Rafa Nadal was the talk of the tennis world this week after his historic 21st grand slam title and many claim Nike managed to include a two-word dig at Roger Federer in their congratulating message.
The Spaniard created history at the Australian Open after winning his second title at Melbourne Park, which took him ahead of both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on the all-time men's leaderboard for grand slams.
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Nadal prevailed in what has been described as the 'greatest comeback' in the Ope Era to defeat Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the final.
To commemorate the historic feat, Nike released an advertisement under the theme: "Advantage, Nadal."
The ad was a clear reference to the grand slam title race and the fact that all three men, Nadal, Djokovic or Federer could still win more.
However, fans pointed out the ad could be taken as a slight dig at Federer.
The Swiss maestro left Nike in 2018 for Uniqlo in a reported $300 million deal over 10 years.
Nike were paying Federer $10 million annually, which was tripled when he joined Uniqlo.
Today, @rafaelnadal made history by becoming the first male tennis player ever to reach 21 Majors. Rafa has been on a relentless journey to clinch this historic 21st Slam. He now stands alone at the top as the GOAT in the men’s game. pic.twitter.com/0DsIVmvTFR
— Nike (@Nike) January 30, 2022
Federer was also free of a shoe sponsor and signed on as an ambassador - with a stake in the company - for Swiss company On Running.
Losing one of the most marketable athletes of all-time was a huge talking point in the sport world.
Billboards featuring 'Advantage, Nadal' have featured in iconic sites around the world including Piccadilly Circus in London, Times Square in New York and in Los Angeles in front of the former stadium known as the Staples Centre.
However, Nike's latest ad has been perceived by some as an indirect dig at Federer.
Classless, just because Federer dropped Nike otherwise they would never have the gall to call Nadal GOAT asw https://t.co/DJIUqGmuoF
— Mr Anderson 🇷🇸 (@imakanksh) January 30, 2022
Never buying a Nike product ever again! Shamelessness at its peak! I wonder if they'd have put this up had they still kept Federer! LOL
— Dexter Morgan (@DexterMorgan699) January 31, 2022
Despite some backlash, the overwhelming reception to the ad has been praise after the clever but simple clip following Nadal's historic journey to 21.
— Behind Sport (@BehindSport) January 31, 2022
This is so well made, it gives you goosebumps. Summing up his journey in 44 seconds and leaves you feeling so much in turn. Nike as always delivers ! Advantage, Nadal indeed. https://t.co/HMv0wlBABQ
— Misa⁷⁹✌️🤟 | 🎄Christmas Tree BY V (@MisaGee_) January 30, 2022
Nike sponsors Nadal but Federer and Djokovic went a different way. So they're obsv going to write this.
— ᑕIᑎETIᗪE (@Cinetide) January 31, 2022
Roger Federer hails friend and rival Rafa Nadal
Despite Nadal taking over Federer's record, for the first time in the Spaniard's illustrious career, the Swiss maestro paid respect to his greatest rival.
"To my friend and great rival Rafael Nadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles," 40-year-old Federer posted on Instagram.
"A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches, amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.
“Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspirational to me and countless others around the world.
“I am proud to share this era with you and honoured to play a role in pushing you to achieve more. As you have done for me for the past 18 years.
“I am sure you have more achievements ahead but for now enjoy this one!”
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