The images have gone around the web this weekend: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could not hold back their tears on Friday evening at the O2 Arena in London as the Swiss gave his last match played in doubles alongside his rival Spanish, who has become a friend over the years.
A lost match against the Americans Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock, but that's not what we're talking about here.
Federer, world No. 1 for 237 weeks, ends his career with a symbolically powerful image.
A top exit for the athlete.
Read alsoMirka Federer, the fake potiche who made "Roger" a champion
Nadal and Federer have dominated men's tennis for more than a decade, have faced each other about forty times in grand slam tournaments, embody on their own one of the most important rivalries in the discipline, even in contemporary sport.
So these tears, this embrace, this held hand move, jostle and even question the contours of masculinity so debated these days.
That is to say that the image has undoubtedly done more on the subject than all the more or less panicked theories, the debates and take-up positions on the supposedly threatened identity of a once strong man, dominating and precisely hiding his tears.
This Friday evening, Federer and Nadal appeared in front of 17,500 spectators who gave them a long ovation.
At the end of the game, the Swiss started crying, dragging Nadal to his side.
This overflow of emotion is perhaps linked to the common memories of the past years.
Federer's best tennis moments were also Nadal's worst, and vice versa.
But the two players have long since gone beyond the simple relationship of esteem, to forge a sincere friendship.
It's not so much their tears that move us.
Seeing athletes cracking is not so rare after all.
It is rather in the tactile intimacy that the revolution resides, this gesture of the hand of a friend who says to the other “I am with you in this moment and I am not afraid”.
What a great example of self-confidence.
Are emotions really markers of weakness?
Nothing is less sure.
These two heterosexual men, athletes fed with competition, testosterone, intense physical training, whose virility no one questions, allow themselves to carry a sensitivity too.
At a time when others are waging war on the continent, for contests, basically, of toxic masculinity from another age, these images reassure, show that another way of apprehending the relationship of a man to man is possible.
And even desirable.
Because these lifelong rivals tell us one thing, that they love each other like friends, without hiding their modesty with falsely detached postures.
There is certainly nobility in this gesture.