Laver Cup 2022: Emotional Roger Federer ends career with final defeat alongside Rafael Nadal

It was after midnight in London when the last point of Roger Federer’s career was played. That this meant his final match ended in a heartbreaking loss in the deciding tiebreak didn’t seem to matter. Federer broke down in tears shortly after, not because of the result but because of the people he got to share the moment with. Rafael Nadal was soon crying next to him. In the end, there was hardly anyone who wasn’t.

For so many years Federer had faced Nadal in the heat of the moment and the intensity of their rivalry took the sport to new heights. When he went out, he did so with Nadal by his side in a legendary final partnership. Nadal had warned that the departure of the most important figure in tennis history would be a difficult moment and when the lump in Federer’s throat blocked his words until late at the O2 Arena, it proved it.

Federer wanted to put on a show in the last game of his career and give him the sight of two of the sport’s great rivals on the same side of the net. A thrilling match-up with Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock representing Team World in the Laver Cup didn’t end with the result many had hoped for before Federer’s final farewell, but a historic tennis night ended in celebration nonetheless.

(AFP via Getty Images)

“It was exactly what I hoped it would be,” Federer said as he was joined by Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the players who defined an era of tennis, as well as his family. It was the mention of support from his wife, Mirka, and their four children that prompted an outburst of emotion. For more than two decades, he embodied so much of what countless athletes and athletes have dedicated countless hours of their lives to: Greatness. The ending was much more personal, much more human.

Federer is now leaving a sport in which he has achieved near perfection. In his final game and first appearance on the pitch in over a year, he adjusted his expectations of being reasonably competitive. In straight sets and a thrilling crucial tie-break, he and Nadal achieved much more. Standing with a match point, Federer was just a moment away from the perfect finish.

He’ll miss the little things, he admitted this week: putting on your shoes for the last time before going out onto the pitch, adjusting your headscarf and looking in the mirror for the last time. But what he won’t miss when he retires is the long wait before a big game and the tingling in his stomach that accompanies him during the day. He had to wait until after 10pm in London after Andy Murray’s long match delayed the inevitable and gave him another hour of life he will soon leave behind.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Emerging in pairs, Federer and Nadal took turns hitting from the net and working in tandem from the start. In the opening game, Federer’s first touch of a competitive tennis ball since last July was a driven volley and Nadal followed up with his own swing. The pair pursued a short, fast game, narrowing down the points and closing the court. There were understandably moments of rust, but Nadal looked to intervene when Federer was on the baseline.

Federer kept it simple, but he remained capable of the extraordinary, even if a passing winner actually threaded through a tennis ball-sized hole in the net might not have counted as a legal shot. Federer’s serve is still one of the best ever. His kicks and subtle spins fooled Sock and combined with his quick hands at the net it provided a solid platform for him and Nadal to build on.

With the opening tight and few chances in the second leg, Federer leapt into action to parry a smash that threatened Tiafoe and Sock. Nadal then opened the court beautifully with an angled winner. Federer saw the opportunity and found his forehand as Europe broke to win the set.

Determined, tough opponents to face, Sock and Tiafoe rose to the task. They broke early in the second when Nadal pushed a forehand wide and Federer, stretching at the net, couldn’t keep a ball in play. Tiafoe’s delightful touch and his dying volleys propelled the American pair in front when Federer and Nadal briefly got in each other’s way at the back of the court.

(Getty Images for the Laver Cup)

Nadal responded with a sliding backhand winner around the posts that Federer would have been proud of. The hold helped the pair regain their composure and they were able to break the gun from Tiafoe’s serve to equalize in the following game. Federer and Nadal fought hard for momentum that never quite arrived. Djokovic, seated on the sidelines, rose on winners and clinical volleys, of which there were several, but it was the American pair who carried their threat into the second set tiebreak, playing at a more consistent level.

In the decisive tie-break, Federer and Nadal took the lead early on and the Swiss produced one of his finest moments. An ace and a quick volley that took Socks Pass over the line put the European team in a position where Federer was on match point, ball in hand.

John McEnroe had insisted his Team World side weren’t villains, but when Tiafoe forced Federer into the error net and then passed Sock down the line with the forehand winner, the cruel twist was that they had lived up to their role . In the final moments, however, no one seemed to mind. Federer and the memories he leaves us will last much longer.

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/roger-federer-last-match-laver-cup-nadal-b2174328.html Laver Cup 2022: Emotional Roger Federer ends career with final defeat alongside Rafael Nadal

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