Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have all paid retiring tennis legend Radek Stepanek an emotional tribute during an exhibition match this week.
The 39-year-old Czech star is farewelling the game he loves, and Djokovic was on hand to deliver a truly heartfelt message for the former world No.8.
“It’s an amazing pleasure to be here tonight, Radek for you that I truly love, as a friend, as a rival, as a colleague, as a mentor,” Djokovic said.
“And as an older brother from another mother.”
Stepanek’s glittering career was celebrated in front of a huge crowd in Prague, with Andre Agassi, Tommy Haas, Tomas Berdych and Marian Vajda just a few of the stars in attendance.
But what stunned fans even further was Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also submitting testimonials via pre-recorded video, leaving Stepanek entirely humbled:
“I just wanted to congratulate you on a wonderful career, and of course wish you all the best for what’s to come,” Federer said.
“I hope you have the most unbelievable evening with Novak and of course I can’t wait to see you again down the road…take care my friend.”
Having worked with Djokovic in the past in a coaching role, the Serb’s long relationship with Stepanek was evident in his emotional speech.
“I also had him as a tennis coach, I had him in every role in my life, but I have him in the most important role which is as a friend,” Djokovic continued.
“He deserves it because he is a wonderful human being, he’s an incredible tennis player, and he’s had an amazing career.
“He has done a lot for the Czech Republic and I know exactly how he felt about playing for this country…I was sharing some big moments on the court with him – on the same side of the net and on the opposite side of the net.
“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful career and wish you all the best for what’s to come.”
The pair played a one-set exhibition match in from of the crowd, which took place in his home country.
Stepanek got the better of his former protege, prevailing in a tiebreaker before the two embraced at the net.
Known for his never-give-up attitude and raw talent, Stepanek’s career was highlight by reaching as high as number eight in the world, winning two Grand Slams and claiming a Bronze medal at the Olympics.
Rafael Nadal’s tribute was a testament to Stepanek’s on-court presence:
“It’s been a pleasure to share with you some great moments on tour,” Nadal said via video.
“There has been some great battles (between us) and I just wanted to wish you all the best for the future.”