Tennis' superstars worried about suffering a blowout rather than winning or losing in IPTL
There was the cadence of "Let's go Roger, let's go" and the throaty blast of "Vamos Rafa" in equal measure. Even their fans' chants mirror their games — one more melodious, one more power-packed.
Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Roger Federer during the New Delhi leg of IPTL on Saturday. Pic/PTI
The Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal set was the showpiece of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) 2015's Delhi leg, and while the tennis wasn't of the quality the two have put on in the past, there was no dearth of atmosphere at the Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex.
Like in a majority of their matches, a few crucial points was all it took to decide the issue, Nadal came out the winner, but Federer had his chances.
But unlike past meetings, this one didn't feel like it had a real loser. Technically, Federer had lost, but judging from the way he laughed and joked his way through the subsequent media interaction, you would have thought he had received news that his 19-month old twin boys had just said 'tennis racket' for the first time.
Roger Federer returns to Rafael Nadal on Saturday. Pic/AFP
He bantered with Nadal about the Spaniard's English speaking skills, ribbed journalists when they fumbled with questions, and when asked what new innovation he had planned for 2016 after the SABR in 2015, came back with, "Maybe I can start serving from the service line and see what happens then!" to a whale of laughter.
The big scare
The match itself followed a pattern of Nadal taking the lead and Federer catching up, all the way into a tie-break. In the end, perhaps the fact that Federer had just stepped off a plane combined with Nadal already into match groove made the tiny difference that swung the match. Not that either man read too much into the result.
"It was a strange kind of pressure for me because it's only one set and you're worried you'll just get a 6-1 blowout. You're not even in the match yet but it's over, and you're like, 'that was your chance, by the way'," said Federer, and Nadal immediately chimed in with, "Me too!"
"We're actually both very happy it went the distance and we had more tennis to play," laughed Federer. "Exactly," smiled Nadal. "The only scare for both of us was a 6-1 result that was over in 20 minutes."
It wasn't one of their classics, but it gave several fans a glimpse of their champions in the flesh, and that was enough.