Adored by some, respected by all, Roger Federer ended nearly 25 years of an exceptional tennis career by losing to the Laver Cup in London on Saturday during a doubles farewell dance with his greatest rival, Rafael Nadal. Both champions were defeated by the American pair of Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.
The debate about the best player in history is endless, but because of his track record, his brilliant game, his elegance and his charisma, Roger Federer will remain the undisputed master of world tennis.
He retired on Saturday September 24 before a full house, playing his last doubles match, associated with Rafael Nadal.
A few minutes from the end of the match that ended his 25-year career, on Friday night in London, Roger Federer assured that he was not “sad” but “happy”, despite the emotion that left him overcome, especially when talking about his family.
“We’re going to get there one way or another, eh?” He slipped, with a lump in his throat, to former player Jim Courrier, who questioned him on the court and in front of the public about his first feelings as an ex. professional tennis player
“I’m happy, I’m not sad”
“It’s been a wonderful day, I told the guys, I’m happy, I’m not sad, it’s wonderful to be here,” he said, even though his eyes were already bright.
“I wasn’t that stressed,” he said, although, after a year and a half without playing and with a right knee that forced him to retire, at 41 he feared “a calf failure or a blockage in the back during the game” . so I am very happy to have finished it”, despite losing 6-4, 6-7 (2/7), 9-11, in doubles with his rival and friend Rafael Nadal, against the Americans Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, for the Laver Cup, an annual match between Europe and the Rest of the World, which he helped create.
Reflecting on his exceptional career, he assured that “I would do it again without changing anything.”
“It should never have been like this, I just loved playing tennis and spending time with my friends. I never thought it would end here, it has been a perfect run”.
Tribute to his wife
The hardest thing for him was talking about his family present in the stands.
“Do we really have to go through this?” she asked, before changing her mind, “no, it’s fine, I’m not doing too badly so far, I get the impression, at least I can talk. In my visions, I couldn’t no way,” he joked.
In particular, he paid tribute to his wife, Mirka, whom he met 22 years ago, who “was very supportive of him.”
“She could have stopped me a long, long time ago. But she didn’t. She let me go and let me go. It was amazing, thank you,” he said, managing to slip before he was overcome by sobs. .
Since announcing his retirement, “Pistol” Pete (Sampras), Las Vegas Kid (Andre Agassi) and Manacor Bull (Rafael Nadal) have all surrendered to the master.
“Hello Roger, it’s Pistol (…). When we met for the first time, you were only 19 years old (…). We had a great battle on Wimbledon Center Court and you beat me in five sets,” Sampras recalled, whose public appearances have been extremely rare since he left the circuit in 2002, but who shared a video on social media to greet the Swiss’ retirement.
“Your game and your spirit taught us how beautiful tennis can be (…). Thank you RF,” congratulated Agassi.
Your game and your spirit taught us how beautiful it is to play tennis. @Roger Federer. Every moment you shared has left us all better.
Thank you RF 🙏🏼
—André Agassi (@AndreAgassi) September 16, 2022
“He is one of the players, if not the most important, of my career,” said Nadal, holder of the record for Grand Slam titles (22), before playing alongside him in doubles the last match of the Swiss, whose accountant will remain locked out at 20 Majors. , also surpassed by Novak Djokovic (21).
But in hearts, it will remain number one almost everywhere. At Wimbledon, his favorite pitch where he won eight times, at Roland-Garros where the public was relieved to see him complete his collection of Grand Slams in 2009, and at all the tournaments where his fans supported him wholeheartedly. .
Federer had all the attributes of the ideal champion. And above all a game without equal, aesthetic, offensive, exciting.
“There are people who follow tennis without liking tennis, to see Federer,” said former Swiss number one Marc Rosset.
The style opposition with Rafael Nadal has made their rivalry the stuff of legend, along with a friendship that has never wavered.
For Nadal, “everything is perfect at home”
“He has a perfect serve, a perfect volley, a more than perfect forehand, a perfect (one-handed) backhand; he is very fast, everything is perfect at home,” Nadal summed up.
Off the court, the Swiss is also a kind of ideal son-in-law: in love for more than twenty years with the same woman, Mirka Vavrinec, a former tennis player of Slovak origin whom he met at the Sydney Games in 2000, loving father of four children (twins and twins), dedicated to charity, especially in South Africa, the country of origin of his mother, the friend of Tiger Woods is almost unanimous.
Even among those he martyred at court. “I wish I could hate you, but you’re too nice,” Roddick told her after a Wimbledon final.
The Swiss has always liked to “give the image of a good person”, even taking care of his communication during endless interview sessions granted without hesitation in the four languages he speaks (Swiss German, English, French, German).
His career is huge. To the Grand Slam titles we must add six Masters, a Davis Cup and an Olympic gold medal (in doubles with Stan Wawrinka), with the singles gold being the only important trophy that is missing. In total, he won 103 ATP Tour titles and spent 310 weeks in first place in the world, a record that Djokovic has spectacularly increased to 373 since then.
Certainly, talent was detected early in this boy born in Basel in 1981. But this “diamond in the rough to be polished”, as he put it, had to repress a dilettante side and a tendency to swing his racket when things weren’t going well. . as he wanted.
Late ripening, exceptional longevity
For this reason, he had to wait until his sixth year on the circuit to lift his first major trophy, on the pitch at Wimbledon in 2003, when he was almost 23 years old.
That achievement in the tournament that he treasures the most marked the beginning of a feast of Grand Slam titles: eleven – out of a possible 16 – from 2004 to 2007. The competition then, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick in the front row, is crushed.
Things will get more difficult when Nadal and Djokovic mature, but Federer will continue to win and the legend will be enriched by epic matches, such as the two Wimbledon finals in 2007 (won) and 2008 (lost) against the Spaniard. In (temporary) decline since 2011, he made an impressive comeback in 2017 and 2018, adding three Grand Slam titles to his collection to finish with eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open. and a Roland Garros.
Apparently ordinary physique (1.85 m) but endowed with exceptional qualities of speed and endurance, he had the advantage of hardly ever getting injured until he was 35 years old. He underwent his first operation, on a knee, in 2016, after injuring himself… bathing his daughters.
Inhabited by an unquenchable thirst for victories, he was approaching longevity records – his last Australian Open title had made him the second-oldest winner of a Grand Slam tournament behind Ken Rosewall – when his recalcitrant knee put end to his fabulous epic, at the age of 41. , after more than 1,500 games over more than 24 years.