Roger Federer announced on September 15 that the Laver Cup in London that will take place later in the week would be his final competitive tennis tournament. With a couple of knee surgeries in recent years, Federer surprised few of his millions of fans with his announcement – they knew it was coming.
In an audio post on Twitter, he said:
“I am 41 years old; I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamed, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.”
What a career it’s been with 20 Grand Slam titles, 103 tour singles victories and 310 weeks ranked as the top men’s singles player. He earned $130 million in prize money, but with Roger Federer, it wasn’t just how often he won but how he did it.
He played a beautiful game
Federer’s game was well-rounded and played with grace and elegance. Whereas Rafael Nadal is the grinder and the king of clay, and Novak Djokovic runs down every ball for hours until opponents become tired and deflated, Federer floated around the court, making very challenging shots look effortless. He often used his beautiful and deadly one-handed backhand but had a Swiss Army Knife arsenal of shots at his disposal. It seemed as if the game slowed down for him, particularly in the big moments.
Sometimes things didn’t go his way, particularly after the arrival of Nadal and Djokovic. Fans got to see vulnerability when he literally cried after losing a hard-fought match against Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open. At many other times, there were tears of joy in victory. Both situations illustrate his passion for the game simmering beneath that famously calm demeanor.
The persona on the court was the same as the one off the court. He was always the gentleman on the court, even when he disagreed with a call. Unlike some top athletes, there was never a whiff of controversy surrounding Roger Federer. He married Mirka, his long-time girlfriend and a former tennis player. Together, they started a family that grew to four children, who often went on the road with him.
He was also a leader among players, advocating for others while on the ATP Player Council. He and Nadal issued a joint statement against Djokovic’s proposal for a players union. He and Nadal also directly reached out to fellow players to remain unified as pro tennis governing bodies sort out changes, which have since come to pass.
The boy from Basel, Switzerland, may not have the culture cache outside of tennis as the newly retired Queen from Compton. Still, fans of the game will remember his James Bond-like presence in pro tennis, and he’ll continue to draw crowds wherever he goes as he moves on to the next phase of his career.
It’s the end of the tennis world as we know it
It’s commonly acknowledged that men’s tennis has been in a golden era for the last 20 years. This is due to the convergence of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. With the two remaining players also heading toward their twilight. Now with 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz becoming the top men’s player after winning the U.S. Open over the 23-year-old Casper Ruud a few weeks ago, change seems to be in the air.