Not long ago, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal faced off at the top of a snowy mountain. This wasn’t a far-flung tennis exhibition; instead, the two titans met on a peak in the Dolomites mountain range in Italy for a photoshoot for Louis Vuitton’s long-running Core Values campaign. The photograph, taken by Annie Leibovitz and released today, finds the longtime rivals hiking through the snowy terrain, LV packs on their shoulders.

So how do you get two GOATs to join forces on a snowy mountaintop? Given their relationship, Nadal and Federer explained exclusively to GQ over email, the task was perhaps easier than it sounds. As Federer put it, the appeal lay both in the idea and the partner. “It’s an honor to follow in the sporting footsteps of the Louis Vuitton campaign that previously included Messi and Ronaldo, and Pelé, Maradona and Zidane,” he wrote. “Rafa shares similar values and mutual respect, and he is a special friend and rival who has played a key role in my development as a professional athlete, competitor and person.”

Nadal expressed a similar sentiment. “To be honest, I thought from the beginning, what a great opportunity and honor, not only because of the brand itself—one of the most emblematic brands in France and in the world—but also due to the fact that it was something together with Roger,” he wrote. “We’d always spoken in the recent years to do things and this was the best opportunity at this very moment.”

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Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Theirs is a unique rivalry: while they’re responsible for a few of the most iconic tennis matches of all time (particularly their 2008 Wimbledon final), they’ve grown close since first competing in 2003. “I have always said that Roger has inspired millions of people around the world, me included. I believe that our rivalry has definitely raised the bar in sports in terms of healthy rivalry and how athletes can try their best on the court, to the maximum, definitely wanting to win by all means but with a huge respect for the rival. The rivalry stayed always on court and we knew it had always to be like that,” Nadal said.

Federer, meanwhile, explained that their relationship encompasses both on- and off-court activities. “On the court we have challenged each other to evolve, improve and reach heights we never would have managed without the rivalry,” Federer said. “Off the court our relationship has grown from fierce intense competitors to a lifelong friendship driven by our genuine personalities and shared values.”

The campaign’s mountaintop setting made me wonder: how do each of them think about their own summits? “Winning Wimbledon 8 times definitely sticks out,” Federer wrote, in among the greatest flexes ever committed to email. “But also the triumph at the Australian Open in 2017 over Rafa has special meaning. After a challenging 2016 season post knee surgery, the road to recovery was long. Many doubted, including myself at times, whether I could return to top form, let alone win another Grand Slam title. However, the stars aligned, and the determination paid off with the support of the team to lift another Grand Slam title Down Under and prove that I could still contend on the highest levels. And doing it against Rafa, my chief rival, made it extra special.”

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