LONDON – Roger Federer said that once he decided his competitive career was over, it was just a matter of writing a script for the perfect ending.
For several months, he and those close to him kept his secret. He said on Wednesday that he was considering announcing his retirement ahead of the US Open, but knew he would not be attending and preferred a “chance to say goodbye to the fans properly”. He considered doing it during the tournament, but by then Serena Williams had announced her retirement. This means another month of waiting.
Finally, last week, Federer told the world his news: He will play one final tournament, at the Laver Cup in London this week, and it will be. On Wednesday, he said he would walk out “happy” but not satisfied, and on his own terms.
“I always feel sorry for players who sometimes retire on the tour, say, ‘I’m going to play another game,’ and then at some point you just stand there,” he said.
Instead, Federer will walk out surrounded by the players, family, friends and fans who have meant the most to him in his career. His last match will take place on Friday, a one-night doubles match and he is expected to team up with his longtime friend and opponent Rafael Nadal.
[Update: The Federer-Nadal pairing was confirmed on Thursday when the official schedule for the first day was revealed.]
“I thought it was very appropriate,” Federer said of ending his career in London, the city where he won Wimbledon with eight singles titles.
Federer revealed Wednesday that he’s known since the summer that his career as a singles champion is over, whether he likes it or not. It had been about a year since he rehabilitated from his last knee injury and he felt it was getting more and more difficult. He knew the pressure would take more than he was willing to give, and would probably require another surgery that he had already decided he wouldn’t accept.
“At some point you sit down and go, well, we’re at a junction here, a crossroads, and you have to take a turn,” he said. “what is the way?
“I wasn’t ready to go in a direction, let’s risk it all. I’m not ready for that.” On Tuesday, he said he “stopped believing” that he could rehabilitate his recent knee injury enough to continue to the level he accepts.
Roger Federer’s farewell to professional tennis
The Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the largest competitive records in history.
- evaluation: Author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006: “He has re-incarnated, figuratively and literally, men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the future of the game is unpredictable.”
- How did he upgrade his game?: In 2017, at the age of 36, Federer found himself in the midst of a late career comeback that was rare for any sport. Here is how he achieved it.
- A billion dollar brand: Some tennis stars have built patronage empires. But no one has ever wooed the corporate class so brilliantly as Federer did.
- Tennis after Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably solid period in men’s tennis history. He is followed by a new generation of hungry players, ready to make their way towards the loophole.
“I know my limits,” Federer said. He appeared relaxed and calm in a blue jacket and white golf shirt, seemed comfortable with his decision and in control of his emotions – which was very comforting to him, he admitted – but admitted he couldn’t even be sure of how he would perform.
“Obviously, I’m nervous on entering, because I haven’t played in a long time,” he said. “I hope it’s somewhat competitive.”
His pairing with Nadal may be the worst of the tournament: Both players hinted at the re-formation of the so-called Federal doubles team in February when they committed to playing in the Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event where contenders represent Team Europe. And Team World arena in team play.
However, Federer’s desire to play doubles only was an issue with the rules; The rules of the competition require players to compete in at least one single match, and its withdrawal requires the approval of both the team captains as well as the tournament and ATP tour officials, since the Trophy is a Tour event.
Federer, who helped create the Laver Cup as part of his billion-dollar business empire, said Wednesday that he first sought permission from Europe’s captain, Bjorn Borg. When Borg agreed, they brought the idea to the world’s captain, John McEnroe, and to tour officials to ensure his accommodations also had their approval. Federer said Italian star Matteo Berrettini would replace him in the singles matches.
When asked about reports that he was planning to team up with Nadal for his final match, Federer was shy that matches wouldn’t be confirmed until Thursday.
“I don’t know if that will happen, but I think it obviously could be a special moment,” Federer said, a white lie at best.
Champions are often determined by statistics, and Federer rivals any player in tennis history: 103 singles tour titles, 20 Grand Slam singles titles, and 310 weeks at number one. The US Open in New York, where his matches drew celebrities, fellow athletes and everyday fans captivated by his elegance, poise and craftsmanship.
In one period at the height of his career, from early 2004 to October 2008, Federer ranked No. 1 for 237 weeks in a row. Two decades at the helm of his sport spanned generations: Federer defeated the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi as a young professional. He has exchanged picks and titles with his Laver Cup teammates, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for years; The game’s rising star, newly crowned US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, called him his “idol” and “inspiration” last week, born two months before Federer won his first major tournament.
But while his victories defined his career, Federer’s losses helped humanize it. He will retire with a losing record to the other two stars of his era, Nadal and Djokovic, losing to them in two of the biggest matches of his career, against Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final and against Djokovic at the same time. In 2019. Federer had held two match points on his serve at the age of 37 but could not finish his win.
By then, Federer had learned to control the combustible moods and competitive sequences that frustrated both coaches and his parents early in his career, and he directed his fire at a more subtle pursuit of perfection. His emotions were never far from the surface, though they did sometimes cry, especially at the beginning of his career, at victory and defeat.
Notwithstanding, people will remember him very much for his gentle perfusion: a shot-maker who drew angles and lines like an artist, a dancer whose ability to glide around a single court hid his strength and accuracy, and made tennis, and especially his tennis, seem so easy and so natural.
“When you have a vision of being a champion, you see yourself winning one championship, maybe more than one, but not many times, or staying the same,” he said. “This was definitely very special.”
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