is a little more complicated than usual at home. I have had to deal with a different pressure than what you are used to in professional life.
“Luckily everything It’s fine, much calmer, and in that sense, I have been able to come here, which was important to me.”
Nadal’s withdrawal from the Laver Cup means he literally only decided to play so that he could feature in the final match of Federer’s career.
Nadal was in tears for his long-time friend and rival as the Swiss champion bid an emotional farewell to tennis on Friday night.
“Roger was always there in front of me,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference.
“For me, he was always the guy to beat. So at some point, we were probably the biggest rivals – I think always in a very good way.
“We have never had any big issues and always respected each other and our families too.
“But our personal relationship has got better and better over the years, and we approach life in a similar way.
“On court, we have completely opposite styles, and that’s what probably makes our matches and our rivalry so big and interesting.
“I’m very proud to be part of his career in some way, but even happier to finish our career [rivalry] like friends after everything we shared on court as rivals.”
Novak Djokovic dazzles in return at Laver Cup
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic produced a stunning performance to thrash Tiafoe on Saturday in his first match since winning Wimbledon in July to edge Team Europe ahead.
With Federer watching on from courtside at a sold out O2 Arena, Djokovic returned to action in spell-binding fashion.
Tiafoe, a semi-finalist at the US Open, was helpless to stop the Djokovic onslaught as the Serb won 6-1 6-3 to put Bjorn Borg’s Team Europe into a 6-4 lead overall.
After Federer’s tear-jerking final match the previous night, day two could have been something of an anti-climax.
But the quality of the tennis, and the presence of Swiss great Federer on the bench, ensured a compelling day of action.
Berrettini, who replaced Federer for the singles, won a hard-hitting duel against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 10-7.
But American Taylor Fritz drew Team World level at 4-4 in the day’s second match with a tight win against Cameron Norrie – who was brought in to replace Nadal.
Fritz won 6-1 4-6 10-8 as John McEnroe’s Team World showed that they are made of sterner stuff this year, having been trounced 14-1 last year in Boston.