LONDON. This day, this match, of course, should have come for Roger Federer, and for tennis, as well as for every athlete in any sport.
On Friday night, Federer said goodbye to his last competition before retiring at age 41 after an illustrious career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and his role as a statesman in tennis. He was scheduled to play a doubles match alongside his rival Rafael Nadal for the European team in the Laver Cup against Francis Tiafoe and Jack Sock of the world team.
“For me personally, (it was) sad the first moment I came to the conclusion that this was the best solution,” Federer told The Associated Press this week about his emotions when he realized it was time to leave. . “At first I kind of held it back, and then fought back. But I felt pain.”
When players from both teams were introduced before the initial singles match of the three-day tag team tournament at the O2 Arena, Federer was the last to emerge from the tunnel leading to the black court, wearing his team’s blue zip-up jacket and black pants. The fans, who were loud enough for Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and others, really let Federer hear their support and gratitude, raising their applause and raising their phone cameras to capture the moment.
When there were breaks in previous matches, Federer went up to the stands and signed autograph after autograph – on programs, tennis balls, on everything that the audience slipped him.
“The crowd was electrified,” Sok said after losing his first singles match on Friday afternoon to two-time 2022 Grand Slam runner-up Kasper Ruud by 6-4, 5-7, 10-7. “I can only imagine what it will be like for the rest of the weekend. And obviously tonight with two GOATs playing together.”
In the second match, which was briefly interrupted when an environmentalist reached the court and set his hand on fire before being carried away by the guards, Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Diego Schwartzman 6–2, 6–1 to put the European team ahead. 2-0.
Those lucky enough to have tickets came from all over, not too far to travel, not too expensive.
“I have mixed feelings about this,” said Indrani Maitra, a 49-year-old Indian. “I am very happy that I was able to catch his last match. But I’m very sad that this is his last match.”
She came with her daughter Anushka Verma, a 19-year-old UC Berkeley student, to see tennis live for the first time, they say. Both wore blue hats for the occasion, Maitra wearing Federer’s “RF” emblem and Verma wearing Nadal’s bull horns logo.
Hundreds of people lined up in Game, Set, Merch stores on and off the site. Jacob Benaion, a 61-year-old man from Brazil, said he waited over an hour with his son, Moises, 32.
“I love tennis. Ivan Lendl was my first favorite. After that Pete Sampras. And then Roger Federer. And Roger Federer is the best of them all,” said Benion. “He is a legend and he has helped tennis grow all over the world. He is an ambassador for tennis.”
This farewell follows Serena Williams, who holds 23 major singles championships, at the US Open three weeks ago after losing in the third round. This leaves questions about the future of the game that he and she have dominated and excelled for decades.
One key difference: Every time Williams took to the courts in New York, the question loomed large of how long her stay would last — a win-or-death prospect. Friday is for Federer, regardless of the result.
The Laver Cup, which is being held for the fifth time, was founded by Federer’s management company and uses a completely different format from the standard tournament. So a victory for him and Nadal would not mean reaching the next round.
Instead, Federer has made it clear that his surgically repaired right knee — the last of three surgeries performed shortly after losing the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July 2021 in what will be considered his last official singles match — is not in a condition to allow him to continue. , and he won’t compete after Friday.
“It will be great to see Roger on the court again. No one really knows what to expect from him physically, where he is, but … we will enjoy every minute, ”said Juice. “Hug him at the end, win or lose.”
Shortly before the start of Ruud vs Soka, Federer got up from the black sofa next to the touchline and came over to pat Ruud on the shoulder.
After his victory, Ruud said of Federer: “All the players will miss him.”
“Roger is the unicorn of our sport,” Tsitsipas said this week. “He evokes all my respect, all my appreciation for what he has offered to tennis today. This is something that will definitely not be forgotten in thousands of years. He has that charisma, purity and aura that made him invincible when he was on the court.”
Tiafoe’s opinion of Federer was similar: “I don’t think we’re going to see another guy like Roger with the way he played, the grace with which he did it, and who he is as a person.”
Similar sentiments have been voiced by many in and out of sports since Federer unveiled his plan to end the game in the Laver Cup on September 15th.
The latest hurray comes after a total of 103 tour-level titles on Federer’s solid resume and 1,251 singles wins, second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open Era that began in 1968. ATP ranking history – he returned to the top spot at No. 36 in 2018 – and most consecutive weeks (his week total was eclipsed by Djokovic).
At the peak of his career, Federer appeared in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight of them from 2005 to 2007. Trace this back to 2010 when he reached 18 of 19 major finals.
More than numbers, people remember his powerful forehand, one-handed backhand and flawless footwork, impressively efficient serve and drive to hit the net, willingness to reinvent aspects of his game, and what he is most proud of, extraordinary longevity. . Then, too, there is his persona away from the court.
All of this is part of why the truth on Friday was that the eventual winner Federer-Nadal vs. Thiafo-Sok, the score, the stats, it all didn’t matter, it was all completely off the mark. After all, the day was devoted to the farewell itself. Or, better to say, Federer’s farewell to tennis, to fans, to colleagues. And, of course, each of these entities says goodbye to Federer.
Roger Federer says goodbye in last match before retiring originally appeared on NBCSports.com