One last time Roger Federer will feel the knots in his stomach when he has to face the long wait before a big game. It’s not a feeling he’ll miss, but at least it’s one he doesn’t have to do alone. Federer’s retirement from tennis is a historic moment for a sport he helped define, but it won’t be the lonely experience he once feared. Instead, at the O2 Arena in London, the city that has been the “most special place” of his career, the Laver Cup will be the setting for a sport coming together to bid farewell to perhaps its greatest champion.
It fits, and a career defined by balance and grace will have a final chapter that strikes the right balance of competition and commemoration. That doesn’t mean he made his decision lightly. The allure of a final Wimbledon appearance was a long way off and accepting that his body could no longer withstand the physical and mental demands of a comeback from a recent injury posed the most difficult moments of his decision. But as soon as he stood in front of the crossing and turned, he knew that it was the right one.
Federer explained his reasoning in the open letter announcing his retirement, but his subsequent media appearances have provided further clarification. The 41-year-old understands the limits of his body and the repercussions of a recent one-on-one game would take too much toll to be worth the risk. His July 2021 loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the Wimbledon quarter-finals will go down in history as the final singles match of his career and the moment when reality dawned. “The last set was one of the worst hours of my career,” he admitted this week.
For Federer, whose career was marked by successes and records, and by the beauty and elegance with which he achieved them, this could not have been the final tone. The Laver Cup lacks the presence of a Grand Slam and the stage that Serena Williams captured so beautifully in her own farewell at the US Open just a few weeks ago, but Federer has made it clear that his career has been just as much about people, about them Interactions both and off the pitch. He loved the touring life and that’s why his journey took so long.
Instead, the Laver Cup is a reminder of the lives it touched. His long-standing rivalry with Rafael Nadal, for example, has elevated the sport and has always been supported by the image of a fight between friends rather than foes. Federer has teased that his last match in doubles will be played alongside Nadal and the player he has faced in some of his biggest matches could also share his last cycle. “I think it’s also a great message, not just for tennis but for the sport and maybe even beyond,” said Federer.
Those lucky enough to witness his final farewell will be more likely to enjoy the sweetness of his groundstrokes and the movement of a serve that delivered both class and efficiency. The fact that Federer reached this level after an initially bumpy, often hot-headed career start remains one of his greatest achievements. Federer retires at peace with his journey, with his decision and with no regrets.
There will still be nerves. Federer hasn’t played in over a year, pitting his expectations on being “somewhat competitive” ahead of his return to the pitch. There will be no talk of records that would have existed if Federer had moved into a Grand Slam arena for the last time. With Nadal on 22 titles and Djokovic on 21, his total has been surpassed, but one fact that became clearer after Federer’s retirement is that his legacy is not measured in numbers or figures. “You don’t need all records to be happy; I’m telling you,” he said.
Billie Jean King dubbed Federer the ‘Champion’s Champion’ after his retirement and the all-time great will be where he sits. At Wimbledon this summer, as the All England Club celebrated 100 years of Center Court, the noise of the crowd rippled and rose like waves as each past winner emerged during their presentation. King, Bjorn Bjorg, Andy Murray, Venus Williams, Nadal and Novak Djokovic all received a standing ovation but Federer’s reception blew them away. When he comes out to play his last match on the road at the O2 Arena, he will do it again.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/tennis/roger-federer-laver-cup-schedule-final-match-b2172226.html Roger Federer steps down as tennis’ greatest champion before final farewell